Only in false gold have my eyes shimmered; I’m a sphynx without mystery at sight. The sadness of things that never happened descend in my soul as a veiled light.
In my pain, craving swords are broken, illuminated arrows blend with dark. The shades flowing from me are torn apart, as with yesterday, to me, today is forsaken.
I quiver no longer in face of secrecy; Nothing torments me, not even gore: Life flows through me like a war, Without a single breath of fear!
I’m a drunken star who lost its skies, a maddened mermaid who left the sea; A godless temple crumbling to its lies, A false statue still held highly.
Mário de Sá-Carneiro, Paris, 5 of May of 1913
MERCEDES IN HER FLIGHT
A gelid and upright guitar is what you are in rocks of height. A throatless voice, a dark voice sounding everything without sounding anything.
Your thoughts are snow slipped by the infinite glory of whiteness. Your profile a perennial burn, your heart a freed dove.
Sing, sing in the freedom of air, that fragrant dawning melody, mound of light and wound of lily.
So that we, down here, day and night shall make in the corners of sadness a garland of melancholy.
Federico García Lorca
55, Rain Passage
«In each raindrop my failed life cries within nature. There is something in my drop-by-drop disquiet, in the downpour-to-downpour with which the sadness of a day unbecomes uselessly over the earth. It rains heavily, so heavily. My soul is humid just by hearing it. So heavily… My flesh is liquid and aqueous wrapping around my sensation of it. A restless cold places those frigid hands around my poor heart. The grey hours stretch out, flatten themselves upon time; the moments drag out. How it rains! The gutters spit out scant torrents of water always suddenly. Slithers through my knowledge that there are pipes with an unsettling noise of down-spurt. Rain bangs against the glass, indolent, moaning.
A cold hand grips my throat and impedes me from breathing life. Everything dies within me, even the knowledge that I can dream! In no physical sense am I fine. Every softness in which I recline has edges for my soul. All eyes I look upon are so dim after this indigent daylight breaks onto them so it can die without pain.»
Fernando Pessoa (through Bernardo Soares), 1914(?) in Book of Disquiet
«What imprecise queen holds near her lakes the memory of my broken life? I was the pageboy of promenades too insufficient to the aerial hours of my blue stillness. Distant ships completed the sea by waving over my terraces, and in southern clouds I lost my soul, like a dropped paddle.»
Fernando Pessoa (through Bernardo Soares), 1918(?), in Book of Disquiet
Writing poems has, slowly, become a ritualistic exercise of hindering the velocity of my mind-dialectic, give it a shape, try to understand what it is I’m trying to reach. I rarely ever reach it. Various elements go missing, and I end up scouring a wreckage more-so than exploring an inner architecture. That is the thing, though, things don’t often come out as they are, and less often come out as they should, but it’s still important that they do.
The “you” element is not something I ordinarily use in English poetry, I don’t always like the form it takes in English, as it feels more dual than I believe it should. This poem, however, as all of those I’ve recently published, is translated from its Portuguese original. Don’t judge it too harshly, he is not from here, you see…
the days without anyone impish notes scrawled quickly crumpled in our fingers
the honeysuckle was beautiful rising through the night of forsaken residence
exact stones scented dusts fireflies napping in the flexibility of clay sands covered of insects bones and teeth and the river hauling weary nights
luminous inflorescence acid moons crumbling fissures of earth coastline cities birds fragile paths in open flight during the tremendous lucidity of dreaming
I’m left with halls of glass where I drown the calcined remains of body I open the door leading to my visage descend the mossy steps of the yard cross the masonry garden where I lived the entire time before I hurried “Days Without Anyone” – Al Berto
Landlocked mid poetic subject and poet, mid experience and body, mid reality and the act of writing, lies an indubitable reflective surface lightly swiveling as the halo of a flame. Mário Lugarinho illustrated Al Berto “between the poetic and the experimented, installed as a bridge — the mirror itself, recurrent metaphor in his oeuvre. Between poetry and experience, the subject, incontestable mediator between the real and the written and establishing between them the flagrant coincidence.” In a sensory blossoming of ontological experience, Al Berto carries the brutalism of existence as one does scars in one’s own body, exhibiting those elements of suffering with timid thrusts while words cannibalise their own element of sincerity. The body, in his poems, rises as a monolith of subjectivity laved in the hemorrhage of experience; it is cumbrous with sensuality, hatred, speech, infancy, shards of things-in-themselves in a scenery of mournful abandonment:
I sleep within a disheveled body fear encroaches the somber hall I find a water scintillating in plaster a scar of mossy crystals opens porous to my touch, indicating there shall be no forgetting or breeze to clean the immemorial time of this home
of this simulated sleep, it left but bitter iodine the waxed woods covered in dust dried herbs in rain sheafs of rosemary, jonquils, snapdragons, campions, clover yet no escape has been restarted my infancy remains sad where I abandoned it nearly does not live yet I still hear it breathing within me.
now all is different I restart life from the emptiness of dark days in silence in-between skin and a beam of magnificent veins I feel the bird of age dragging its wings
where it develops a calm lunar flight
I enumerate objects thoroughly, classifying them by sizes and textures, by functions I want to leave everything tidy when madness comes from the sharpened extremity of my winged body and my face is intruded by a shard of wing
so shall life collapse unto a sheet of paper where verse by verse I illuminate and wear myself out.
“Vigílias” – Al Berto
The stark provocation of image — which binds itself both cruel and ethereal in a procession of memory — is not merely symbol, but a counterpoint to denotation; the wound is palpable, as each verse widens its longitude with unstinting force where the absence of breath is not merely a quality of form but a proxy to restlessness. A frondsome garden is thus woven and hydrated in white obscurity: reality is held in a crystalline distance, writing cannot approximate it, regardless of eloquence, of thought, of philosophies, we lie in open sight and sketch an estimated geography, and, from time-to-time, an embodiment of placid light befalls our lips and we are disfigured by castrated toponymies; our place in the universal lie unfurls. Al Berto carries out his death in poem successively, both the wanting of his death and the pestilent, modern malaise of the death of wanting, inherited from a legacy of weighted dichotomies and promises–too long has the poet promised, too epic was the oneiric journey of poetics, too arduous the return. Thus, his poetry is a summon for a corpse, the buoyant corpse of his infantile yearn, the mossy corpse of his lyrical dreams, the winged corpse of his light, yet merely a corpse: the gallows of his life plaintively whistle within, and in reality lies a frigid inheritance of death. Our body, lush with herbs and snapdragons and rosemary positioned as a reflective vessel of both, a world of unbearable cruelty made of particles and waves of synthesized beauty. There is, yet, an ethereal release from anguish in his mirror of corpses that, even if still anguished, serves to lighten the breath:
I write to you feeling all of this and in an instance of lucidity I could be the river the goats shrouding the tinkle of sleigh-bells in the silver crystals of a photograph I could rise as the chestnut-tree of those tales whispered by a fire and wander, trembling with the birds or accompany the sulfuric butterfly revealed by humid lips I could mimic that shepherd or mistake myself for the dream of a city which little by little bites its own immobility
I inhabit this world of water by error I’m required radio-graphic images of bones unfocused faces hands on bodies printed in paper and mirrors notice I have nothing else if not this note stained with fine arils of pomegranate I sent today notice how a heart of paper is yellowed by the forgetfulness of loving you.
“Trabalhos do Olhar” – Al Berto
Passion, even in passing, is an effusing stroke, and a world perhaps collapsed is reshaped (albeit perfunctorily) only to support that florescence, as loving is the most human of all Arts, notice we have nothing else.
Recently, I came across the endlessly talented Tadzio and his blog of English translations of Italian poems. A little apprehensive at first, I decided to give a shot of my own at translating some of my most adored portuguese compositions.
Florbela is the poet I credit with my interest in composing, so it would be fair to say that any verse of mine you might have liked, is due to her incredible humility and fine-crafted lyricism. Very devalued in life, she now stands as the most important female poet of the portuguese poetic pantheon, one whose influence reaches far and wide within our culture.
And its portuguese, original version:
Disclaimer: I’m not a professional or academic of this subject, this translation is merely an attempt at a very arduous and respected Art, that of translating poetry, and I have no intentions of devaluing it with my impish attempts.
Second Disclaimer: I did severely alter the verse that mentions “saudade”. There is a common myth that saudade is an exclusive word of Portuguese, and there is another common myth debunking the former, stating that “longing” and “missing” are direct translations. Neither are correct, there are translations of saudade, and also imports, as Catalan shares the same word (thus making it not exclusive), and other languages have direct translations. English is not one of them. Missing or longing do not mean saudade.
I could not recommend more that you visit The Container and be delighted with Tad’s brilliant translations.