francisca camelo

Posted on


declaration of intent:
i tried to write a love poem, but it’s more like a receipt.
no names: it’s a small city.

my loneliness is killing me (and i)
i must confess i still believe

britney spears

i know you’re new in town
you still haven’t been consumed
by the narrow streets
the humidity
the excessive sense of community
the gossip
who slept with who
who’s a lesbian who’s frigid
you still don’t know how long
a winter here can be.
soon you’ll understand
how only tourists aren’t moldy
how central heating
is only for the wealthy
how neighbors will
always want to guess
what girl you brought home last sunday
this time it wasn’t me and
maybe that’s what makes me
itch when i wake up
but deep down
all i wanted for this winter
was someone to show
my favorite restaurant,
not that it exists,
but it’s always a pretext
to invent a more interesting life.
once in a while it would be nice

to stop looking into the center of a glass
alone at the bar,
trying to give myself
lispector airs when in fact i’m just
me ridiculously alone
and without that interesting accent
but then people arrive
they go up to acquaintances, make conversation,
suddenly there are so many empty glasses
and look, sit down, there’s always one more
and if you stay long enough
skipping the topics — weather politics
cats housing, most
likely in that order, —
you’ll know who’s angry
who’s a lesbian who’s frigid who
slept with who
and all this will be a form of
politics too
and you’ll learn right away
how almost everything
they say about me
is true.
there are experiences you really can’t miss
for example
the smell of sofrito
in a portuguese home
but for it to be genuine
you might have to meet my parents
i know it’s too soon, but think about it,
you can finally tell your friends
how you’ve gone off the tourist track:
my mom has calluses on her hands
because the operation costs too much
and she’ll never share her recipe for pumpkin jam
my dad’s always frowning
but if he likes you

he won’t let go of you even when
you break up with me
you’ll get sick of him more
than you’ll get sick of me but at least
you’ll finally know what they mean
when they talk about our
eternal hospitality
if there’s time, i wanted to tell you
all about after 25 april
when tourists replaced
junkies on rua das flores
about fado sung not for those who pay
about the worker’s housing on rua do amial where
my grandmother lived
with her less than 1.5 meters
and about how in that house
the entrance hall was bigger
than the kitchen
because the best food
was saved for guests
all said and done
i wanted to be here when your
loneliness strikes, less
for yours and more for mine, but
it’s so easy to fake that kind of generosity
and i wanted so much
like my friends from brazil say
i wanted so much for a guy
to stuff his face
with me.

receipt poem for the new boy in town, parts iii and iv

(…) don’t you think that the esplanade is a small homeland
to which we are faithful? we sit here as those who are born

ruy belo, acids and oxides

don’t rely on what the roadmaps say
it rains more here
than in london
the postcards have saturated their colors
the riverside isn’t especially typical
the guides take you places
long since closed
and no matter how hard they try
to heat a place
the people here uphold
our millenary tendency
to leave the door
always open.
if they tell you that tea
prevents colds it’s a lie,
you need cold medicine, vitamin c
and a good blanket.
don’t save on blankets
they should weigh on your body, most likely
you’ll have to come up with ways
to cheat loneliness.
despite all that
you’ll be amazed
at how many old people
holding hands for decades
drag themselves slowly
to the bus that may or may not
arrive on time,
eventually crossing the street
outside the crosswalk
because traffic doesn’t only run
down those who walk slowly,
but back to the point,
you should know that
none of them chose
to stay that long
with each other but life happens,
seasons come and go and it’s as you see,
i complain too

yet here i am
in this never anonymous city
preparing for another winter
without savings, a lover
or central heating.
it’s just that there are so much
more important things,
the idea of affective precariousness
the messages exchanged
interrupting insomnia
your smile today for example
when you told me
i called my best friend today
to tell him about you, he was
such a beautiful boy and i got emotional
and that’s so rare these days:
congratulations on the deed
so well-aimed…
my favorite neighbor
my whole street in the background
and look, how lovely
that dexterous pretense of
when (almost) everything
i told you about myself
was true.
we never met on the street again
the city is small
but mysterious
and favors disappearance
someone came to tell me
that you went to live with another girl
she’s italian and, get this,
a tour guide
deep down i know

that all this anger
is because it’s winter
and there’s no central heating
or money to travel
the heart
takes so long
to adjust. but find
your outdoor café, learn
to fall going down escadas do barredo,
and one day may you wake up regretting
having chosen a city
where retirement takes so long to arrive
and may you fill out many receipts,
that’s what i wish for you,
that you slowly learn to love
the bureaucratic subtleties:
it’s time to grow up, you’ll say,
and who knows, maybe at the peak of your disappointment
this place will finally offer you the old routines
of the tascas, the fog on the bridge at dawn,
the curse words growled out of love,
the receipt poem
never answered:
may you make this city
a city
finally old
just for you.
who knows
maybe we’ll cross paths later
in the spring
and even though i felt hurt
i’ve forgiven everything
and i’ll invite you out for coffee
but that’ll never actually happen:
you know, assuming
this excessive sense
of community
which no one escapes

even if they want to
and maybe i’ll tell you
with an odd
possibly uncomfortable smile
that you still don’t know
how long
a life here can be.

25 april. Carnation Revolution, 1974.
rua das flores. Street in downtown Porto lined with shops catering to tourists.
tascas. A tasca (from tascar, to nibble?) is a small restaurant with a limited menu
and which serves alcoholic beverages. Bistro, pub.
tour guide. Francisca Camelo once worked as a tour guide.
escadas do barredo. Very steep, narrow and picturesque stepped passageways
leading from central Porto to the Douro River. Literally, stairs of the clay ground.

—translated by chris daniels


emociona-me o
slogan caindo como verso bíblico:
aqui se faz a carne
que se desfaz
a carne dos que morreram antes
de conhecer os seus poetas
dos poetas que morreriam antes
dos seus poemas,
este poema não é dos poetas:
pertence à promiscuidade
dos piores dias, ao resto da vergonha
que alguém encontra apodrecida
anos mais tarde atrás do sofá
é a palavra que ia ser dita
mas foi demitida por nunca chegar
a horas: fica mais uma noite
talvez chegue a amar
os teus primeiros cabelos brancos,
nunca me chegaste a contar
a história do dente partido
este poema sufoca
todas as palavras que derivam
do latim para ultimamente
dizer a palavra paixão,
não cabe no bolso ou na rotina
é a etiqueta do vestido
de baile que deixa a ferida
mais funda o álcool nocturno
para esconder as insónias
o victor já dizia
que a roupa dos poetas
parece sempre velha
mas isso é só a idade dos sonhos
ganhando bolor na gaveta
ou o modo estacionário de morrer
este poema é o cocktail-angústia
com talo de aipo,
o último verso que
sai a galope
pelas mãos do poeta medíocre
a caminho da tabacaria,

que apesar da raiva
da solidão estrutural
de um primeiro verso,
persegue a palavra até ao
último fôlego,
o poeta corre
a maratona cego manco
triste muito
triste só para trazer
à vida um último verso que
não enlouqueça. mudo
estropiado asmático
mordendo para sempre
rostos que o atormentarão
o último verso ignora o esteves
que acena à saída
e é abandonado
na pista de corrida
porque o estafeta se esquece
sempre de chorar
aqui se faz
o verso que não depende da carne:
essa que se desfaça
na sala de cinema vazia
enquanto passa o genérico
em pano negro com todos os
nomes impossíveis:
a cicuta diária das palavras
é ainda a única
forma de hidratação
e não importa perder em tudo
ou não chegar nunca a conhecer
os primeiros cabelos brancos,
quando o estafeta
abandona o testemunho
a meio da pista
só o verso afinal
de sobreviver.


it moves me
the slogan falling as a biblical verse:
here the flesh is made
the flesh unmade
the flesh of those who died before
knowing their poets
of the poets who would die before
their poems,
this is not a poem of poets:
it belongs to the promiscuity
of the worst days, to the rest of the shame
one finds rotten
years later behind the couch
it is the word that would be said
but was dismissed for never arriving
hours ago: stay one more night
perhaps you’ll come to love
your first white hairs,
you naver came to tell me
the story of the broken tooth
this poem chokes
all the words deriving from
Latin to ultimately
say the word passion,
it does not fit the pocket or the routine

it is the label of the ball-
gown that deepens the

gash the nightly alcohol
to hide the insomniae
victor used to say
that the poets’ clothing
always seem old
but that is only the age of the dreams
getting moldy in the drawer
or the stationary mode of dying
this poem is the sorrow cocktail
with a leak stem,
the last verse to
through the hands of the mediocre poet
on their way to the tobacco shop
who besides the anger
of structural loneliness
of a first verse,
follows the word to the

last breath,
the poet runs
the marathon limp and blind
sad so
sad only to bring
life a last not maddening
verse. mute
disheveled asthmatic
biting forever
faces that haunt them
the last verse ignores the has been
waving at the exit
and is abandoned
on the racing track
because the courier always
forgets to cry
here the verse
is made, a verse independent of flesh:
the latter, may it perish
in the empty movie theater
while a generic
black cloth is screened with all
impossible names:
the daily hemlock of the words
is still the only
form of hydration
and losing everything does not matter
or never coming to meet
one’s first white hairs,
when the courier
abandons the witness
amid the track
only the ultimate verse
to survive.

—translated by rodrigo bravo