Santiago de Compostela, October 1994
At the catedral de Santiago de
Compostela, in an open book on
display in the library, in the middle
of the page, Federico García Lorca
has signed in. It is 1916 and he
is eighteen. Above his signature,
there is a statement, signed properly,
respectfully. And now there are
many other signatures below his or
on the facing page. This was not a
competition but he has won out.
From the encased book, names that
are long forgotten surround the
fancied star of death and fame.
All else is buried thick, page upon
page, seldom turned to purpose.
At the great Cathedral
mass begins, but priests
keep arriving late, and in
the end there are many priests.
One of them, after awhile,
limps off the set, another
follows him, each of them
having done his part.
I’m too cool to hug the Saint.
Some of the huggers I’m watching
are better at the hugging thing
than others. Some merely touch,
one hand; some pat, consolingly;
some enjoy a good feel.
Then I, too, hug the Saint. I’m surprised
to find him cold. It’s not the cold
that kills, but it chills.
In the Cathedral men confess
face-to-face; women, on
the other hand, are faced
off to the side.
The open square beside the Cathedral
opens out to receive this Englishman’s
(or Irishman’s) friendly voice. He belts
out American tunes and accepts small monies,
with pride and warmth and fealty.
It’s the same everywhere
I go, the world does not
stand at attention. Lives
drift or drive along, the sun
shines or it does not, and
only a few pilgrims recall
while the rest of the world
forgets to care or simply
be aware. Amherst largely
nods, Hartford continues
to close down, and Padrón
builds its factory across
the tracks running before
the grapes shading the walls
and table and the one seat
with a back-all is made of
stone-at the house of
Rosalia, Padrón’s poet.
At this moment all this
world’s attention depends
on me, I think, but that-
that surely must be wrong.
George Monteiro is Professor Emeritus of English and Portuguese and Brazilian Studies, Brown University, and he continues as Adjunct Professor of Portuguese Studies at the same university. He served as Fulbright lecturer in American Literature in Brazil–Sao Paulo and Bahia–Ecuador and Argentina; and as Visiting Professor in UFMG in Belo Horizonte. In 2007 he served as Helio and Amelia Pedroso / Luso-American Foundation Professor of Portuguese, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. Among his recent books are Stephen Crane’s Blue Badge of Courage, Fernando Pessoa and Nineteenth-Century Anglo-American Literature, The Presence of Pessoa, The Presence of Camões, and Conversations with Elizabeth Bishop and Critical Essays on Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms. Among his translations are Iberian Poems by Miguel Torga, A Man Smiles at Death with Half a Face by José Rodrigues Miguéis, Self-Analysis and Thirty Other Poems by Fernando Pessoa, and In Crete, with the Minotaur, and Other Poems by Jorge de Sena. He has also published two collections of poems, The Coffee Exchange and Double Weaver’s Knot.