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June 20, 2010

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He indeed was a giant of the imagination with an extraordinary commitment to human solidarity, like pabo neruda he had that distinction of being as he once quiped a good writer but a communist and a communist but a good writer. The relationship between a writer and the structures of power is contested terrain and Saramago was a living embodiment of this truism - he was unyielding as he was fun to read. Hamba kahle qabane!

THE FUNERAL OF JOSÉ SARAMAGO

Your hero, Ricardo Reis, now dead,
came visiting with his friend, the great poet, Pessoa,
just to be with you in the City Hall of Lisbon.
You, lying still in a coffin, with your reading glasses
perched on your beautiful chiseled face
and two red carnations on the bier.
The ghosts of your greatest characters
wanted to be the first to welcome you
to wherever that place may be…
On the day of your funeral it did not rain in Lisbon.
In Azinhaga, where you were born,
there were those who mourned for you
while they ate their soup of cowpea,
dreaming perhaps of the Christmas biscuits they would devour
in December, not realizing that when you were a boy
and poor in Azinhaga, living on the right bank
of the River Almonda, you made do
with simple bread and watery soup.

On the day of your funeral it did not rain in Lisbon.
Lovely women surrounded your casket.
Pilar de Rio, your wife, was there to give you comfort,
amid all the adulations you could not hear.
The people of Portugal also came, their fists
clenched with militant hope…
to see your ashes scattered at Azinhaga
and at Tiaz on the island of Lanzarote,
where you last wrote…

On the day of your funeral
I heard thunder where the sea begins,
Where the earth honors its timeless heroes.


Luis Lázaro Tijerina
Burlington, Vermont

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