Don’t Pick Up Lost Poems from the Ground

Looking for Poetry

Don’t write poems about what’s happening.
Nothing is born or dies in poetry’s presence.
Next to it, life is a static sun
without warmth or light.
Friendships, birthdays, personal matters don’t count.
Don’t write poems with the body,
that excellent, whole, and comfortable body objects to lyrical outpouring.
Your anger, your grimace of pleasure or pain in the dark
mean nothing.
Don’t show off your feelings
that are slow in coming around and take advantage of doubt.
What you think and feel are not poetry yet.

Don’t sing about your city, leave it in peace.
Song is not the movement of machines or the secret of houses.
It is not music heard in passing, noise of the sea in streets that skirt the borders of foam.
Song is not nature
or men in society.
Rain and night, fatigue and hope, mean nothing to it.
Poetry (you don’t get it from things)
leaves out subject and object.

Don’t dramatize, don’t invoke,
don’t question, don’t waste time lying.
Don’t get upset.
Your ivory yacht, your diamond shoe,
your mazurkas and tirades, your family skeletons,
all of them worthless, disappear in the curve of time.

Don’t bring up
your sad and buried childhood.
Don’t waver between the mirror
and a fading memory.
What faded was not poetry.
What broke was not crystal.

Enter the kingdom of words as if you were deaf.
Poems are there that want to be written.
They are dormant, but don’t be let down,
their virginal surfaces are fresh and serene.
They are alone and mute, in dictionary condition.
Live with your poems before you write them.
If they’re vague, be patient. If they offend, be calm.
Wait until each one comes into its own and demolishes
with its command of words
and its command of silence.
Don’t force poems to let go of limbo.
Don’t pick up lost poems from the ground.
Don’t fawn over poems. Accept them
as you would their final and definitive form,
distilled in space.

Come close and consider the words.
With a plain face hiding thousands of other faces
and with no interest in your response,
whether weak or strong,
each word asks:
Did you bring the key?

Take note:
words hide in the night
in caves of music and image.
Still humid and pregnant with sleep
they turn in a winding river and by neglect are transformed.

-Carlos Drummond De Andrade

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