Readings — From the December 2009 issue

Masquerades

From a selection of posthumously discovered prose pieces published, for the first time in English, in the October issue of Poetry Magazine. By the time of his death in 1935, Pessoa had written and published in the guise of seventy-two different pseudonymous personae, for whom he invented detailed biographies. They included, for instance, philosopher-cum-sociologist António Mora and Álvaro de Campos, a seafaring, bisexual, naval engineer who wrote Whitmanesque poetry. Translated from the Portuguese by Richard Zenith.

I like to think, because I know it won’t be long before I stop thinking. It’s as a point of departure that thinking delights me—a cold, metallic harbor station from which to set sail for the vast South. I sometimes try to focus my mind on a large metaphysical or even social problem, because I know that, ensconced in the hoarse voice of my reason, there are peacock tails ready to spread open for me as soon as I forget I’m thinking, and I know that humanity is a door in a wall that doesn’t exist, so I can open it onto whatever gardens I like.

Thank God for that ironic element in human destinies that makes dreams the mode of thought for the poor in life, even as it makes life the mode of thought—or thought the mode of life—for the poor in dreams.

But even dreaming channeled through thinking ends up making me weary. At which point I open my eyes from dreaming, go to the window, and transfer my dream to the streets and rooftops. And it’s in my distracted and profound contemplation of so very many roof tiles divided into rooftops, covering the astral contagion of people organized into streets, that my soul becomes truly detached from me, and I don’t think, I don’t dream, I don’t see, I don’t need to. Then I truly contemplate the abstraction of Nature—Nature, the difference between man and God.

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