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My Poetry Corner February 2020 features the poem “Certainty” (Certo) from the poetry collection Glass Bird (Pássaro de Vidro) by Carlos Machado, a Brazilian poet and journalist. Born in 1951 in Muritiba, Bahia, Northeast Brazil, Machado earned his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering at the Federal University of Bahia. He studied journalism at the Faculty of Cásper Libero in São Paulo, where he lives since 1980. He is the creator and editor of the fortnightly bulletin, poesia.net, dedicated mainly to the promotion of contemporary Brazilian poets.

Machado’s debut poetry collection, Glass Bird (Pássaro de Vidro), published in São Paulo in 2006, was well received by literary critics. From the first verse of his poem “Anatomies,” from the same collection, I glean that the glass bird reveals both faces of the human character: on one side, our obscure dreams and aspirations; on the other side, the things with which we surround ourselves.

anatomy of things

to strip bare
the glass bird
and see on its side
hidden from view
the other side
of its image

In his poem, “Things” (As Coisas), from his collection Blunt Scissors (Tesoura Cega, 2015), Machado looks at the things we accumulate to define who we are as individuals within society. Things have no say in our lives, the poet observes. They don’t have desires or power. Regardless of the value we bestow on them, they are all equal – all indifferent to humanity’s fate.

Things don’t have guilt.
They are only witnesses
of our comedies. 

Things don’t embrace causes.
It is useless to accuse them
of any inclination,
loyalty or felony.

I was struck by Machado’s featured poem, “Certainty.” In these times of our planet’s climate and ecological crises, the poem throws light on what may be hampering our ability to grapple with real threats to our survival as a species. In holding on to our belief that everything will work out for the better, we risk failing to see that there are no certainties in our lives.

things do not work out
never worked out
were never made to work out

We, the poet observes, are the ones who have sought to create an alternate reality in which all things are aligned and symmetrical.

and even invent perfect gods
constructed in the image
and likeness of our dreams

Our gods, we reckon, don’t wish to see us suffer, and will rescue us when our world collapses around us.

Things do not work out
it is we who patch the fabric
fill the tooth
repair the border on the map

Machado’s comment about borders is so apt for Americans obsessed with building a wall on our southern border with Mexico. We believe that the border will somehow restore certainty to our disrupted and insecure lives. If only!

To read the complete featured poem in English and its original Portuguese, and to learn more about the work of Carlos Machado, go to my Poetry Corner February 2020.