Forgetfulness has no worth by itself; it lacks an economy of space. Past our brutal archway of knotweeds and spruces, the pathways opened only to an abandoned garrison. Sucessive instants of nature hued the rubble with that superlative ghost of placeness and immortality, which is so rarely reflected in insomnia. The cabinets had illegible files and expired medicine. We sat on the desks; their dense plastic fibreboards weren’t neither fit for rotting nor eating, but still fit enough for the dangling old art of carving incomplicate symbols. Writing now feels much the same — this hum/urge/daub against the crudity; an attack, a volley of landfilled fragments of emotions that never quite found a fitting elsewhere. A b(l)oom.
There’s grace in this coldness we feel, he said. I disagreed. There can be no corollary to nothingness. I always found myself to be cruel and lavishly dramatic; my cinders were in agony if they could ever be fumed to digladiate at all; I’d defend agony with the tint of selfhood; I’d idol trauma as a tribal rain-god. The all-dissolving empathy of this world, chiller even than an arctic gale, was yet to prove how dramatically undramatic I truly figured. It ends up being an ourobouric realisation. You mustn’t blur revolt with sadness, he said. I agreed. I must feel mit bewegtem Ausdruck¹, as if the factionalism of thoughts could be dammed in or transferred like an equalised liquid, escaping only when our inner kingdoms inch in a certain manner or another. There’s so much to keep in, so much to keep out. There’s as much frustation in quantity as there are frustrated quantities; serried columns of hurtful notes overspilling like piles of sand or roadside weeds. It’s dark, I must phone home, and so do I. Somewhere right before some iron-sounding annihilation. After the hum/urge/daub. I tear up. The molds and lichens, captives of this senseless calaboose between heaviness and conscience, transude that humid odour of digging as the dusk brays across the clouds. There goes the performance, the anger, and so much disappears. How you’ve let yourself be polluted, he tackles, to this point, he digs in, to this point of irreparability, CLINK, he hits the bedrock. How noxious a sentiment; how synthetic; how opposite of tribal. There’s nothing moving about irreparability; nothing expressive at all. Tragedy can be unbearably dull when it is conceived to be lived and not performed. Our freedom to conceive of it is precisely as mythological as the rain-god. Out there where the moon sears the dense curtain and bones thud against each-other with wails of longing we wait for a golden spear to emerge from the earth and unclutter the theatre with a white undomesticated light. A beacon gobsmacked where no one can find it. Out there and not here where we’ve abandoned the prospect of spatial economy. Out there and not here where we’ve composed effigies out of instants of hunger. Even the pain, he scribbles, ends up as hunger, he closes deeper into the fibres, somewhere between coming and going, CLINK.
¹ – with a moving expression, a musical composition by Anton Webern.
Eliogabalus, Shu, Malakbel, Shamash, Sól; under the fragments of your cone reaching the lodes of stillblood; under your numerous risings, emptier and brighter; under you and always under, as broken circles or frangible slopes, the light pools around our fingers and edulcorates the tinge. We realise, now, how nights can be synergistic. How nights can be lawful with their tiered, thick orders. Under you (and always under) our thoughts are wholly purified, as one does not live without the doubled spasm, the squeezing of a nerve and its reproduction elsewhere; a pair under the sun and by it guided, o, lordless god of coloured things, lordless god of solemn rituals that succour the putrefaction and bubbling beneath the sand and the sandstone. As I look for you along the waste and excrement, as I vessel your light in the divine misery that circumscribes you, I see now the shape of my sentiments and how, in gold or silver tones, they are alchemised and roped out of me as if I was hollow and hung by them. As a creature of sacrifice, I’ve seen the blue of your hunger and repulsion and I’ve bled for such tender illusions. I for thousands and I for millions and I in the pythian flumes carrying yet another ewe of blood to where you cannot reach it. Forever shall we pay for the draught of life with the kneeling chill of our extinction; our catacombs run as deep as you hover; o, lordless god, how we venerate you in how we abhor you.
My artifice was underacted. Only when the sycamore expired did I gloss its brief sussurus. My muffled blood takes to the bludgeon of evening and, dry, proceeds to the integration. Sound has since slogged through five varieties of despair. A scream would be mute by the force of merely being. I take note of things as they are quickly chewed off into impermanence. A saltatorial dog gets reprimanded by its owner, the sumac sights, logiest with waiting, circumscribed to smallness. I think of the expansion of things and I’m awakened from the errancy by reminders of effort, of dedication. The logwood signboard, pitted by age and fulgurated by sunlight shredded in an attic-fan, reminds me of the murex snails crushed by the Tyrians in an effort to create a colour not too distant from that of the logwood-tint. Only the scantest droplet could be extracted from a snail insofar as an absurd number of crushings would be required to tint a single purple mantle; a mantle which, more than a thousand years after the ruination and conquering of all historical Phoenicia, came to represent, in a now-Christian Mediterranean Europe, the religious habit of fasting, mourning and penance, three strong radiations of lack. The opulent, imperial purple, deathborne in frigid innumeracy, acme of human impression and predominance upon the natural world, happens to condense too what is, to some, the immense inner laceration of loss, of taking to the point of lacking. The invention of synthetic mauve ended the carnage of snails, and the logwood variety of purple was to arrive shortly after as its own advent of richness. So much optical mass is arranged in a soft and swift emergence, so much of what I receive is already laden with the vitreous enamel of History. A flower-box of syringa comes to mind like a millipetalous bruising of the eye, an evening that seethes of revenge and unshakeable somnolence. My chest yearns it; I am awaited. I have not known pain as I now see it.
She now oft forgets. Memories are volatile, as is the foam of waves and the formication they leave debossed on the shore. September reminds her of wasps, meadows, heat. I’m reminded of jags and seagulls or a deformed field of ashfall. I’ve never heard her express fear of losing the common ropes; my name or that of my mother or uncle, or the age of my sister and her children, or her home, her fields, her flowers. These are the indelible parts while one is idoneous, but that status has now somehow dissolved, like a wave or a phantastical seabird. I sit beside her, involved in some paltry research of German troubadours:
Some lover has spring pinned in his hand and another open where he has loosened a blade and replaced it for a planet. Some hum somewhere slumps into a mire of circles only to rise into a four-toned sky. Some angle of death is braided yet against the carcass of a city. I ask her to point out her unhealables, what parts of her ache with a tingle of sound that cannot be shaken nor reduced. She’s voided, and her eyes tube into the room in search of storms with nameless colours. I near myself to tears as I twist my hands around the neck of avoidance and try to smother out its culminant perfume. I can see but I fail to feel it. I must wait to feel it. I understand: it’s her essence she’s forgetting, not the names. Names are lights, names are suns, things dissolved, things dissolving. And pains are just little watered abstractions. She is one of many to witness an unspeakable withering; flustered, she whispers symbols of home, whistling thorns. The moon hangs high, intense sand-bright convocation of dusts, the waters nearing to delete the prospect of that full-bodied kiss they shall never receive. It’s fine to be smeared, I find, to be torn open, rust scraped off the bone as it is a residue of some nightly relic. The world knows not how to do it differently, we realise. I hold her hand, try to remember. It’s no use, it makes no difference. I know not how to do it differently. It’s fine and it breaks my heart.
Phase two of the torturing duo starts now, I’ll hopefully survive it, João-Maria.
“Books will give rest sometimes against the uproar of water falling and righting itself to refall filling the mind with its reverberation shaking stone.”
William Carlos Williams, Paterson, Book Three (The Library)
The inexhaustible becomes the forgotten. I abhor times of initiation and transition; this science of conjuring aphotic worlds is annealed by a silence which, by nature of the perpetuity of the task, is a material purely chosen for its endlessness. Every sound is an inevitable interruption of form. Wind tortures the reed panicles whose boisterous death is throated fury. The moorhen’s vilipended chucker licks the bulrush like a similar furious gale. The water itself seems bellicose and exuberant, as if all of its threadings required musical punctuation. This is the impression of time hitting the bodies with its venomous silence, a silence I’ve learnt to reproduce because melding with it is the condign manner in which to live; restful, blind, pushing the objects of our impotence onto the margins where such concepts fail to get a grasp. I’m reminded of the iniquity of growing. I’m reminded of a poem. It hasn’t been written, and my mind has the invidious habitude of searching humiliation—my silence already occupies too much of itself. It’s already too corruptive. I’m impressed against the panicles and the moorhens and the bulrushes, my whole body timed and melo-poetic. I’m a unique form infolding the view. I must bear the infelicitous brand of my personalisation: the pains of growing too much, too fast, gobbling up the youthful light like it is the very silence poems seem to be made of.
The seeming, however, is the elusive material, the gilding, the part with any worth, the part with any limitation.
To chronicle the worst months of any year, João-Maria.
By popular demand, I shall put here another translation I had given up on and decided to complete upon seeing the warm reaction in my last translation of Daniel Faria. As I’m noticing that more-and-more folks are becoming interested not only in Portuguese poetry and the translated works themselves, but my method of translation and how the translation itself elapses and is thought-out, I decided to include some of my notes later on the post, so that those interested might better understand the choices I make and how I work around some linguistic issues. I remind everyone that I am still an amateur and work my hardest to provide the best that I can, but I’m still inexperienced in the arts of literary translation. This eight-part composition was one of my biggest challenges, but some parts of it are so rich, I couldn’t help but endure the harder ones.
ORIGINAL TEXT BY DANIEL FARIA
I’ll include here the download for the PDF of all the contents of this post: translation, original and notes, for those who might have trouble reading the images or getting them to load properly, or those who’d like to keep the document for themselves.
This is all incredibly arduous to make and hopefully someday I’ll achieve my dream of getting paid for it, haha, though for now I’m more-than-glad to provide it for free and be allowed to do so, both for the experience and to show you all the wonders of Portuguese poetry, which is incredible in nearly all of its presence, though largely underappreciated. Thank you for letting it live within you, João-Maria.
Daniel Faria is a complicated figure of Contemporary Portuguese Poetry, perhaps the most complicated of all. Daniel died young, at twenty-eight, and left behind a literary legacy of seven published collections of poetry, along other small publications found in literary awards and a plethora of other fragments and pieces that his acquaintances donated to the curation of his work, all of them contained in a single volume, “Poesia de Daniel Faria, edição de Vera Vouga“. Daniel was indubitably of enormous talent, but the eagerness of some to see him as a “regenerator”, a herald of a poetic resurgence along Portuguese literary circles, was concomitant with many pressures to publish work that, albeit good, lacks in a variety of fronts, and perhaps the most nitid one is Daniel’s inability to have a poetic register, or inner-ear, that accompanies the veins and arteries of his themes. A tragedy indeed: to have such a subtle and mature mind command a silent orchestra, or one that can barely play. Out of the entire volume of Poesia, which I do not regret reading for a second, as I do genuinely believe he was of incalculable talent, I still maintain the view that only a lithe portion of his compositions achieved their maximum potential, or were even worthy of their space in the books they occupy. Irregardless of this very-personal-opinion, I translated five poems among those I liked the best, and I do hope to see the bulk of Daniel’s work professionally translated into the English language someday.
As of now, and just like Herberto Helder, there are no translations of Daniel Faria being performed or sold, though I’m vigilant as to when they might start to appear.
Herberto Hélder was born in Funchal, Madeira, in 1930. In 1964, alongside António Aragão, Herberto would create the first anthology of experimental poetry in the Portuguese language, which punctuated an enormous shift in Portuguese poetic literature. He died in 2015. He wrote the poems above in his book, Servidões, a book also never translated into English. All translations were performed by me. As a last in this series of posts regarding Herberto Hélder, which I hope is a good beginning to a series of translations I’m hopeful to be able to make and post, I’d also like to introduce you to a Portuguese musical artist that I grew up listening to (quite literally). B Fachada came off of a long hiatus to release his latest album, “Rapazes e raposas”, translated to “Boys and foxes”, which are very similar words in Portuguese. The first single and crown jewel of this record is Anti-Fado, meaning Anti-Fate, and though it’s impossible to translate the infinitesimally sharp and intelligent lyricism of Bernardo, I’ll translate the lyrics of the song for you:
B Fachada’s new album can be found on his bandcamp, as Bernardo is also anti-streaming. It is a great purchase if you have a world-music collection and you’d like one of the absolute best Portuguese lyricists of this century.
Herberto Hélder was born in Funchal, Madeira, in 1930. His poetry began during the tail of Portuguese Surrealism, after Mário Cesariny, and had as recurrent themes alchemy, mysticism and ancient mythology. He died in 2015. He wrote the prose-poem above in his book, Os passos em volta, a book never translated into English. This translation was performed by me.