|Adélia Prado [La Oriental]|
from The Alphabet in the Park: Selected Poems of Adélia Prado, translated by Ellen Watson
Once in a while God takes poetry away from me.
I look at a stone, I see a stone.
The world, so full of departments,
is not a pretty ball flying free in space.
I feel ugly, gazing in mirrors to try to provoke them,
thrashing the brush through my hair,
susceptible to believing in omens.
I become a terrible Christian.
Every day at this time the sound of a giant mortar and pestle:
Here comes Gimpy, I think, and sadden with fear.
"What day is today?" says Mother;
"Friday is the day of sorrowful mysteries."
The night-light glimmers its already humble ray,
narrowing once and for all the black of night.
Enter, in the calm of the hour, the buzz
of the factory, in continuous staccato.
And I am in heat, unceasingly,
I persist in going to the garden to attract butterflies
and the memory of the dead.
I fall in love once a day,
I write horrible letters, full of spasms,
as if I had a piano and bags under my eyes,
as if my name were Anne of the Cross.
Except for the eyes in photographs,
no one knows what death is.
If there were no clover in the garden,
I don't know if I would write this;
no one knows what talent is.
I sit on the porch watching the street,
waiting for the sky to sadden with dusk.
When I grow up I'll write a book:
"You mean fireflies are the same thing as lightning bugs?" they asked, amazed.
Over leftover coals, the beans
balloon in the black pot.
A little jolt: the end of the prayer long gone.
The young pullets did not all fit
under the mother hen;
she clucked a warning.
This story is threatening to end, stopped up with stones.
No one can stand to be merely Lenten.
A pain this purple induces fainting,
a pain this sad doesn't exist.
School cafeterias and radio broadcasts
featuring calisthenics set to music
sustain the order of the world, despite me.
Even the thick knots extracted from the breast,
the cobalt, its ray pointed at pained flesh —
upon which I have cast this curse:
I refuse to write one line to you — even these
settle in among the firewood,
longing for a place in the crucifixion.
I started this letter bursting with pride,
overestimating my ability to yell for help,
tempted to believe that some things,
in fact, have no Easter.
But sleep overpowered me and this story dozed off
letter by letter. Until the sun broke through.
The flies awoke.
And the woman next door had an attack of nerves;
they called me urgently from the garden wall.
Death leaves behind photographs, articles of clothing,
half-full medicine bottles, disoriented insects
in the sea of flowers that covers the body.
This poem has gone sticky on me. He won't shake loose.
He disgusts me, with his big head;
I grab my shopping bag.
I'll stroll around the market.
But there he is, brandy in his spittle,
heels callused like a woman's,
coins in the palm of his hand.
It's not an exemplary life, this, robbing an old man
of the sweet pleasure of grandchildren.
My sadness was never mortal,
it's reborn every morning.
Death doesn't stop the pitter-pat of rain on the umbrella,
innumerable as the constellations.
I trail behind the funeral precession,
mixing with holy women,
I wipe the Sacred Visage.
"All you who pass by, look and see
if there is any sorrow like my sorrow. . . ."
Happiness alone has body:
Head hung low,
glassy eyes and mouth,
bruised feelings and bruised limbs.