Sunday, August 4, 2002

AFTER READING BROWNING’S SONNETS FROM THE PORTUGUESE


AFTER READING BROWNING’S SONNETS FROM THE PORTUGUESE


Like most of her generation,
she was in love with the idea of death
and in so loving death,
she loved the muse with a pale fragile beauty
hidden in the sepulcher of the Victorian heart.
Only the cliché of roses, abandoned
seven years in a drawer, moved me
and I wondered where the real Elizabeth
had hidden herself among the ruins of antiquity
and whether flesh and blood ever fed on
the passion of her soul?

Where are the hoarse-voiced harridans
rasping the edges of night into dawn?
Or the jilted prayer of garbage in back alleys?
In the streets of Lisbon,
the men are at their port—
after a long day’s fishing for commerce—
while the pious kneel their way
down the long mile to Fatima’s portcullis—
bloodied knees washed clean in the downpour.
Where is the Portugal where faith
drives the engine of the heart
out of the body into the realm of forgotten sky,
where indifferent saints from another era,
who were men once, complained about the good old days
and how even the faithful don’t know the first thing about it.

8/4/02

Fatima Notes

After reading Elizabeth Brownings sonnets from the Portuguese, I discovered there is no Portuguese. She was in love with death and in so loving death she loved love with a pale fragile beauty from the safe sepulcher of the Victorian heart. Only the rose, seven years in a drawer, moved me, and I wondered where the real Elizabeth had hidden herself among the ruins of antiquity. And whether flash and blood ever fed on the passions of her soul. Where are the horsey voices of the harridans rasping at dawn in Lisbon? Where are the men at the airport after a long days fishing for commerce, and port? Or the pious pilgrims at the plow, kneeling their way down the long mile to the altar of Fatima in the pouring rain, where faith drives the engine of the heart. Out of the body and into the realm of another, the forgotten sky where the saints from another era who were once men, (except Fatima, of course, but she was a girl, not a woman), they complain about the good old days and how even the faithful don't know the first thing about faith.

Portugal notes, not sure when this was written. Aug 9? That's what it says in journal but poem that follows was written Aug 4. Of course I could've misread the date. But I also like this as a prose piece as well. The immediacy, perhaps.



See poem

AFTER READING BROWNING’S SONNETS FROM THE PORTUGUESE