André Almeida e Sousa

I discovered Al Berto in Lisbon in the nineties.

We were a small group, filled with ambition and nostalgia, celebrating, by the end of each night, Álvaro de Campos or Cobain; Al-Mu’tamid or Novalis’ aphorisms; we threw Herberto Helder together with Baudelaire or the Count of Lautréamont. We wandered around city until nightfall until arriving at the extinct Cais do Sodré port or the Santa Catarina viewpoint. Seen from above, or by its banks, the river always bore witness to whatever vomit assailed our souls or bothered our stomachs. We were accompanied by a handful of nocturnal dog-walkers, ropeless funambulists, introspective drunks and spectres, like Al Berto. 

Al Berto’s words bravely exhibited that lividity that sometimes shines for those who look at the river without actually seeing it.

With Al Berto’s “O Medo”, we carved out the city’s outline on the southern bank, foreseeing, in the silences that come before a heavy hangover, a strange country by day, disappearing.

We weren’t from the eighties, Bairro Alto and its overused metaphor of post-revolution excitement meant little to us, the doorstep friendships at Frágil or Os Três Pastorinhos hid a doomed snobbery, we imagined the poet in other hovels, we followed the words of the summoned boat: “I write boat and a keel tears through the vastest sea”, we knew of his transcendence in reading him aloud, to the river!

We admired the indiscreet passage of time without gratuitous embellishments, the passing of time that makes us become someone else, something we only guessed at in a rather rushed melancholy: the uninflated nocturnal morbidity, without the cynical usurping of the poetical soul, where there lived at once a reflection of the moon over the sea, in all its innocence, and the venomous expletive of one who will not surrender without good reason.

I attempt now to pay homage to the man and his mirrors, unrelenting in his self-caricature, who bravely penned an entire world in a brief life, without false flourishes. I return to my 1997 Assírio & Alvim edition of “O Medo”:

The little demiurge

i write boat and a keel tears through the vastest sea

and trees grow out of cloudy spaces

between gaze and gaze they move

animals tied to land with their iron plumage

and golden dew when the moon eclipses

communicating their heat and nomad joy of living

i think autumn or winter 

and the resinous simmer of the pine forests drips down the face

over the body in timid gestures

here is the time

of the capricorn reduced to a tattooed hideaway

in the mineral wing of the bird in mid flight and i say clouds

lightning grass waters


movement of fright oceans salt exhausted bodies

transhumant passions i say

and it surges bursts drips rises moves lives


but don’t think its a simple task to name

sort and disorder the world

so these tremulous writings aren’t erased

i need the dream and the nightmare

the vertiginous proximity of mirrors and

to spend the night deep inside myself with dirty hands

from the hard work of building the exact gestures

of joy that from carelessness god abandoned to tiredness

at the end of the seventh day