Improbable Christmas

Rogério Zola Santiago

We slide our eyes over the rooftops
of the 1990s.
Ouro Preto—black and gold—
blood and charcoal blatant and cold
back there where snow never lingers
and the rain has long stopped its fall.

Do we still recall?
Baroque terrazzo,
a full moon, and savage grasshoppers
screaming losses and a tear
—a sole tear—a soul tear
between that time and a brochure—

fleisch und blut—two friends apart.

Then along comes the shopping cart
—selling out our loss of innocence—
and it turns itself into a chariot with no reindeer.
A ghost as simple as contention.
The still boys enjoy the rhymed
tamed spooky truths never to end.
A story
standing forever between loss and glory.

Elizabeth Bishop outside another window
—a phantom staring at the "bambá de couve"—her favorite dish
within aged china serving-ware as we ate.
"The town is the same", she claims—
"I still have the same name!"—and tries—
in vain—to reach for a spoon, a plate and a fork.
Broken torn soul, should we
allow Beth to taste wine and the vanity of the living
while crying her Lota a poem of gratitude?
"The more I give, the more I owe you."
"I am still crying in English."
"Accept that all is gone.
Our mothers are dead".

Brazilian delicacies (never withdrawn from the scenario) rot now
at that spot. The boys grew. Who'd dare taking the cauliflower soup
off such a worn out table cloth set for the well-dressed
invitees of the American Embassy? Underneath the house,
a female voice (from a river that flows forever) demands:
"Oh, Marianne dearest, it's roosters—not cocks."

Yet above the rooftops
the Santa chariot hovers over the town, as we watch the North
get off its wheels. There has never been any Christmas
whatsoever,—although witty boys can stare
out the roofs, Black Gold toppings of the past.

A long-ago Kissinger—another absent character
(who hosted himself in this very same hostel)—
shall rest unaware of these visitors:
two boys intruding
into the roof-top room of Prize Winners.

Willingly with the dead, I linger in shadow—
and smile at hands touched but never held,
rattling my pulverized story.
Lili the landlady knows she and her inn are now lost in imagination.
I saw her all white-capped
on the threshold of a turned-off TV set,
cushioned into a blanket of wool.

Goodbye for as long as it takes.
Goodbye, timeless roofs of longing.
Surely there is no one to blame,
for the never untold desire
risks and falls into thy arms—
risk and fall into thy kisses
slip and fall into a cart of troublesome children in the dark.

translated from the Portuguese by Lloyd Schwartz