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Protanopia; The Rain Rains; Spider Hole; Joan of Arc

Summer/Fall 2009 - Vol. 51, Nos. 3 - 4


The Tate Gallery

He stood in the palace of color, colorblind,
surrounded by Rossetti, Hunt, and John Millais,
yet in the visual cortex of his mind,
their pinks were blue, their reds were black and gray.
His worthless retinal cones were still immune
to color brightness—permanent, severe,
congenital—but then she entered the room
and colored his world like Morris' Guinevere.
He now could see the reddest crimson red,
and peacock, ruby, pink, and apricot.
"I don't know who or what you are?" he said.
"The cure," she answered with a smile. "For what?"
As drenched with color in the Pre-Raph wing,
she whispered in black-and-white: "Everything!"



The Rain Rains

A translation from the Portuguese of Cecília Meireles

The rain falls gently like a silent sleep
that calms and tranquilizes. The rain
rains with abandon. The rains sweep
down with the musical poetry of Verlaine,
which conjures a dream of a gloomy Halloween
and a certain timeless, abandoned palace
which evokes, in the vespers, the lyric and unseen
things of autumn, which poison the soul with malice.
And in that distant ancient palace, in that strange
and far-off land, in that misty mountain range,
the organs play moribund arias that murmur along
the huge and ghastly corridors with the wind whipping
beneath the cracks of the doors and flipping
the pages of missals, tomes, and books of song.



Spider Hole

A translation from the Portuguese of Cecília Meireles

Up where even the dust won't reach that high,
she weaves her fragile web, to and fro,
then quickly back and forth, then by and by,
without fatigue, mistake, or vertigo.
And when she's done her work, her very best,
she, then, shows off her marvelous web. Then free
at last, the little spider takes her rest,
surrounded by her silken majesty.
The fires of the voluptuous sun ignite
her web, as she sits at its center, a gemstone,
like a glittering tawny topaz. And I believe
this spider is a philosopher, a bright
deserter from the world, all alone,
entangled in the subtle dreams she weaves.



Joan of Arc

A translation from the Portuguese of Cecília Meireles

Firm in the saddle of her panting little horse,
she races in the vanguard of her troops as they dart
at the enemy trenches, galloping on course,
serene, ecstatic, and with a happy heart.
Her seemingly virile fingers occupy
a ringed and iron gauntlet as she
holds high the palpitating flag in the sky
with its golden splendor of the fleur-de-lis.
Confident with dreams, and youth, and sincere
belief, the Maid of Orleans, in a mystical daze
proceeds undaunted with her missionary aims.
She smiles, and not a single tremor of fear
invades her soul, but her bold and visionary gaze
already reflects the bonfire's sinister flames.



WILLIAM BAER holds the Peterson Chair in English and American literature at the University of Evansville, where he also directs The Evansville Review.