sábado, 10 de abril de 2010

Knowing John Mateer: three poems

I remember it vividly: I once met John Mateer, the poet. He went to my university in Lisbon when he was about to publish a new poem collection about Portugal, Southern Barbarians. It's about time someone talked about our past as colonizers and oppressors. And I never forgot the poems he read to us, probably there were 15 people in that room, most of them weren't even listening to the poems. I was. And I never forgot John Mateer. A white man born in South Africa.
a) Eduardo
You spoke my name in King João Library,
the hall closing in around us, the gilt-lined tomb
of a sinking carrack. According to my translator
in the preamble to reading your poems you envied me:
He is a white African; I am desterrado. I imagined you
how many slaves were transmuted into the gold
curling baroque and serpentine around us and whose skin
was used to bind the books entirely? We had hardly spoken
and yet were comrades, sharing memories: I wanted to ask
if back in Lourenço Marques you ever knew Mia Couto.
Or that tropical panda Malangatana? Or, maybe, Wopko
(That albino shadow whose gibberish was a blues, whose
remains a book of photos of The Poet gradually
on the beach said to be Maputo.) You spoke
JOHN MATEER into the dark of King João Library
and were closer to my name than I will ever be.
b) The Tourist
They have their hands in his pockets and around his neck.
They’ve pinned him against the wall.
In the public toilets there are no surveillance cameras.

The tourist just off the plane has no witness to his struggle,
no one but himself to testify to his calm,
how he is telling himself, I could have been one of them,
disappointed with the Revolution…

The wall persists, abrasive, against his cheek
as he’s being bitten on the shoulder in this land of AIDS.
c) The Prostitute
The woman is sitting in the doorway half in the sun.
Her face is hidden. She’s talking to someone out of sight.
Her legs crossed like fat fingers.
Even from here I can see her shins are bruised
and the white high-heels scuffed and dirty.
Though she beckons passers-by they hardly glance at her.

Then she stands up, steps into the humid street.
Her eyes clench against the bright.
Under her black vest her limp, shrunken breasts.
She spots me in the bar across the street and beckons,
insistently beckons me like a long forgotten friend.

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