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The Gifted

by Rogério Zola Santiago

translated from the Portuguese by Lloyd Schwartz

Once upon a time
I insisted on bestowing gifts
upon my brothers and strangers.
They never expressed their gratitude,
never offered anything
in return.
Even the most fleeting thanks.
Even late.

At times I felt foolish—but
I convinced myself
this was normal, the way things worked.
Other times
I gave them presents.
and as their eyelids slowly lifted I could still see
the barriers of condescension,
of stupidity, of venom.

They never knew
either the WHY of my gifts
or the WHY of their refusal
to accept them wholeheartedly.

And for a long time
I ignored why I felt
such desire
to make presents
of paintings,
of Peruvian shirts
I might have sold
as naturally as
they sold me
their things.

Once upon a time
I gave
nothing more.
And received
nothing more.

Victory would be in no longer having to
apologize for being
the very gift I should like
to receive from myself
in every morning’s light;
in spite of the evasive glances
and cockroach jealousies
that make our mother’s life
less life, and day after day
make us less beneficent,
less sons, less brothers,
and more silent
as we listen to the door with no hinges
slamming shut.


Rogério Zola Santiago is a poet, editor, and journalist in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. He’s the author of three books of poems, Draga (The Dredge), Fragatas & Silencios (Frigates & Silences), and Terra Brasilis.

Lloyd Schwartz was awarded the 1994 Pulitzer Prize for criticism. His most recent book of poems is Cairo Traffic (Univ. of Chicago Press, 2000). He is Frederick S. Troy Professor of English and director of the creative writing program at University of Massachusetts-Boston.

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