Margin: Exploring Modern Magical Realism
I AM NOT A KEEPER OF SHEEP
f r a n k   x.   g a s p a r

Eu nunca guardei rebanhos,
Mas e comom se os guardasse.

How little I knew about the world when I let him in,
even though now I can't remember the day or time,
I can't remember what random thought guided my
hand in such an innocent act. I say this because it is
of no importance whatsoever on a hot August night,
a drink by my elbow, the cat speaking his mad language
against the window screens, and the blossoms of
so many papers and books in a desultory mess in the little
room. I have been reading without decorum or discipline—
the shelves are manic, nothing takes its civil place
according to alphabet or color or size. The center
cannot hold because it was never there in the first place.
One must never let Pessoa across the threshold. I can say
this with a sober mind for just a while longer. He sits
so unassumingly at the table and you give him a small
drink, and he begins to speak to you, and then you realize
your day is ruined, your plans will come to nothing, you
will end by trying every subterfuge you know to get him
to leave, but he will wait and wait. And he is so charming!
He will tell you stories, and you will recognize yourself in every
sentence—you will understand quite quickly that he is mocking
you, but then you will begin to doubt that, for he is so sincere,
so simple in his utterance, so passionate in his beliefs. How
can you not offer him another cafezinho, which I do, which
he sips noisily but with a certain finesse. Then I begin feeling
sorry for myself—that old sorrow—and I wish that someone
a long time ago cared for me enough to warn me, to tell me never
to let Pessoa into my kitchen, never to let him go on and on
about his sadness, that sadness that never leaves him no matter
how happy or content he feels, for then there is no hope for him
and none for me, and he at least has his genius to sit with, his
personalities, his Lisbon, his Tagus, and I, like you,
will have to settle for his company, wry, effacing, enigmatic,
too delicate for hearty jesting, too prickly and gloomy to be
of any real use around the house. Then the hours do not grow
late in the same manner. The rooms do not simmer and cool
in quite the way that I have become used to. The doors are
no longer silent on their hinges. The planks in the floor begin
their own conversations. So many things become impossible.
He drags a match across the abrasive strip of the matchbox.
The phosphorus makes its shushing sound. He lights another
cigarette. His fingers are so white, so slender, his wrist is like
a girl's wrist. I am not a keeper of sheep, he says. The night
will be long and soft with stars and the heat and the ticking
of one heart or another. He leans back in the chair with that
uncertain charisma, that narrow head. I can tell he is here to stay.

From Night of a Thousand Blossoms, © 2004 ~ Alice James Books, Farmington, ME

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