"the memory of another light"

Who hears them? Who
gathers them, thus,
cruel, shapeless,
in their pure shells?


From the Portuguese poet Eugenio de Andrade, whose selected poetry “Forbidden Words” I’ve been reading the past couple days. His work reminds me of Pessoa’s Alberto Caeiro – both touch perception through sensation. Eugenio’s work is grounded in the sensual real, even when it becomes abstact, it treats the idea as a sensation – language itself become sensation.

See how suddenly the sky closes
over the dunes adn boats,
and each of us turns and fixes
his eyes on the other,
and see how the last light slowly
drips from them onto the sand.

What then shall we say? Could it be words,
this that rises to the lips?
Words? This sound so light
that we can hear the day as it departs?
Words, or might it still be light?

Words, no. Who could know them?
It was just the memory of another light.
Perhaps not even light, just another gaze.

[“What then shall we say?”]

Reminds me of Rilke from the first elegy: “Who, if I cried out, would hear me among the angels’ hierachies?” This desire and non-desire for the other world creates a subtext for many of Eugenio’s poems – a quality found in Whitman also (Eugenio has a few poems where he mentions Whitman explicitly/implicitly):

In this land
where one dies of an incomplete heart
I will leave just three or four syllables
of quicklime beside the water.


How strange my task
to search close to the ground
for aleaf between the dust and sleep
moist still from the early sun.

[“Three of Four Syllables”]

His poems develop a quiet sensationism that infuse the images and the ideas. The words themselves have an amazing plasticity despite their absolute dependence on the signified sensation. In the poem “The Fruit”, he writes:

This is how I want the poem to be:
trembling with light, coarse with earth,
murmuring with waters and with wind.

So much depends on both the trembling and the coarseness. The trembling occurs because words are woven with light – “there at the border of my verse” [“Post Scriptum”] where also the coarseness of the earth becomes sensation and the poem emerges from this border – tenuous, blossoming under its own weight:

Between a white leaf and the sharp edge of a gaze
the mouth grows old.

Upon the word
night approaches the flame.

This is how one dies you said
this is how one dies says the wind, its touch upon your waist.

At the porous frontier of silence
the hand gives light to an unfinished land.


[“Upon the word”]


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