Da Gama knew not fear. At ten we read these things
and still we became clerks.

Vasco da Gama. Yet there, back then, in the wailing
of the wave–torn seas; in the strain and the squeal

of the ropes as thick as wrists; in the sacred heart
of Christ dangling golden round our necks, Christ

Master Mariner of the Charts, Christ
believed by all of us to be the last port, Christ

the Diver who would swoop us from the mouths
of sea–beasts and kiss into our blue lips

His serene oxygen; in the gale’s dark fury
and the venom of the clouds — there, back then,

at ten years old we foresaw the world this way:
the vigour of things, of the spirit and the storm.

Ourselves thrust into that fury and force.
Innundated by the onrush. Loving da Gama

as metaphor more than history. For a short while
we entered the salt–soaked air sweeping us

to the horizon; then we became clerks and I,
for one, was a clerk of the damned.

And so it is surprising to become a child again.
In Lisbon the air is awash with perfumes, orange rind

and jacaranda and a thousand swallows reel
through the bruised–plum sky. A tender city. Legend says

these are the Thousand Swallows of Lisbon and will always
be there and I, for one, today, am entered

into the heart of legend. In Lisbon’s blue spring I have
myself. Blossoms fall heavy from flowers like figs

and rain down the hills of Lisbon until the sidewalks
are a carpet of petals. It’s a love poem, somehow, then.

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