regarding canto 9
— john mateer
Impulsively I want to turn to Luís de Camões,
who is elsewhere, and ask: What’s Canto Nine?
All those lonely young women, perfumed and frisky, awaiting
the mariners returning from a world half-known?
Why a dreamy brothel like those promised in the apocryphal sastras,
full of teens with teased-out hair and spy-tv eyes,
whose virginities can be reliably renewed by a pill swallowed the morning after?
Why the advertising? I hope it’s not Tristan da Cunha,
the isle of my great-grandmother’s birth! I have stood
between Vasco da Gama’s sarcophagus and yours, National Poet,
in Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, hearing your epic recited,
and I’ve sat on a bench in your praça staring up at your gargantuan silhouette,
your arms down resisting a salute, head clamped under a bronze laurel wreath,
and I have also dreamed of visiting those padrãoes that dot the African coast,
those gravestones that marked your transportation to The East,
not wanting to question the motivations of a tragic actor.
But with Canto Nine I am again a tentative student,
confused, self-doubting, seeking the nod of The Author
as I page back and forth through the paperback,
praying that not all history must end in the purple-haze of porn.