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).



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



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

—it spilling—

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.

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