Two Poems from Portugal

January 4, 2022
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Water from above overfills the steeping basket of a tea pot
Photo by Sergey Norkov / Unsplash

Iron-Red Tea

Were your body a teapot, sleek
and slender, face unseen
and hands like iron-red stems,
were your mouth to release a roofless
wind drawing with smoke
a lush hissing garden,
my me would become a You in my
high-gorged and fruit-shaped nothingness,
eager-handed, wild and triangular,
forged in the flame you kindled.

Were your body porcelain china
as I feel it, light, white-glazed,
absence smoothened, and rendered
in pale yellow or aubergine
pointed steps, there I’d drink the tea
poured out of a speedily invented bud
lid, both minuscule: one cooled off
in ceramics and wonder, the other warm
from the purple of Cassius – as they begin
again to mold the crest-shaped pommel.


Hippocras Wine

I’ll never know the distance from the lips
to the nose or from the spark to the luminous ground.
We are always less than what we have most
beautifully done and everything else, ungrateful,
we forget. From the spelling we take
the hippocras wine, from the cold the water, from the fire
the vapors of braised partridge.

If I look at my nameless self and see me
on a name to which I bring all and nothing, I taste,
bud by bud, the fruit, the slicing of the stone,
the harsh cut of the sickle. I am the loudness
of what I hear, the blindness of what I eat and, when
I drink, my body is abandoned into a deadly
sleep that I turn into another course.

But were I to see light inside a palate
of even sentences and mirrored warmth,
let the tongue be loose from the mouth, the hair
from the head, let the forbidden memory
be torn, veil of a soft and fastened line of silver
thread, fennel seeds, and let me sleep,
lips and flavor on the chest of my beloved.

Translations from the Portuguese

Editorial note: From Adornos (Publicações Dom Quixote, 2011). Copyright © by Ana Marques Gastão. Translation copyright © by Ana Hudson.

Ana Marques Gastão is a Portuguese poet, essayist, and researcher at the University of Lisbon. She is currently the assistant editor of Colóquio Letras, a literary journal published by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation in Lisbon. She has authored many books of poetry, including Nocturnos (2002), Nós/Nudos (2004), Lápis Mínimo (2008), and Adornos (2011).

Ana Hudson has a master’s in Portuguese studies (history path) from King’s College London. She is responsible for the translations at Poems from the Portuguese, the most comprehensive anthology of twenty-first-century Portuguese poetry online (and offline). She published in English the book He Went to England: Impressions of an 18th Century Portuguese Aristocrat (Alêtheia, 2015) and lives in the UK.

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