the poet camilo pessanha sleeps curled up on a macau bed

portuguese colonial emblem at a park in macau ©papa osmubal

portuguese colonial emblem at a park in macau ©papa osmubal

the poet camilo pessanha sleeps curled up on a macau bed

leung ping-kwan

                       translated by brian holton  1998

this is your world
stinking red hangings, enclosing
the iron bed on the Persian rug, the coloured blankets
enwrapping you who sleep curled up in layer upon layer
of the exotic scents of joss-sticks and opium
faithful pekinese crawling close to you
licking your beard
your knees below your chin
as though you were mumbling new words
only the parrot repeats what you have said
you have abandoned all the houses on the other shore
and come here far across the oceans
roamed all the earth to find a bed
no matter what turbid river flows outside
or where in the world its confluence
bishops and viceroys constantly changing
your eternity is a bead-roll of roses
tear upon tear wept by an unlucky mother
you said farewell to every treasure in your past home
navigating between these Chinese relics in the mirror
your destination never reached, the scroll’s flowers unwithered too
you leaned on the weathered blue and white porcelain
the Bodhisattva wound with spider webs
escaped the original order and drifted here
forever at rest, a fossil life
the peeling mirror reflects a bed of old blankets
folded into desires, carrying curses
to put someone forever into deep sleep
in this warm, narrow, humid cave
your woman of the East lit your opium pipe
you slept into a womb, you are a pupa
sunk in sleep you saw the demon that overflies reality
oh sleep, sleep well
things in dreams are more real
in those dreams you own
the whole world

(October 1998)


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