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Poems Postcard and The Persians

Alfredo Fressia, Uruguay
Wednesday 12 July 2017

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Night view of downtown
Montevideo, I don’t recognize the violet
air of the streets, yet a hard
amethyst of memory, a resistant
prey of days.
I won’t die in Montevideo,
yet hands show me the way
to the motionless top that spun with the world
(night view of my childhood).
Yet photos declared and faith
yellowed in drawers, unrecognizable
night view atop my bed, inverse
world, in another language, a top
of lies: eyes still prey to the hard
memory of other days.

The Persians

According to Herodotus, Xerxes’ armada
had already left Sardis on its way to Salamis
when the sun began to abandon its place in the sky
and disappear. The day, serene, no shadow of a cloud,
went shifting into night. The sun
took on the color of sapphire and, as they eyed each other,
the soldiers saw themselves as pale as the dead.
Everything seemed to be bathed in a dark steam.
Wonder and fear took over the hearts
of those young men. Xerxes saw the miracle,
followed it attentively, and asked his wise men
what it meant. The sky, they responded,
announced to the Greeks the destruction of their cities
since the sun, they said, is the Greeks’ prophetic star,
and the moon, the Persians’. Xerxes, dumbfounded,
was delighted by the response, comforted his men
with confident words and -Herodotus will never
stop talking- ordered them to return to the route.
As they died they understood: we’re dying
from an eclipse, eternal like sapphire,
and we’ll follow the return of moons
while a Greek choralist recites our names.
This alone we lived for.
Xerxes died in his palace, murdered by a traitor.

Translators: Katherine Kedeen and Víctor Rodríguez Núñez

Alfredo Fressia was born in Montevideo, Uruguay, in 1948. He is a poet and translator. He taught French letters for 44 years. Professor of Literature, was dismissed from teaching by the Uruguayan dictatorship. He then settled in São Paulo, Brazil, where he has been living since 1976. He has worked in literary criticism in Uruguay, Brazil and Mexico. His poetic work has been translated into Portuguese, English, French, Romanian, Italian, Greek and Turkish. His first poetry collection was published in 1973 and most recently in 2013, when he completed forty years of poetry. It received several distinctions and was jury of the international Prize Pablo Neruda next to Ernesto Cardenal. He has been editor of the Mexican magazine of the poetry La Otra in its printed version. He taught at Marshal University, WV, Ohio State University of Columbus, Foundation for Mexican Letters, among other institutions. He has presented his work in Uruguay, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Nicaragua, Dominican Republic, Mexico, USA, France and Turkey. His most recent poems are “Poeta en el Edén” (Montevideo / Mexico, 2012, now reissued in Argentina), “Cuarenta años de poesía” (Montevideo, 2013), bilingual edition “Clandestin” (Harmattan, Paris, 2013) and “Susurro Sur” (Valparaíso, Mexico) , 2016).

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