After ‘Mapa’, by Murilo Mendes (1901-1975)
On the beach, upon the billboard,
I’m the smiling face, I represent my culture,
when I smile, I’m the source of my culture.
They glued me on to time, they dressed me up in a glowing soul and pieces of a body.
To the north, I’m bounded by Islam;
to the south, by amnesia; from the east,
St. Paul comes sailing across the seas,
there’s my country; to the west,
I am open, or I’m completely impotent.
There I am in a satellite, revolving;
I’m fluid, yes, but I’m also powerful;
later on I become aware of the earth, I walk the way you do, and you,
they nail me back on poles, on billboards, all in one life.
High school, I’m all the rage, they call me by a number, I loathe the hierarchy.
They put a sign on me that says Man, I laugh as I walk, I lurch, I’m always going places,
I tweet. I laugh and laugh, I’m here, there, disjointed,
liking everybody, knowing everybody, fighting with the spirts of the skin.
So many companies, organisations messaging me, I don’t know any more what’s good,
I’ve no idea what’s evil.
My head went flying over the café at brunch, I’m hanging in the ether, in terror, busting my
pecks at the gym,
stupefied with numbers, words, emotions, goals,
refusing to believe in any obvious dogma.
I’m unlike many of my forebears, I balance on sidelines,
that’s why sometimes I fall out on to the street
in a brawl with legends of the nation,
then later I’m with my nutty uncles, guffawing,
then back at the gym, working on my glutes.
I’m on the other side of the world a hundred days from now, joining Rio de Janeiro in dance.
I am desperate to be present at all the events of life.
Where can I hide my fear? The world sambas on my head.
Clothes, yoga, photos, warheads,
omens drooping over benches, different weights and motions attracting my attention,
I’m about to change my face,
the year will reveal the true meaning of things.
I will walk in the air.
I’m implicated in each birth and I’m to the edge of each agony.
I nestle in the hollows of your bride’s body,
in the heads of ugly people, of intellectuals…
Everything can become transparent:
misunderstood rivers, explosions of love, other faces will appear beside mine,
the newsfeeds that span to eternity will start to repeat themselves,
I will mingle with lightning, I will kiss various women at will,
I’ll consider voodoo, embrace crystals next to windows,
insinuate myself into other recesses.
Souls in despair, try to be positive. Souls not content, and burning, chill out!
I loathe those who define themselves,
who play life as a grand final, contrarians, worriers…
long live Sundays, and a selection of songs and movies,
and soldiers in uniform, and the mothers who are really mothers,
the women who are really women, dudes who are really dudes.
Long live the transformed, who were perfect and then replicated or re-perfected themselves,
long live me, my transcendent confusion, stateless.
The man I was 20 years ago is the prey of the man I am today,
of the women I’ve undressed;
life of sunburn, of the ground quaking under summer, and
pop rhythms, engine rhythms, sampled rhythms.
I subscribe to a selection of suitable theories.
I’m at eye level, on billboards and surfboards, on beaches, buildings,
in the souls of young men, of mindless lovers,
in my modest room in Broadbeach,
in the blood of those who devour the world,
remorseless, light-hearted, walking in the two-eyed flame of faith,
always in transformation, I love you, my stretched little sheet of time.
Stuart Cooke is a poet and critic based on the Gold Coast, where he lectures at Griffith University. His books include Opera (2016) and Speaking the Earth’s Languages: a theory for Australian-Chilean postcolonial poetics (2013). His translation of Gianni Siccardi’s The Blackbird is forthcoming from Vagabond Press.