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Announcing the winners of our 2020 Poems in Translation Contest in partnership with the Academy of American Poets. Read more.
from the May 2020 issue

Lisbon - 1971

In this poem, Camões Prize–winner Arménio Vieira writes of drifting and belonging in a foreign land.


For Ovídio Martins and Osvaldo Osório


In point of fact, Lisbon was not waiting there
                                                  [to greet us.

There we stood, at last, shivering, adrift
in the middle of Portela with its guards and its aircraft.

In point of fact, we were the poorest
of the Africans brought there
and like leaves swept about by
                            [a broomstick wind
clothed in class and
                          [vanity.

And when some time later we provoked
                                               [the shock
of a woman peddling apples
and she asked to know where we had come from and why  
we discovered illusion flowing through the heart
                                                           [of Empire.

Still, disenchantment, which caves the chest
and scales peaks,
needs the leavening that time supplies.

On some truck, crammed between boxes and
                                 [traces of nights gone by
we chased our destiny
on that morning wet
                            [with winter’s drizzle.


© Arménio Vieira. Translation © 2020 by Eric M. B. Becker and David Shook. All rights reserved.

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