Petty Tyrants

Petty tyrants
who founded kingdoms at the foot of their sorrow
Petty tyrants who will never conquer the China Seas
or the realms of Manicongo


Petty tyrants who climb the roofs of their shacks
and survey the waning world from on high


Petty tyrants tear the shoes off speeding runners
who illuminate their messengers' way
and produce clandestine plans of action in sealed portfolios.


They blindfold sparkling eyes letting no light enter
and whisper proclamations in closed conclaves
fearful of words with the power to echo or leave traces.


They live immured by their footfalls
for to be gentle or slow is, they judge,
to be both discerning and wise


They are meagre, narrow and slow men,
these petty tyrants,
who dream of stopping the clocks.


They don't know that clock hands are also blindly tyrannical
and when evening destroys the urgency of their appointments
they gradually bolt every door to their kingdom
shipwrecked in a world which aggravates
the evil weight of their deeds.


The petty tyrants
Are meagre, narrow and slow men
who will never conquer the China Seas
nor the realms of Manicongo.


They fear words that leave traces
and whisper to the public in empty conclaves
to amplify the echo of their perpetual childhood.


Translation of "Os pequenos tiranos." First published in Dolorosa raiz micondó (Lisbon: El Caminho, 2006). By arrangement with the publisher. Translation copyright 2007 by Amanda Hopkinson. All rights reserved.


Read Conceição Lima's "The House."