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Sunday, June 19, 2005

Sensual, strong and gracious

Two of my favourite Portuguese artists died on the same day this week.

Álvaro Cunhal, who did this drawing, was a national hero after the dictatorship and also long-time leader of the Communist Party. His drawings are not normally what he is remembered for, but I love his interpretations of the strong, corageous and gracious women in the struggle against the military regime.

Eugénio de Andrade also died on Monday. He was a simple poet of sensual, pagan works which resonate deep inside me. Here is one of them, beautifully translated by Alexis Leviti.

Corpo Habitado (Inhabited Body)
by Eugénio de Andrade, translated by Alexis Leviti

Body on a horizon of water,
body open
to the slow intoxication of fingers,
body defended
by the splendour of apples,
surrendered hill by hill,
body lovingly made moist
by the tongue’s pliant sun.

Body with the taste of cropped grass
in a secret garden,
body where I am at home,
body where I lie down
to suck up silence,
to hear
the murmur of blades of grain,
to breathe
the deep dark sweetness of the bramble bush.

Body of a thousand mouths,
all tawny with joy,
all ready to sip,
ready to bite till a scream
bursts from the bowels
and mounts to the towers
and pleads for a dagger.
Body for surrendering to tears.
Body ripe for death.

Body for imbibing to the end –
my ocean, brief
and white,
my secret vessel,
my propitious wind,
my errant, unknown,
endless navigation.


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