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Shadow and Light: Three Poems

By João Luís Barreto Guimarães
Translated By Eric M. B. Becker


18ème arrondissement

To Nuno Júdice

The
sculptors of Montmartre must have
studied anatomy (in depth)
to chisel such beauty into their
sacred figures. Or
else wandered around (from brothel
to
brothel) until there was no doubt
(down to the last detail) of
such chaste
anatomy. It is not believed that
nuns had ever willingly posed
(naked like this) so that
thighs and breasts might be born from hands
of sculptors with such
precision. The reader will surely agree with me
that those girls who thus devoted themselves
to art had at least a streak
of sainthood.

 

the director’s office

In the director’s
office there is nothing on the wall. Only
a nail where one may find
a picture of Jesus Christ or
the dictator’s
portrait. Nothing is on the wall. Only
a spider can be seen confirming
the verdict: to
each wall its web
(each web: a prison). It is a bare wall.
Only one crevice through which
the office gives way—
an office that seemed sturdy. The wall
is empty.
Only a shadow can be seen
a long and dark shadow. It means
that there’s still light.

 

Opportunity

The
grains of rice sown across the
churchyard patio
formed a carpet tread by the
newlyweds. Within
a body awaits (inside a wood box)
its last earthly words
the last
chance for light. The couple which
this morning became one at the altar did so
upon the exact stone where this evening
death awaits
the same exact stone. No doubt there’s
a lesson hidden in the suggestion that Eros
and Thanatos
run in the same circles but
whatever it may be—
life
gets no better than this.

 

“Shadow and Light: Three Poems” originally appeared in the Brazilian journal Revista Pessoa. It appears here as part of WWB’s ongoing partnership with Revista Pessoa. Several times a year, WWB will bring readers new work that originally appeared in Pessoa here in English translation, and Pessoa will publish work from WWB’s pages in translation into Brazilian Portuguese.


Published Dec 12, 2018   Copyright 2018 João Luís Barreto Guimarães

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