PORTUGUESE HILL TOWN
Last night in the ancient courtyard
as darkness fell we marvelled
at the endless chains of ants
criss-crossing the decaying walls
ferrying who knows what
from one crack in the white stucco
to another. Tiny heads briefly touching
antennae exchanging information
between those who have been
and those who are yet to reach
who knows where.
The old Ducal summer palace
is a “residencial” now.
From its open windows
I gaze out into the landscape
menhirs, dolmens are sprinkled
across the dry yellow Alentejo plains.
Roman forts, aqueducts, temples
are built into the walls
of medieval houses, cathedrals,
Moorish labyrinthine streets.
And over all this history
fissured, ill-tended, nearly lost
the dead straight black ribbons
now unwind in every direction
Europe’s veins and arteries.
Our turn this time say the tiny carriages
glittering, hard yet brittle shells
moving slowly to and fro
under the endless sun.
beneath the unclouded stars
the lights of distant cars
seem to wink
through the leaves of cork trees
whose bark grows more patiently than human ambition
stripped 12 times in 200 years
ancient rural skills expertly allowing
the trees and the people to support each other
withstanding the blows
dealt by the sharpened axe of progress
an uneasy partnership, lasting
for how much longer?
-Ēvora, August 1996.