The Efficacy of the Light by João Luís Barreto Guimarães, translated by Calvin Olsen

cats in Ano Mera if they were religious would be
orthodox Christians. They are the first icons
to receive us upon entering (one of them
more delicate dressed in gray and white:
due to so much coat licking she’s almost erased
her stripes). Strangers in this monastery
we seek out irrationalities
lightning candles on candles (at 1€ per wick)
later we will come to judge the efficacy
of the light. Such an easy thing a lie
(so often squandered)
behold the family of things (the cats
the candles the
icons) the easiness of nomenclature begets me
a purer world. For what reason isn’t God
at the unfavorable places?
Does God still believe in God?
I ask
for the sake of asking.
João Luís Barreto Guimarães was born in Porto, Portugal where he graduated in medicine. He is a breast reconstructive plastic surgeon and author of nine poetry books, including his first seven books collected in “Poesia Reunida” (“Collected Poetry”, Quetzal, Lisbon, 2011), and the subsequent “Você Está Aqui” (“You Are Here”, Quetzal, Lisbon, 2013), and “Mediterrâneo” (“Mediterranean”, Quetzal, Lisbon, 2016). He is also a chronicler and a translator, mainly for his blog “Poesia & Lda” (“Ilimited Poetry”).
Calvin Olsen holds an MFA in creative writing from Boston University, where he received a Robert Pinsky Global Fellowship. His poetry and translations have appeared in JuxtaProse, Missouri Review Online, Lay Bare the Canvas: New England Poets on Art, The Interpreter’s House, and many others. He currently lives in Chapel Hill, NC, where he is poetry editor for The Carolina Quarterly.