Where Have All the Carnations Gone?

Lord, take pity on professional politicians, because everybody deserves pity. Take pity, Lord, on politicians, who ride in official cars and have never known what it’s like on a bus stuffed with people smelling like sweat mixed with deodorant; take pity, since they’ve never known the sad reality of someone stepping on their pet bunions, nor do they have the slightest idea of what it’s like to experience the miracle of having their wallet vanish from their back pocket or their lovely counterfeit Louis Vuitton purse.

Take pity on their pain, because I know that politicians suffer when they see their subjects endlessly bustling to survive, eating badly and sleeping little, thinking only of sex, as sex is in them; they only know how to copulate and sometimes reproduce the next ant, since that’s what we are, Lord, ants. But take pity on the politicians’ children, who live in mansions and carry on managing the plantations. What’s it like living in a cramped house and having to share a room with a lot of siblings? What’s it like to feel hunger pangs? Take pity, Lord, they don’t know… but they will have sex and they will copulate and they will become pregnant; they might just end up becoming politicians like their parents. Take pity, Lord, help them to have better sex than their parents, who work so hard at bad politics; but also take pity, even if not as much, on the politicians’ wives, because, poor things, they will never have to go two hundred and some kilometers or cross the border into a neighboring country to give birth to the politicians’ children; what a bother, Lord, comfort them in their hospitals, which seem more like five-star hotels. 

Take pity on politicians in their lodgings, how tiresome, how annoying, how burdensome, how irritating it is, Lord, to have to always be well served with smiles and bows and stay in fine rooms with everything first-class in hotels that seem more like good hospitals that look like hotels; take pity, Lord, since they can’t distinguish between genuine and calculating smiles. 

Take pity on their smooth talking, their firm and sticky handshakes, their menacing gazes—intimidating but not intimate—their sharpened tongues, their eyes filled with slippery tears they cannot hold back for long; take pity, Lord, they are but wretches prone to sobbing, who speak from the heart, who become emotional as easily as they hand out kisses to fishmongers in the public market; take pity, for they show their sensitivity (rather than showcasing it, as some ingrates whisper) and, if necessary, can squeeze tears out of stones in the road. Poor things, Lord, what a fate; take pity on these almost-great men, these almost-statesmen, these almost-wise men, these always almost-somethings who, as history will reveal one day, were not so great after all, since actually they had always been naked. 

Take pity, since they have no time to be cultivated men: they barely read, they barely listen, they barely see, and that’s why they barely speak, even when they are speaking incessantly. Take pity, Lord, on the politician who was invited to attend a meeting about the Statute of the Artist and who, being so fatigued, so European, so privatized, so poorly informed, so poorly educated that he wasn’t even familiar with the name of one of the foremost and most translated writers of his country; he called him Jorge at the meeting when, actually, his name was José… oh, now it’s José … and now Camões?, who, if he were still alive, would return quickly to his grave so as not to die of dismay, since the fire that politicians light burns until it hurts. Take pity, Lord, since one time I myself witnessed that politicians, during their official visits to other countries, used their free time to keep their stiff little bodies in shape; oh, my, what an example of perseverance, Lord. 

Take pity on their assistants, secretaries, drivers, and flatterers, since a politician often relies on them for stability, they are his family, Lord. But take even more pity on the younger politicians who do not agree with the older politicians and who, when they are ushered into the grand arena of politics, end up suffering an illness so common among politicians, the madness of amnesia, and the new politicians end being just like the old politicians; take pity, since this malady lasts for years on end, and if they promise something today and don’t remember tomorrow what they promised, the blame falls entirely on the madness they suffer. 

Take pity, because the life of a politician can’t be easy, Lord; being a politician means being a chameleon, since a politician’s No of today is the Maybe of tomorrow and the Yes soon after that; the order of these factors through time does not alter the logic politicians use; it is not a question of ethics, Lord, but of optics, as they are blinded by serving the greater good.

Lord, take pity on politicians in their sleep, which probably doesn’t come easily, since they change masks so many times in the course of a day that, when it’s time for bed, they don’t know which one they’re wearing during their solitary pillow talk; take pity, since they no longer know who they are, with these masks so stuck on their faces. 

Take pity, Lord, on politicians who wake up in the middle of the night, startled by a nightmare: someone stole their cell phone, what a disgrace, what a tragedy, Lord, to be out of touch; take pity on these men, who manage to spend more on their phone calls than others earn in years over a lifetime of hard work, sometimes even well paid; take pity, Lord, for their ears are always burning, red, tired, and, by the end of the day, they have almost always lost their voices. 

Take pity, Lord, on illiterate politicians and on us, as failed entrepreneurs and short-sighted people, since we hire them as fixed-term employees every four years to represent us and oversee our accounts; we give them vacations, paid travel, luncheons, and all the perks, so they come to like their jobs so much that they want to remain our faithful servants. Take pity on politicians, Lord, who are embalmed on the perches they sit on and who preen themselves and who are vain out of love for their team, which is nothing more than love for their own mirrors. 

And still in the realm of pity: take pity, Lord, on poets; don’t let them fall for the temptation of wanting to become politicians; that indeed would be a disgrace beyond all else; maybe priests, maybe monks, but politicians, no, Lord; from among priests or monks there might rise a Saint John of the Cross, but, from politicians, only new politicians arise; they are like rabbits, Lord, in their mastery over multiplying. 

And from the heights of your austere, solemn wisdom, if more pity you have, Lord, take pity on me. Take pity on me, Lord, for I too was once an idealist; I let my hair grow long and raised flags on high and made plans to save my country from bankruptcy, I wanted to expel the IMF and imagined a more just country, with jobs, education, houses, and health care for everyone, and I became an activist and always voted and always shouted in public gatherings; take pity on me, Lord, for I once dreamed of being a politician and, through an irony of destiny, free choice, or bad company, I ended up being a poet, and today, Lord, my pulpit, my chosen place for preaching is the word, it is poetry—and it is she, Lord, who will never allow me to keep quiet, even if silence is the dominant note of my texts. 

— Cascais, Portugal, April 25, 2074

the centenary of the Carnation Revolution in Portugal

OZIAS FILHO is a Brazilian journalist, writer, photographer, and editor of Edições Pasárgada, who has been living in Portugal since the early 1990s. 

He is the author of many publications, including books of poetry, such as Poemas do dilúvio [Poems From the Flood], Páginas despidas [Undressed Pages], O relógio avariado de Deus [God's Broken Clock], and Insulares [Islands]. 

Ozias has also written prose, such as Con‐to‐Con‐ti‐go [I Count on You], Só agora vejo crescer em mim as mãos de meu pai [Only Now Can I See My Father's Hands Growing Within Mine], and Mensageiros das estrelas [Messengers from the Stars].

Additionally, he is a photographer, with collections named Santa Cruz, Instagramo‐te [I Instagram You], and Ar de Arestas [Air in the Corner]. Some of his photographs have been exhibited in Minas Gerais at the Museu de Arte Moderna Murilo Mendes, as well as in Lisbon at the Casa da América Latina.  

Translated by

NOTE: This piece was inspired by the poem, “The Despair of Pity,” by the Brazilian writer Vinicius de Moraes.