The grandest thing in the world is feeling

Hi, folks,

Next on my series of poetry posts for Spanish and Portuguese Reading Months, hosted by Stuart and Richard, you have some poems by Brazilian poet Adélia Prado, in various translations. Enjoy!

Yours truly,

J.


Teaching

My mother thought study
the grandest thing in the world.
It is not.
The grandest thing in the world is feeling.
That night, father working overtime,
she said to me:
“Poor man, such an hour, and still hard at work.”
She prepared bread and coffee, left a saucepanful of hot water on the
stove.
No mention was made of love.
That luxury word.

(Adélia Prado, tr. David Coles. Source: Modern Poetry in Translation. New Series / No. 6 / Winter 1994-95. Special Feature: Modern Poetry from Brazil, edited by Daniel Weissbort)


The Impressionist

On one occasion,
my father painted the whole house
a brilliant orange.
We lived for a long time in a house,
as he said himself,
eternally dawning.

(Adélia Prado, tr. David Coles. Source: Modern Poetry in Translation. New Series / No. 6 / Winter 1994-95. Special Feature: Modern Poetry from Brazil, edited by Daniel Weissbort)


Fatale

The young boys’ beauty pains me,
sharp-tasting like new lemons.
I seem like a decaying actress,
but armed with this knowledge, what I really am
is a woman with a powerful radar.
So when they look through me
as if to say: just stick to your own branch of the tree,
I think: beautiful, but coltish. They’re no use to me.
I will wait until they acquire indecision. And I do wait.
Just when they’re convinced otherwise
I have them all in my pocket.

(Adélia Prado, tr. David Coles. Source: Modern Poetry in Translation. New Series / No. 6 / Winter 1994-95. Special Feature: Modern Poetry from Brazil, edited by Daniel Weissbort)


Plain love

I just want plain love.
With plain love they don’t look at each other.
Once found, like faith,
there’s an end to theologizing.
Tough as old boots, plain love is scrawny, sex-mad,
and has as many children as you can imagine.
It makes up for not speaking by doing.
It plants three-coloured kisses all around the house,
purple and white longings,
both the simple and the intense.
Plain love is good because it doesn’t grow old.
It concentrates on the essential, what glitters in its eyes is what is:
I am man you are woman.
Plain love has no illusions,
what it does have is hope:
I want that plain love.

(Adélia Prado, tr. David Coles. Source: Modern Poetry in Translation. New Series / No. 6 / Winter 1994-95. Special Feature: Modern Poetry from Brazil, edited by Daniel Weissbort)


Guide

Poetry will save me.
I feel uneasy saying this, since only Jesus
is Saviour, as a man inscribed
(of his own free will)
on the back of the souvenir crucifix he brought home
from a pilgrimage to Congonhas.
Nevertheless, I repeat: Poetry will save me.
It’s through poetry that I understand the passion
He had for us, dying on the cross.
Poetry will save me, as the purple of flowers
spilling over the fence
absolves the girl her ugly body.
In poetry the Virgin and the saints approve
my apocryphal way of understanding words
by their reverse, my decoding the town crier’s message
by means of his hands and eyes.
Poetry will save me. I won’t tell this to the four winds,
because I’m frightened of experts, excommunication,
afraid of shocking the fainthearted. But not of God.
What is poetry, if not His face touched
by the brutality of things?

(Adélia Prado, tr. Ellen Doré Watson. Source: The Mystical rose. Selected poems, 2014)


In Portuguese

Spider, cork, pearl
and four more which I won’t say:
these are perfect words.
Dying is inevitable.
God is weightless.
A butterfly is always in transition,
like soap in a boiling kettle.
God knows these are all strange things
that exist in the mind,
corruption exists because of
original sin.
Words, things I‘ve desired before.
My mind tires of this sad oration.
Jonathan said to me:
“Have you eaten your yogurt?”
What sweetness envelops me, what confort!
Words are imperfect, they exist only for poems
and I ask where do
these winged insects and this friendship come from,
your arm brushing up against mine.

(Adélia Prado, tr. Marcia Kirinus. Source: Twentieth-century Latin American Poetry – A Bilingual anthology, edited by Stephen Tapscott, 1996)


Simple Flesh
On a large and cool bed
an appetite of despair from my body.
I howl between two grindstones
What do I howl?
The hand of God that grinds me and leaves in darkness
In the mouth of clay, clay.
When I was young
I asked for cross and thieves to protect my flanks
God was not in me.
Today I ask the man lying next to me:
let me touch you
so I can try to fall asleep.
(Adélia Prado, tr. Ellen Doré Watson. Source: The Headlong Heart, 1988)

Lesson

It was a shadowy yard, walled high with stones.
The trees held early apples, dark
wine-coloured skin, the perfected flavour of things
ripe before their time.
Clay jugs sat alongside the wall.
I ate apples and sipped the purest water,
knowing the outside world had stopped dead from heat.
Then my father appeared and tweaked my nose,
and he wasn’t sick and hadn’t died, either;
that’s why he was laughing, blood
stirring in his face again,
he was hunting for ways to spend this happiness:
where’s my chisel, my fishing pole,
what happened to my snuffbox, my coffee cup?
I always dream something’s taking shape,
nothing is ever dead.
What seems to have died fertilises.
What seems motionless waits.

( Adélia Prado, tr. Ellen Doré Watson. Source: The Mystical Rose: Selected Poems by Adélia Prado, 2014)


Antonio Tapies. “Untilted (Flame and Mirror). 1967.
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