Home > Poetry > The Gifted
Translated from the Portuguese by Lloyd Schwartz
Published: Mon Apr 15 2002
Salman Toor, Fag Puddle with Candle, Shoe, and Flag (detail), 2022. Courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine, N.Y. Photo: Farzad Owrang.
The Gifted

Translated from the Portuguese by Lloyd Schwartz


Once upon a time
I insisted on bestowing gifts
upon my brothers and strangers.
They never expressed their gratitude,
never offered anything
in return.
Even the most fleeting thanks.
Even late.

At times I felt foolish—but
I convinced myself
this was normal, the way things worked.
Other times
I gave them presents.
and as their eyelids slowly lifted I could still see
the barriers of condescension,
of stupidity, of venom.

They never knew
either the WHY of my gifts
or the WHY of their refusal
to accept them wholeheartedly.

And for a long time
I ignored why I felt
such desire
to make presents
of paintings,
of Peruvian shirts
I might have sold
as naturally as
they sold me
their things.

Once upon a time
I gave
nothing more.
And received
nothing more.

Victory would be in no longer having to
apologize for being
the very gift I should like
to receive from myself
in every morning’s light;
in spite of the evasive glances
and cockroach jealousies
that make our mother’s life
less life, and day after day
make us less beneficent,
less sons, less brothers,
and more silent
as we listen to the door with no hinges
slamming shut.


Rogério Zola Santiago is a poet, editor, and journalist in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. He’s the author of three books of poems, Draga (The Dredge), Fragatas & Silencios (Frigates & Silences), and Terra Brasilis.

Lloyd Schwartz teaches in the MFA Program at the University of Massachusetts-Boston, where he is professor of English. His poems have been selected for The Pushcart PrizeThe Best American Poetry, and The Best of The Best American Poetry. His most recent book is _Music In—and On—the Air _(Arrowsmith), a collection of his reviews for NPR’s Fresh Air. After thirty-five years as The Boston Phoenix’s classical music editor, which earned him the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism in 1994, he’s now senior editor of classical music for New York Arts. His books include These People, Goodnight, Gracie, and the forthcoming _Cairo Traffic. _(2013)

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Lloyd Schwartz’s latest book is Who’s on First? New and Selected Poems (University of Chicago Press, 2021). For his poetry he has been awarded fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation, and his poems have been selected for the Pushcart Prize, The Best American Poetry, and The Best of the Best American Poetry. A noted editor of the works of Elizabeth Bishop, he is also the longtime classical music critic for NPR’s Fresh Air and was the classical music editor of The Boston Phoenix, for which he was awarded the 1994 Pulitzer Prize for criticism. He is the Frederick S. Troy Professor of English Emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Boston and the poet laureate of Somerville, Massachusetts, for which he has been awarded a 2021 Poet Laureate Fellowship from the Academy of American Poets. (updated 8/2021)
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