:: Article

Five Poems

By João Luís Barreto Guimarães.

January sun

Never so much as today have I paid careful attention
to the
light of the january sun. Strong
but delicate. Elusive
lasting. It neither burns nor shivers.
It is neither dense nor clear. The
of the sun in january:
such is our enduring love
hidden by the ink of the days it just
peers in through a gap
(a distraction from the clouds)
to light up and to burst out
(never so much as today have I entreated
the wind to give it
a flying chance).
Our love is january:
even if I deem it forgotten
I know
it will always come forth.

Fresh Bread

to Pedro Mexia
Slave of what comes up I write it
because it happens (the poetry malaise:
I wish poetry on no one). What
do you scribble on paper when you are buying a pen?
Something like ‘the metaphor
resists the metonymy’ or
‘the day will come that simply talking
will be poetry’? This
(excuse me)
poem is one possibility:
poetry is in such things
(fresh bread)
uncover it.


My hands are sought by a woman
in her forties
requesting the delay of autumn that falls on her tired
eyes: ‘only want to lose ten years’. And
I probe what bitter taste may have lingered
to have her wishing to punish
some ten years of her life –
and find myself regretting not being able to delete memories
only wrinkles
and fine lines (slightly
marked ruins). In the pitfalls of time
nobody falls by mistake:
skin can’t be purged by the decade but at best
line by

An autumnal emergency

The colours of the baked open apple
in the last throes of summer anticipate in the palate
an autumnal emergency.
It’s an invitation for home
this apple I wounded and whose torso I sprinkled
with cézannes of cinnamon.
Underneath the tanned skin (its
colour a sinful-yellow) the
taste is perennial. See just
how naked they lie
the robes along the plate
(like the clothes of indecorous girls trailing
on the floor).

Deception to the rule

To sit down and see
others passing by is
my favourite exercise. It’s entertaining.
It’s not draining.
It’s for free. In this counter-game of mine
it’s for the others to pass
(I entrust to the others the task
of passing by). I wash my feet of it.
I write from the inside of life.
It may even seem that thus I
will be going nowhere but who
is willing to go
to the place where others go?

© Translation: Ana Hudson, 2010. These poems form part of Ana Hudson’s remarkable project http://www.poemsfromtheportuguese.org/ in which she has pioneered the translation and elucidation of a vast number of contemporary poets writing in the Portuguese language.


João Luís Barreto Guimarães (1967) is a plastic surgeon and lives in Leça da Palmeira, north of Porto. His poetry books published since 2000: Lugares Comuns, 2000, 3 (Poesia 1987-1994), 2001, Rés-do-Chão, 2003, Luz Última, 2006, A Parte pelo Todo, 2009, Poesia Reunida, 2011.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Monday, December 12th, 2011.