LENDING HANDS IN LISBON
"The duty of a writer is to remind us that we will die.
And that we aren't dead yet." Solmaz Sharif
I fell with my chair outside A Brasileira,
slumped to flagstones as it tipped a ledge
beside the coffee shop frequented by
Fernando Pessoa. A woman near me
was sipping a clear drink I thought was schnapps
until she told me later it was port.
As for Pessoa, he sat there impassive
under his trilby, taking nothing in.
But others reached out to lever me from
my prone position: half-a-dozen hands
descended towards me in slow motion, faces
full of solicitude looked down on me.
A voice called Gently, gently, lift him gently.
Out of nowhere, a doctor declared himself,
inspected the wrist which bore my tumble’s brunt,
said I was fine and recommended ice.
I felt well enough to finish my brioche
despite some pain and discombobulation,
but I thought it churlish of Pessoa
to sit there dandily indifferent,
a simulacrum, while a fellow poet
plummeted on a ledge-forsaking chair
to possible perdition from the platform
I visited in portly pilgrimage.
It was mid-morning. Not having touched a drop,
even of clear port, I was clear-headed
enough to catch Pessoa’s quiet response
to my hasty umbrage at his disregard:
Beaten in bronze and far beyond the year
of grace I was given to ghost through Lisbon,
I, too, would have liked to lend you a hand.
My dilemma was, and remains, that I am dead.
© Ciaran O'Driscoll 2022
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