poem index

sign up to receive a new poem-a-day in your inbox

Recorded for Poem-a-Day, October 10, 2017.
About this Poem 
“Every time I leave the country, I think about the fact that my mother never did. A few years ago I sat down at a café in Rio around that hour when people begin walking across the avenues back to streetcars to go home. It occurred to me the feeling I was having while sitting there—wishing my mother had lived to have had this experience with me—was the perfect expression of saudade, so I wrote the poem.”
—John Freeman
 

Saudade

means nostalgia, I’m told, but also
nostalgia for what never was. Isn’t it
the same thing? At a café
in Rio flies wreathe my glass.
 
How you would have loved this: the waiter
sweating his knit shirt dark. Children
loping, in tiny suits or long shorts, dragging
toys and towels to the beach. We talk,
 
or I talk, and imagine your answer, the heat clouding our view.
Here, again, grief fashioned in its cruelest translation:
my imagined you is all I have left of you.
 

Copyright © 2017 by John Freeman. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 10, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2017 by John Freeman. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 10, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

John Freeman

John Freeman

John Freeman is the author of Maps (Copper Canyon Press, 2017). He teaches writing at The New School and is an Artist-in-Residence at New York University.