to Carlos Drummond de Andrade
Nights heavy with suffocating smells, heat . . .
The Sun made its way across the enormous stretch of our country
And gave each Brazilian a dark complexion.
I’m thinking of times long before I was born . . .
At night you took it easy. White laughter of mulattos . . .
Shhh! The Emperor is composing a sonnet.
In the oval shadow of a mango tree, loyalists plot to restore his father to the throne.
The murmur of priests was the only thing Brazilians had in common . . .
When the runaways found out slavery had been abolished,
The number of Hail Marys dropped like a rock . . .
But the real disaster was pretending the Republic could
We didn’t know yet how to govern ourselves . . .
It was a step forward, but a tiny one,
Because progress is fateful, too . . .
Only God knows what the future will be! . . .
Me, I want more disasters . . .
I want to sail the Amazon and I want mosquito winds
Whining through the branches of plum trees shading front doors . . .
I want a bass viol and carefree days alone
I want to groan and die.
Tasted in the rich flavor of fresh hot peanuts . . .
Spoken in a mongrel slang from the street
Of hit and miss words honey smooth and bittersweet . . .
They come out slow fresh bitten off by my strong teeth . . .
They moisten my lips for even more kisses
And drain any meanness from the prayers I really mean . . .
I was born here by chance, like anyone anywhere . . .
But because it’s the rhythm of the hand at the end of my arm,
The pleasure of my days off,
The balancing act of my songs my loves my dances.
Because I couldn’t care less, either,
Because of how I earn my living, what I eat for dinner, and when I go to sleep.
Mario de Andrade (from Clan
do Jaboti, 1927)
translated from the Portuguese by Ron Horning
(in current issue of Vanitas ed. Vincent Katz)