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House of Eleven Windows - Historic Center - Belem - State of Para - Brazil

“House of Eleven Windows” – Historic Center – 18th Century Architecture
Former residence of a sugar plantation owner
Belém – State of Pará – Brazil
Photo Credit: Brazil Ministry of Tourism

 

My Poetry Corner May 2016 features the poem “Eden Hades” by Brazilian poet Olga Savary. Born in May 1933 in Belém, capital of the State of Pará in North Brazil, she was the only child of a Russian father and a Brazilian mother. After her parents separated in 1942, she moved with her mother to Rio de Janeiro.

With the publication of twelve books of her poetry, more than fifty translations of renowned foreign poets, and anthologies of North and Northeast Brazilian poets, Savary has an impressive body of literary work.

“Eden Hades” is the final poem in Savary’s collection of the same name, published in 1994. Like the Biblical Garden of Eden, her Eden is a garden providing three essential ingredients for life: water, sunlight, and fruit.

Water gardens satisfy our thirst
sunshine swollen in veins
hanging like mango

Our human nature sets us up for failure. With our needs fulfilled, we feel deserving and in control of our destiny. Then, forgetful of the reason for our existence and the natural laws governing our lives, we unleash insecurity and chaos.

and I was like the owner of a ship
arrogant, deserving. Just like
an open vowel, I opened doors for the sand
in sudden loss of memory.

We breathe in life-giving air. It becomes a part of us. Its force sweeps across the land and ocean.

That the air should be swallowed like a ship.
All the sea breeze appears on the terraces
and vibrates in the sargassos above the swells.

At the mercy of the sea and the winds, we are no longer in control of our lives. Our hope for deliverance from the darkness lies in our destiny as individuals; of what once was, but now is lost.

Urban Slum - Belem - State of Para - Brazil

Urban Slum – Belém – State of Pará – Brazil
Photo Credit: Exame Magazine

Caught in the trap
Transforms the darkness to morning.
These are the contours of the dream:
a silver plaque and a name inscribed,
today deleted, engraved long,
long ago. And only that…

The gods don’t need us, Savary tells us. They don’t want anything from us. To win our souls, they risk losing us by granting us free will. They laugh at our folly. When we make a mess of our lives and call on them for guidance, they ignore us.

The gods summon us,
they want us all because they want nothing,
they laugh at us, they lose us to win us
and to our questions
they play deaf,
they don’t respond except for the hollow
echo…

Savary’s final words of “Eden Hades” are ominous. Her declaration of the human condition is still relevant today in Brazil and around the world.

Everything loses meaning
evil is pronounced.

We can persist in exploiting Earth’s natural resources and human labor, stashing the loot in offshore tax havens, and transforming our planet into a veritable Hades. Or, we can change course. People must trump profit. Sharing Earth’s bounty must trump greed. Love must trump hate.

Learn more about Olga Savary and her work at my Poetry Corner May 2016.

 

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