Steven F. White
 Under Her Window: Ouro Preto
 

I imagine her building a life here
with pieces of New England,
writing on a stone past in this Brazil
that enslaves my breath, mines my steps.
Leaving and entering shadow
as they move on steep, cobbled streets,
there are children dressed as angels
for Corpus Christi.  I see the empty tombs
of rebels and time's broken fingers on display.
 
Now I walk the high road that goes to Mariana.
It passes the Vila Mariana:
Elizabeth Bishop named her home
in Ouro Preto after Marianne Moore,
as if by coming here she could wrest
poems from her mentor's presence.
Bishop bought a ruined dwelling,
wrecked verse from another era
collapsed on stacked, flat stones.
 
She rebuilt, but preserved the seteiras:
vertical slits of fear that once opened
onto a colonial world of arrows and attacks.
She had a mantel-work of x-ray art: window
into lines of leather-bound vegetable and mineral
by some anonymous Brazilian Shakespeare.
She had her imported bathtub and woodstove.
She had a shaded room invaded by a stream of spirits.
She had a garden for all her anguish.
 
Her view of this jewel of a city must have broken
those refractory New England dreams in Minas.
And now I am under her window
where she, the unobservable foreigner,
listened to herself and to the voices
of all those who drank the fountain's ice-cold water.
This home and its visitors are part of her geographies.
If I, too, am producing a map in progress,
I also become the places that create me.
 
I walk down to the city in darkness
illuminated by splendid façades.




The Clay Pots
 

The clay pots sing
to keep us company
when we're most alone.
Why do we always die?
Where do we go?
I can taste the blue rain
of their words in my ears.
I can see their music,
touching those who have fallen
so deeply inside the curved
vessel of all beginnings.
And it is from this well
that we are drawn by song.