rafael mantovani


for F.C.

my friend said i should write a poem about you
because you were kind of a bastard with me
and broke our third date five times in a row in four weeks
till i got tired and gave up
without it officially being your fault
and when you broke the last you gave two different, contradictory excuses
because you didn’t even remember to scroll your texts back to see what you’d

written before
or, of course, and probably
because it was just your way of saying you’re not interested anymore
because you don’t know any other way to tell me
or simply because you like doing things like that
which would be cruel, though perfectly understandable
but later
you kept visiting my scruff profile
every sunday morning, saying nothing
and i decided to believe
that in your heart of hearts you’d really like to get together but it’s impossible
because of a secret problem (or some good
but secret keeping you from meeting me kind of thing)
as e.g. another secret man you (also) like a lot
or because you’re an agent of the portuguese secret police, or you have a secret
and extremely rare disease
that keeps you from writing messages that aren’t excuses for not meeting me
like in that poem by angélica freitas, only less creative and funny
or another secret but perfectly understandable reason
i can’t understand as long as it’s a secret
and looks like
it’ll stay secret for a while
and i’d saved half a packet of brazilian tapioca for us to make at your place
but we can’t anymore because it got all moldy
and i really cried to throw this tapioca in the trash

but i decided i’m not interested
enough to write a poem about it.
first of all because it’s not the first time i’ve cried because of a man
and i expect it’s not the last
first of all because in the world there are so many things
more interesting to write a poem about
than your lack of interest in me
and if for some reason i wanted to write a poem about bastardry
there are whole constellations of bastards so much more boundless
so much more pressing than you
like (just as an example) the bastards who since the 2016 coup d’état and even

before, really

have been kidnapping violently, arbitrarily in plain view
all government and justicial institutions in brazil
the country, so far away, where tapioca comes from
which is a magnitude of bastardry so much greater than yours
and of pain and cruelty and human irresponsibility
that it would be ridiculous to make such a comparison
a magnitude of lies and violence
that would make our pseudo-middle-class euro amorous disappointments
look like a kid’s booboo
(because that’s really what they are, you know)
but i’m not either going to write a poem about the greater bastardry
of those men tearing brazil to pieces
because i already have to think about them every single day
and have decided to try not to add
to the record of their performance on the earth
(which is by its nature a beautiful planet and
even more so, compared to others that actually exist)
because there are already so many records
of the doings of these men, it’s not like it’s
possible for someone to someday forget
because i’ve decided to protect from that violence some joys that also really do


like loving poems and seeing men without underwear and tapioca

because without such accessible delights
there’d be no strength to fight the everyday horrors
(which often strikes me as a bastard’s attitude
but it’s the one i’m working with right now).
anyway, if it were possible to choose
i’d write a poem not about you
or me or any other bastard
and no other pain or sorrow, but a poem 100%
about the physical existence of tapioca on earth
as e.g. marianne moore writes about the mere anatomical 
structures of an animal
or like those ancient chinese poems
about bamboo in the dawn breeze etc.
where humans don’t even show up to ruin the perfection of the scene
and it’d be a poem called “tapioca”
and in five succinct lines, or maybe three, without adjectives
i’d talk about how tapioca is a good and simple thing
and how it’s warm, and easy to like (not like you)
and gluten free and relatively nutritious
and relatively fascinating because from all those millions of loose particles of dust
by a basic ability to absorb water and heat
a solid food is formed
a shiny, resistant and integral object
which (not like you) doesn’t come undone in your hands or stick to the frying pan
and in today’s exhausting times, that’ll actually get you somewhere.
on the other hand, of course
integrity is much easier for tapioca
because the average duration of its existence is approx.
4,154,995 times shorter than a human being’s
(yeah, i did the math)
and because the number of decisions tapioca
needs to make is significantly less
(and yeah, i did the math)

and because tapioca isn’t subjected
to certain difficulties along the way such as e.g.
internalized homophobia, which would decide it doesn’t deserve happiness
(or homoautoaggression, if that word exists)
and because tapioca isn’t being pulled
in several contrary and irreconcilable directions by desire
(or by lack of same)
and when finally approached by another’s desire
tapioca easily falls to pieces
which only proves
it’s a stupid idea with no future
to draw an ethical analogy
between humans and tapioca
but, just in case, i wanted to say that i understand you
(or: i understand you more or less, but more than you think
or: i think i’d understand if you could explain
or maybe there’s nothing to understand
and i should be used to it by now
and maybe i already am)
but just in case, i hope
you can be happy
(or: i would if i weren’t so disappointed and angry)
or i hope at least you hope
to be happy
i know we’ll keep trying
only now we’re each on our own side of the internet
the way it was before.
i won’t write about you but
just in case, i’ll always remember
how my ear was all inside your hand
and how warm it was in there
how my face was half
in your armpit and how promising it was in there
and how you put up with the cold without complaining once

just so i could smoke and look at the colorful striped houses on the beach at costa

velha (or somewhere)

and how you drove 15 km back that same night
so we could pick up the cell phone i lost
just in case, i’ll try to remember
the geography of black and white hair on your chest
and how you think mrs. dalloway
also saved you from jumping out the window in an especially bad year
and how your dick trickled in the sun
when you got up from my bed and i understood how there’s no name for that
and how before falling asleep you held on to my beard
just like a baby, and i understood
that a lifetime was still possible
(and probably still is
but some adjustments will have to be made
after all if two people who apparently like each other can’t have an adult


imagine what it’ll be like to talk with the fascists)
just in case, i’ll forget
how on that last night you tried to lend me a book and i didn’t even see what the

book was

and i made up an excuse and i can’t even remember what the excuse was
because as always
i could change my mind any time or meet someone better
and what happens later on when i want to give it back?
we shoot for so many different things in life
we don’t even know where to look when we hit something.
Porto, 4/22/2019

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