Tuesday poem: Fernando Pessoa shaves

September 29, 2015

Fernando Pessoa shaves

— and needless to say, the mirror
has three leaves. So at least
twelve chins require scraping
(for they all go beardless,
or at least, sometimes so)
and one, or four, can’t always
leave, to visit the barber.

Eight hands, a lively polvo,
attempt to shave straight,
but, let’s face it (ha!)
straight is not really
in their repertoire.
It is disconcerting when a man
metamorphoses from Fernando
into Alberto between nose and chin

as one uses a blade as blunt
as omniscience. Little rivers
open up, and flow into each other.
In one mirror-wing, Álvaro bleeds
and in the other, Ricardo winces.
The eight hands become twice twelve
in the trinity of glass.

In the corner of one wing,
see that crack? One, or four,
become a jigsaw, no, a galaxy
of Fernando and his others.
This is the image which one might
or could, possibly call true.
The eye of one bends into
chin of the other; a quiet, crazed
Picasso, but with a line less sure.

He had never belonged
to a crowd
. Except to himselves.

P.S. Cottier

Poet’s note: Fernando Pessoa’s main heteronyms included Alberto Caeiro, Álvaro de Campos and Ricardo Reis. He also wrote as Fernando Pessoa. ‘He had never belonged to a crowd’ is from the Preface to The Book of Disquiet, by Pessoa (or Bernando Soares) tr. R. Zenith.

who left the drawbridge down?

who left the drawbridge down?

I’ve been thinking about heteronyms and pseudonyms and all the nyms lately. What is authenticity? Are anonymous comments any less valuable than attributed ones? Is pronouncing the death of the author pretty damned silly, given that multiplicity has replaced a singular notion of the self?

Also, where do seriousness and play merge? In this poem, they merge in a mirror. They also merge in sandpits, if you’ve ever watched children play, or can remember being a child.

Do head over to the Tuesday Poem site, for a further dose of poetic goodness, blended to perfection. Read the works of the other Tuesday Poets around the world by pressing here.

6 Responses to “Tuesday poem: Fernando Pessoa shaves”

  1. Jack said

    Reblogged this on Wyrdwend.

  2. Michele Seminara said

    I LOVE this, Penelope. ‘a blade as blunt as omniscience’ is my new favourite phrase. I think seriousness and play merge in your poetry.

  3. pscottier said

    So nice to hear that Michele; the poem sought a home via a couple of contests with no luck, even though I like it! And now it has a home here…God I’m sounding like an ad for the RSPCP. (That’s poems, not pets.)

  4. I love the title and the poem is fascinating but I feel I’m missing out on a swathe of knowledge and can’t quite get it…It seems impressive though so I feel I should!

  5. pscottier said

    Pessoa is God in some circles, Helen! I think they call that irony. I’m glad you enjoyed some of the poem.

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