By Sofia Jesus
On World Poetry Day, I come back to a poem I love: You Are Welcome to Elsinore, by Portuguese poet Mário Cesariny (1923-2006).
Though its title is in English, the poem is written in Portuguese — you can find its original version and its translation to English, by Richard Zenith, here. And though it is its original version in Portuguese that has hugged me since the first time I read it, many years ago, I believe you can easily grasp the beauty of it in English as well.
To me, it is a poem about the power(lessness) of words: of what they say; of what they don’t say; of what they can say but won’t; of what they can’t say but will.
As the poem goes at a certain point, “Along the walls in which we live / there are words of life words of death / there are vast words that wait for us / and other, fragile words that have stopped waiting”.
In reminding me of courage and fear, justice and hopelessness, the poem reminds me maybe words are not enough to change the world; or ourselves, for that matter. And yet words are all I got: even the unborn, the unwritten, the unsaid. As the ones that got silenced.
I believe words will go on lighting the way. Even if between us and them there is a world of “molten metal,” there will always be words “lit up like boats”.
I leave you with the poem’s end: “Between us and words those who are walled in, / and between us and words our duty to speak”.
You Are Welcome To Elsinore
In Pena Capital (1957)