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luís soares

Blog do escritor Luís Soares

Kei Miller - What the evangelist should have said

An American evangelist, preaching salvation,
said it was like being on one side of a river, Jesus
on the other, arms long as forever reaching
to lift you over. But we only knew hope river,
sally waters river – only knew rambling brooks
running through the cane as river, a thing
you could jump over, or make a way across
on stones. We had no imagination of Mississippi
or Delaware, rivers so wide they held ships.
A saviour with magic arms was pointless.

What the evangelist should have said, was:
is like when de river come down just like suh
and you find yuself at de bottom,
slow breathin unda de surface, speakin
in bubbles, growin accustomed to fish
and deep and dark and forever – salvation
is de man with arms like a tractor
who reach in fi pull you out of de river,
press de flat of him hands gainst your belly
and push de river out of you.

C.P. Cavafy - Half an Hour

I never had you, nor I suppose
will I ever have you. A few words, an approach,
as in the bar the other day—nothing more.
It’s sad, I admit. But we who serve Art,
sometimes with the mind’s intensity,
can create—but of course only for a short time—
pleasure that seems almost physical.
That’s how in the bar the other day—
mercifully helped by alcohol—
I had half an hour that was totally erotic.
And I think you understood this
and stayed slightly longer on purpose.
That was very necessary. Because
with all the imagination, with all the magic alcohol,
I needed to see your lips as well,
needed your body near me.

 

Reprinted from C. P. CAVAFY: Collected Poems Revised Edition, translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard, edited by George Savvidis.

Lucille Clifton - Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben

aunt jemima

white folks say i remind them
of home i who have been homeless
all my life except for their
kitchen cabinets.

i who have made the best
of everything
pancakes batter for chicken
my life

the shelf on which i sit
between the flour and cornmeal
is thick with dreams
oh how i long for

my own syrup
rich as blood
my true nephews my nieces
my kitchen my family
my home

 

uncle ben

mother guineas favorite son
knew rice and that was almost
all he knew
not where he was
not why
not who were the pale sons
of a pale moon
who had brought him here
rice rice rice
and so he worked the river
worked as if born to it
thinking only now and then
of himself of the sun
of afrika

Valzhyna Mort - Nocturne for a Moving Train

The trees I’ve glimpsed from the window
of a night train were
the saddest trees.

They seemed about to speak,
then –
             vanished like soldiers.

The hostesses handed out starched linens for sleep.
Passengers bent over small icons
of sandwiches.

In a tall glass, a spoon mixed sugar into coffee
banging its silver face against the facets.

The window reflected back a figure
struggling with white sheets.

The posts with names of towns promised
a possibility of words
for what flew by.

In lit-up windows people seemed to move
as if performing surgery on tables.

Chestnut parks sighed the sighs of creatures
capable of speech.

Radiation, an etymology of soil

directed into the future, prepared
a thesis on the new origins of old roots,

on secret, disfiguring missions of misspellings,
on the shocking betrayal of apples,
on the uncompromised loyalty of cesium.

My childish voice, my hands, my feet – all my things that live
on the edges of me –
shhh now, the chestnut parks are about to speak.

But now they’ve vanished.

I was extracted from my apartment block,
chained to the earth with iron playgrounds,
where iron swings rose like oil wells,

I was extracted before I could dig a language
out of air
with my childish feet.

I was extracted by beaks – storks, cranes.

See, the conductor punching out eyes
of sleeping passengers.
What is it about my face
that turns it into a document,
into a ticket stretched out by a neck?

Why does unfolding this starch bedding
feel like
                      skinning someone invisible?
Why can’t the spoons, head-down in glasses, stop screaming?

Shhh…

The chestnuts are about to speak.

Regi Claire - (Un)certainties

My sister once gave me
A. an ultramarine silk scarf
B. a star-shaped candlestick of clear glass
C. a guardian angel made from clay and driftwood

My sister loved
A. her family
B. her partner
C. kayaks

My sister’s partner loved
A. her
B. his family
C. kayaks

My sister and her partner loved
A. adventure
B. sports
C. water
D. the sea

My sister and her partner
A. had been on sea kayaking trips before
B. were familiar with that coastline
C. were offered a guided tour
D. trusted their abilities and experience

My sister sent her children
A. a WhatsApp message saying how excited she was about that day’s 10 km kayaking trip
B. a picture of the mirror-smooth sea
C. a selfie in a swim vest
D. emojis of dolphins

My sister’s postcard to our parents
A. was sent before the kayaking trip
B. was sent by hotel staff after the kayaking trip
C. arrived ten days after the kayaking trip, before her funeral

My sister died
A. on Friday 13th
B. on Saturday 14th

My sister’s partner did not die
A. on Friday 13th
B. on Saturday 14th

My sister died at sea, alone
A. soon after sunset in a storm
B. in the dark in a storm
C. at dawn, after a storm
D. in sunlight, on the morning after a storm

My sister’s partner clung to his kayak at sea, alone
A. from sunset to false dawn throughout a storm
B. from sunset to sunrise throughout a storm and the calm hours beyond
C. from sunset to sunlit morning throughout a storm and the calm hours beyond

My sister died because
A. she and her partner spent time on a series of beaches along the coast, picnicking, shell-gathering, sunbathing, resting
B. she and her partner spent time exploring the disused submarine tunnel under the cliffs
C. she was afraid of the dark inside the tunnel and so she sang, seated in her kayak as her partner listened, sang her heart out for the soaring echo of it, and the echo could not bear to lose her and her voice

My sister died because
A. the mirror smoothness of the water began to break, and broken mirrors bring bad luck
B. the waves were too small to seem alarming
C. the waves grew in strength only slowly

My sister died because
A. the land weather forecast was wrong
B. the sea weather forecast was wrong

My sister died because
A. she was first to round the headland, where the wind bore down on her from the mountains and whipped up the waves
B. her partner, some distance behind, saw her being driven off-course and decided to follow
C. the wind kept their kayaks apart, barely within shouting range, while the sun went down
D. her partner capsized and, holding on with his chin and both hands, could only watch as the sky darkened to storm-black and she sat upright in her kayak, cresting the waves out into the open sea

My sister and her partner
A. knew their GPS
B. knew they were a kilometre at most from the headland
C. could see the village with their hotel further down the coast

My sister and her partner managed to use their mobiles to contact
A. the kayak rental owner
B. the local police
C. the police in the neighbouring country
D. the coast guard

The last thing my sister and her partner told each other was
A. at least we’ve seen the sunset from out at sea, not just from the beach
B. I love you
C. let’s not panic
D. help is coming

Half a year earlier, my sister and her partner had visited an Indonesian sanctuary for retired elephants, which they helped wash in the nearby stream, getting soaked to the skin.
Half a lifetime earlier, she and her husband had given their babies a bath every night, getting soaked to the skin.
A lifetime earlier, she and I had played in the stream next to our house, catching tadpoles and damming the water with pebbles, twigs and mud, getting soaked to the skin.

My sister died
A. because she capsized
B. because she lost her kayak
C. because she lost hope
D. from the intake of too much sea water
E. from exhaustion
F. in panic
G. in peace

My sister died because
A. the kayak rental owner did not have a motorboat for emergencies
B. the kayak rental owner told her and her partner to phone the local police
C. it was the weekend and the police were short-staffed
D. there was no coast guard
E. there were no helicopters
F. the passengers on the regular ferry services did not notice the torchlight from her partner’s mobile as he moved it in circles above his head until the battery was flat
G. the coast guard of the neighbouring country arrived too late

My sister was found
A. 5 hours after the storm began
B. 10 hours after the storm began
C. 16 hours after the storm began

My sister was found
A. near the coast
B. 15 km away
C. 25 km away, close to the beaches of a small island advertised for family holidays

My sister’s partner was rescued after clinging to his kayak
A. for 5 hours
B. for 10 hours
C. for 15 hours

My sister and her partner were found
A. near each other
B. in separate locations

My sister’s partner was taken
A. to his hotel
B. to a local hospital
C. to a hospital on an island in the neighbouring country

My sister’s partner
A. was only slightly injured
B. had nerve damage to one hand
C. would make a complete physical recovery
D. would never fully recover

My sister’s partner had
A. no phone numbers for her family
B. no phone numbers for his children
C. to wait for his mobile to dry out in a bag of uncooked rice before he could get any phone numbers
D. to use someone else’s mobile
E. to use a pay phone

My sister’s partner was visited in hospital
A. by his children
B. by his Consul General
C. by an ambulance chaser

After my sister and her partner were found, the kayak rental owner contacted the helpline of the Department of Foreign Affairs of their home country
A. to report the accident
B. to inform them of the death and injury
C. to request compensation for the lost kayak

My parents were notified
A. later than the Department of Foreign Affairs
B. later than local and international news media

Several months after my sister’s funeral her partner
A. returned to the country where the accident had happened, to complete the photography commission that had originally taken him there
B. visited the kayak rental owner
C. undertook another kayaking trip by himself along the same coast
D. started a new relationship

My sister’s partner died
A. 6 months after the storm
B. 12 months after the storm
C. 15 months to the day after the storm

My sister’s partner died
A. on Saturday 12th
B. on Sunday 13th

My sister’s partner died
A. of a massive heart attack
B. of a broken heart
C. of heart strain caused by the accident
D. of congenital heart disease

My sister and her partner are
A. buried in the same cemetery
B. buried near each other in the same cemetery
C. not buried in the same cemetery

My sister’s cat
A. never slept on her bed
B. stayed on my sister’s bed in the empty house for several months after her death, fed by neighbours
C. did not die the following summer

At my sister’s funeral I met a distraught young man she had supported with therapy sessions.
‘But where did your sister die?’ he asked. ‘Where? What is the name of the town? The place?’
When I tried to explain, he did not understand.
Could not.

Malika Booker - The Little Miracles

After ‘A Winter Night’ by Tomas Tranströmer (translated by Robin Robertson)

Since I found mother collapsed on the kitchen
floor, we siblings have become blindfolded mules

harnessed to carts filled with strain, lumbering
through a relentless storm, wanting to make

our mother walk on her own again, wanting to rest
our palms on her left leg and arm like Jesus, but

constellations do not gather like leaves in a teacup,
so what miracle, of what blood, of what feeble wishes

do we pray, happy no nails hammer plywood, building
a coffin, to house her dead weight, happy her journey

crawls as we her children hold on like drought holds out
for rain, learning what it is like to begin again, start

with the, the, the dog, the cat, the date, the year, the
stroke, the brain, the fenced in walls, she struggles

to dismantle brick on brick. She cannot break this,
we reason, watching her left hand in her lap, a useless

echo. We chew bitter bush, swallow our howling storm,
reluctantly splintering under the strain of our mother’s

ailing bed-rest. We smile at each of her feats: right hand
brushing her teeth in late evening, head able to lift

without the aid of a neck-brace, her off spring’s names
Malika, Phillip and Kwesi are chants repeated over

and over as if staking us children as her life’s work,
her blessings, showing how much we are loved. The days

she sings walk with me oh my Lord, over and over, walk
with me oh my Lord, through the darkest night… and I sing

with her, my tones flat to her soprano, just as you changed
the wind and walked upon the sea, conquer, my living Lord,

the storm that threatens me, and we sing and sing until
she says, Maliks, please stop the cat-wailing before

you voice mek rain fall, and look how the weather nice
outside eh!
 Then we laugh and laugh until almost giddy,

our mood light momentarily in this sterile room, where
each spoonful of pureed food slipped into her mouth

like a tender offering takes us a step away from feeding
tubes, and we are so thankful for each minuscule miracle.

Tomas Tranströmer - A Winter Night

The storm puts its mouth to the house
and blows to get a tone.
I toss and turn, my closed eyes
reading the storm's text.

The child's eyes grow wide in the dark
and the storm howls for him.
Both love the swinging lamps;
both are halfway towards speech.

The storm has the hands and wings of a child.
Far away, travelers run for cover.
The house feels its own constellation of nails
holding the walls together.

The night is calm in our rooms,
where the echoes of all footsteps rest
like sunken leaves in a pond,
but the night outside is wild.

A darker storm stands over the world.
It puts its mouth to our soul
and blows to get a tone. We are afraid
the storm will blow us empty.

Translated by the Scottish poet Robin Robertson

Fiona Benson - Mama Cockroach, I Love You

Blattodea

Because you cosy with the aunties in your reeking
slums, and are intimate and sweet.

Because you begrudge no one a meal, but ooze
a faecal trail to lead your commune to its source,

like a dirty bee. Because you are joyfully promiscuous.
Because you pouch your young and hide them

in the sweaty creases of the house
near suppurating food so they’ll hatch to a feast;

or, keep your eggs with you in a special purse
shaped like a kidney bean, and clutch it fast;

or reinsert them into your abdomen
and womb them there; or carry them as yolks

and give live birth, then feed your pale brood
secretions from your anus, or your armpit glands,

like milk; or, deep in the flesh of a rotten log
pass them a bolus of pre-digested food, mouth to mouth.

Because you suffer your young to swarm upon
your back, and do not flinch or buck them off,

but carry them like a human playing horsey
with her children, down on hands and knees,

decrying the swag of her own loose flesh.
Because you twirl your antennae gracefully

to test your crawl space. Because strokingly
you caress your offspring’s backs, and gentle them

with pretty pheromones and chirps. Because
you purr when your young stroke your face.

Because you would leave your body for your offspring
to dine upon – all the liquors and gravy

of the obscene world, your work in the crannies
delivered to the living. Because you are,

despite all rumours, mortal. And what if
you are crushed before your eggs can be delivered?

What if your sisters drive you, hissing, out?
What if your kitchen is fumigated?!

What if the mongoose the lizard the snake –
a muscular tongue prying at the warm and greasy interstices

of your stubborn occupancy – takes you in its mouth?
Someone must care for the dirt.

Claudia Rankine - Weather

On a scrap of paper in the archive is written
I have forgotten my umbrella. Turns out
in a pandemic everyone, not just the philosopher
is without. We scramble in the drought of information
held back by inside traders. Drop by drop. Face
covering? No, yes. Social distancing? Six feet
under for underlying conditions. Black.
Just us and the blues kneeling on a neck
with the full weight of a man in blue.
Eight minutes and forty-six seconds.
In extremis I can’t breathe gives way
to asphyxiation, to giving up this world,
and then mama, called to, a call
to protest, fire, glass, say their names, say
their names, white silence equals violence,
the violence of again, a militarized police
force teargassing, bullets ricochet, and civil
unrest taking it, burning it down. Whatever
contract keep us social compel us now
to disorder the disorder. Peace. We’re out
to repair the future. There’s an umbrella
by the door, not for yesterday but for the weather
that’s here. I say weather but I mean
a form of governing that deals out death
and names it living. I say weather but I mean
a November that won’t be held off. This time
nothing, no one forgotten. We are here for the storm
that’s storming because what’s taken matters.