Global Poetry Prize, Europe Winner: The death of Jean Charles de Menezes by Carlos A. Pittella
We’re so excited to share this poem by Carlos A. Pittella, the 2022 Global Poetry Prize winner for the region of Europe. About Carlos’s poem, the judge Aria Aber writes, “The winning poem, “The death of Jean Charles de Menezes” is exigent, surprising. The speaker moves swiftly, possessed by a kind of duende, lapping me up like debris in the eye of a hurricane. The addendum’s lyric reckoning adds a texture of tenderness to the impossible condition of exile and state-sanctioned violence. The voice seethes and riots; it is ravenous with grief. Of all the finalists, this was the voice that haunted me.”
The death of Jean Charles de Menezes
*CW: police killing
“On the morning of July 22, 2005, Jean Charles de Menezes, a 27-year-old Brazilian electrician, was shot and killed by police on a tube station in South London on his way to work… Jean Charles was in no way connected with the bombings or attempted bombings.” —McCulloch & Sentas, Social Justice 33(4).
I. STRAY THOUGHTS BEFORE
can demaze all kinds of mangled wiring but nothing but alarms these days
boxed sirenscreams to warn off anyone you don’t want in your box or warn
you of the unboxed woke up alarmless the city still in afterbombing doze
suspect flyers everywhere their brownish features like home could’ve been
Brazilian but then anyone could the most valuable passport on the black market
all shades no borders fit the bill run for the train three alarming machos
nearby keep distance Xfer to the tube stockwell station what a name
the privileged advice to stock well if you’ve a place to stock plus cash to buy any
they stalk into the wagon which doesn’t close waiting for a blessing a staying
contest stare at will not moving from this seat train country two policemen
armed to their tongues waltz in consider asking for help to check those bullies
one points it’s him goes for a chokehold only accent comes out bullet #1
screams into shoulder how to tell you what the seven other bullets said
II. FOOTNOTES AFTER
It-could’ve-been-me is not enough
when they ask how dared I write you a poem
because it wasn’t me
hence the bad taste of writing it
as my pain but how could I not
having been escorted to the London airport prison
hundreds passing by afraid to face my waiting
for further interrogation when they registered
my copy of Kabir’s love poems into the suspicious index
then skimmed thru my notebook not noticing I was
already drafting the insolence of your poem.
I don’t say this as a good friend.
I’ve been almost always busy
surviving without calling back my mom
doing what I can to haunt you into presence
as Lorca wrote the death of Antoñito
who asks Lorca to call the Guardia Civil for help
but the Guardia went on to kill Lorca instead
then Machado wrote Lorca’s death imitating Lorca
before the Guardia drove him (his mom on his back)
to die right across the border.
I know we couldn’t carry our moms across with us.
It’s not like you’re my footnote—more like I’m yours—I just wish
we could meet on the front porch of an Adélia Prado poem
but I’m from Rio, that porchless city of fear,
even if you have a front porch all you have is fear
& the need to protect it—the porch or the fear?
I wouldn’t know, for I never had a porch in Rio
going straight (not really going but being buzzed in)
from one side of the barbed wire to the other.
You can imagine my surprise when I moved to Vermont
with its porches & no fences whatsoever. Anyone
could open my first-floor window & grab
my leg in the middle of the night right across the opening.
My love says every night for six months
my body sat up on the bed & stared at the window, shaking.
I didn’t believe it but one night I was possessed by that fear:
I opened its door inside my dream
to let you make your full noise.
Now they say we speak in tongues.
Carlos A. Pittella
Carlos A. Pittella is a Latinx poet, an accumulator of accents, a pile of expired passports, both Brazilian & Italian. Born on traditional lands of the Tupi, Guarani, & Goitacá (Rio de Janeiro), he currently lives in Tiohtià:ke/Montréal. He's pursuing an MA in creative writing at Concordia University, while working as RA for SpokenWeb & as co-managing editor for Headlight Anthology. His writing is haunted by borders, having recently appeared in Jacket2, HAD, & Moist Poetry Journal.