Café Martinho da Arcada

Praça do Comércio 3, 1100-148 Lisboa

Pessoa scattered his selves among these tables.
We take turns to read his fugitive verse.
Now, from a notebook with his portrait I
Distill these fading signs, once lucent.

Here Saramago fluxed his river-like prose.
I flit between a glass of Super Bock
And olives, Filtro cigarette and coffee;
Read how Pessoa hesitates, invited
By Ricardo Reis, the year he dies,
Almost steps into the cool interior
Haunt, with its tables white-clothed, uninscribed.
The waiters smile and sanction what we read.

Beyond: the business of the Praça do
Comércio, the bustle of exchange;
The Tajo, ever-young, losing itself
In adventure.
Sarah talks me through
Her novel. Its inhabitants spin out
Themselves in language; fragments of her self,
Yet offspring of the negation of that self.
I grow intimate with each fractured soul
And with the course of invention.

That evening,
Fado in Alfama. And fish! The finest
Ever, redolent of the plunge into
The void Atlantic of Camões and
Da Gama; of plunder, trade, bestowing names,
While the plangent chiming twinned steel string
Across the fattened belly reminds us we
Can not step into this twice. Saudade.
The whirl of tertúlia goes on; companionship
And dialogue: mutuality
Murmurs at the heart of literature.

Bill Hughes, June 2012


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