Two for Pessoa (June 13, 1986, Lisbon)
Today I’d be ninety-eight if not for the drink, the kidney shutdown, and God
knows what else that put me away before my time.
My remains-all that was left at the old address-have now been whisked away
Life’s like that. Just when it all seems settled-once and for all -you up and move
or somebody does the moving for you. To live to ninety-eight, now that’s going too
far, but seventy or seventy-five, that’s o.k.
What a chest I’d have left you. A fleet of chests, all of them filled with bits and pieces,
things and puzzles that would amuse you for a century, nay, a millennium.
I would have had but one interment, when memories themselves were fresh, rosy, green.
The old woman plunks herself down
next to us at the first of the three marble-
top tables set in rows in A Brasileira.
She would talk, taking us for somebody
who might talk back. Anything, to make
her day for only a little bit. Finally Antonio
responds to her overture, the last of many.
She comes here often, as well as every
other place in the neighborhood. Are we
painters? No? No matter. She’ll talk to us
anyway. She’s old, very old, but lively,
even frenetic. We guess her age. She’s
seventy-seven. Only seventy-seven, I say
to myself, and yet, and yet. Did she come
here today to celebrate his birthday? Did
she know him? I don’t ask these questions.
But there’s no sign whatever of himself. It’s
a holiday in Lisbon; he must be out of town.