Mondays with Pessoa: Bernardo’s Lament

He remembers a sense of several lives passing through the one. Beyond the torture of impatient youth, of fearful ignorant youth, beyond the common pains, all of his lives seemed to converge on the quivering edge of—not promise, not yet promise. It was closer to hope, but as palpable as hope can get, a laser-thin beam of light, sometimes covered by mundane obstructions, but always reemerging. Now it’s as if more and more memory clogs the passage of this light, as if one life has vampirized the others out of existence, the soul having acquired a penny-loafered existence. But he is aware. He looks out of the cage that masquerades as him and wonders how big the edifice can become, and he consequently smaller, or—which amounts to the same thing—will there one day cease to be so much as a chink to shoot his question through?

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9 Responses to Mondays with Pessoa: Bernardo’s Lament

  1. Susan Scheid says:

    “He looks out of the cage that masquerades as him . . .”. I think so many of us must often feel that way, and where you go with this (I assume this is your poem, yes?) is remarkable. The edifice, the public face, ends up eclipsing the inner self completely.

  2. I was reading your great article on Jean and Aino Sibelius while you were reading this. Yes, it’s an original poem, written before I had read Pessoa. I came across it on Monday in slightly different form and thought it would make a good lament for Bernardo Soares.

  3. Brendan says:

    Are the voices loudest in our youth? Do we “learn to forget (their) passionate music,” as Rilke wrote in his Sonnets to Orpheus? What ossifies and petrifies into the prisoner of one voice, I wonder, in sympathy with your poem. If, as the I Ching advises, surrender is the only escape, then does humility allow us room to be the stage manager who tends the theater but does not own the voices? ‘Twould be a consolation for our dotage …

    • I like your questions more than the ones I was thinking about when I wrote this. I like that you were able to think them. I think the stage manager you mention is/would be a state of maturity. This lament came from a complaint about burnout, that the various lives of youth (and whatever promise they may have had) seem like someone else’s lives and one is frozen or stuck, the kind of slump that so easily happens in middle age.

      • Brendan says:

        I think that stage manager is a poetic ideal–that we could grow into that sort of empowered humility. Too often we tire of the “complicate amassing harmony” of Stevens and just wish for a little peace and quiet. For the monotone and monotheism of settling for settling for. Hard indeed for a writer to continue to be original and fresh — how often do we see the best work in the first book and very little much later? How do we prevent ourselves from killing off our young? Infanticide is practiced widely though the animal kingdom. Fearing their challenge to his rule, Saturn eats his young; the last, Zeus, survives by deceit (his mother Hera wraps a stone in a blankey and delves that instead to Saturn). We do vampirize our younger plenitude. Become Republicans. Modern complexities magnify these tendencies. To slump. Take the blue pill after dinner and sit slack-jawed hoping for a bit of cleavage on the evening’s sitcoms. Our work becomes more fraught, anxious about this kind of frost. Perhaps already dead. And the irony is that it’s the child in us that saves us, don’t you think? The older we get, the younger we must become, inoculating against the dire with a purer sense of play. Uh huh. When I was a kid my favorite Aurora monster model was The Forgotten Prisoner of Castle Mare. The most terrifying. How did someone become so forgotten, so abandoned to starve to death and rot alone? And how did I come to understand that the door was locked only on the inside? Drank enough whiskey perhaps, wrote enough poems, who knows. I forget. We all have our days.

  4. angela says:

    bliss of youth is not knowing..looking back it seems that one believed in every rebel yell, no matter how improbable – has one lost that, has time buried the passionate mind of our youth – all those selves created for one soul…please say it is not all a fairytale – I wish I were Pessoa and could create all the youths I wish I had become… brilliant piece, Mark ~

    • I’ve lived long enough now that I’ve been through phases–long, dark periods when I thought I was all dried up, then something happened, the desert bloomed and my dreams surprised me again. My deepest fear ever since I was very young is becoming one of the zombies–no lust for life, no sense of play; I don’t want that to ever happen. Thanks for your visit.

  5. ManicDdaily says:

    We have such strong feelings at times of internal division–not exactly conflict, so much as different beings–the chemical self and the would-be self, many different ones–lots of camouflages–this well describes those feelings for me. k.

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