Squirrel Hill

Be plural like the universe!—         Fernando Pessoa

Barbara Duarte Esgalhado

PHOTO: Barbara Duarte Esgalhado

Barbara Duarte Esgalhado received a PhD in Developmental Psychology from Columbia University, where she focused on the creative process, and an MFA in Writing, with an emphasis on poetry, from Sarah Lawrence College. She is strongly inspired by things Portuguese and by growing up in two languages. She wrote her doctoral dissertation on Portugal’s major modernist poet, Fernando Pessoa, and the relationship between writing and subjectivity. Her MFA thesis in poetry was inspired by saudade, a Portuguese concept that describes loss, longing, and remembrance. Her writing includes poetry, prose, and critical and interpretative work in the areas of creative process, literature, psychoanalysis, and psychotherapy. She has been published in numerous literary and academic journals, such as A Bilingual Journal of Portuguese-American Letters and Studies; Narrative Inquiry; Qualitative Inquiry; and Theory and Psychology. She has been included in several anthologies, including The Gávea-Brown Anthology of Portuguese-American Poetry (2012), Critical Psychology: Voices for Change (2000) and The Encyclopedia of Creativity (1999). She is the author of a poetry collection, Saudades Tuas/I Miss You (Finishing Line Press, 2018). Born and bred in New York City, she now lives in Pittsburgh with her family and works full time as a licensed psychologist.

Tia Maria

She was tiny
a bone ailment left her so
her spine curved like a new moon
gently announcing its arrival
in a cycle of amorous engagement with the nightfall.

As a child
the sullen breezes from the south
encircled the sanatório
and attempted to lull her into resignation.

convinced to lie flat on her lunar-like spine
on a flat sweet smelling cedar plank might have been seduced
into believing the world too was flat
and that if she were ever to walk it
and reach its edge
she would tumble into the vast universe
flailing in the wake of one shooting star.

Instead her young hands em miniatura
grasped a piece of the sky
and plucked from it
Penelope’s discarded loom.

still attempting to lie flat and so moon drenched
that stardust caked between her fingers
began to weave
this flatness into round
slowly at first, teetering
but then faster and faster
until it became
walking, skipping, running,
and spinning around and around
with her arms outstretched
and her legs spread wide
calling upon the world to enter.

When she was finished,
exhausted, her breath deep and hoarse
her sweat salting
the sweet smelling cedar plank slowly splintered by the drench of life

she had woven a moon-scented dance frock
that a lifetime later
she would give to me on my wedding day.
A Sestina of Memory

A haze of dawn surrounds a sundial;
a woman writes of memory throughout the night,
head bowed over pen; ancestors linger in the hallway;
her longing, harbored at a ship’s fading dock, as she remembers
the days she played in her grandmother’s grove
in a land where shorelines caress the scent of one violet.

Shorelines realign after those who sail from the scent of one violet
who surrender the remains of shadows cast by the sundial
that circle in a swirl of a slip of a roundabout, alongside a grove
that embraces a people, from hazed dawn to longed for night
who clutch morsels of bread at the church of remembrance
who birthed the woman writing of ancestors presiding in the hallway.

The memory of a hallway.
The memory of the scent of one violet.
The memory of remembering.
The memory of a sundial.
The memory of night.
The memory of a grove.

A world that exists only in conjured memories of a grove,
in imagined murmurings of ancestors lining a hallway;
in the climbing of cobblestoned streets at night
to visit avó who stayed in the land of one violet
and surrendered to the shadows cast by the sundial
navigating her world at the helm of the praça of remembering.

Her people, baptized and buried by the church of remembrance;
call upon her memory, on her longing for the grove,
on her hunger for soup and smelts and sweet cooked over rice; the sundial
fixes time to feast for the child; her memories trawling in the hallway
dissolving in silken spray from the lighted fountain in the land of one violet
where she twirled and twirled as a child through the night.

She is tethered by childhood memories of the nights,
by the history of a land, by a people tethered to remembering;
who remain, standing firm in a land of the scent of one violet
in a country of longing and lament, groaning from its history at sea,
alongside a grove,
where ancestors plea for remembrance beyond the cool, caverned hallway
plea her to write of her people and the country of the sundial.

Like a Siren in the night, memory will always lure her to the grove,
to write of lives brimmed with sadness, spread over bread, eaten daily
with the lament of remembrance, as ancestors presiding in hallways
are remembered in writing to the scent of one violet and to the memory of the land of the sundial.

The Ghosts of Our Childhood

The ghosts of our childhood remain
crouched low in the creaky crevices of nightfall
scurrying along, long chucked schemes of extraordinary
and coming home to nest in wrestled sheets entwined
in derelict dreams. Restless and fitful, some small slip of them
trudges on noiselessly in Vibram soles, as we walk among the near dead,
the long left behind, the better left alone. Sometimes they scavenge:
those slinking, slippery little seagull-like scavengers, cawing and
soaring, diving and plunging for morsels, craving more still;
raking over silt-caked shores of memory lost (never really lost)
but sequestered still, like a child's pestering will to be,
caring little about immortality (in those days) — just a wish —
to loll around in the squelching sound of a mud laden lake
or the blissful lick of frosting on a birthday cake.