ISSN 2359-4101

Brazilian Literature in Translation / Literatura Brasileña en Traducción

Issue / Numero

year/año: 2012
issue/numero: # 02

27 poems translated

Author | Autor: Geraldo Carneiro

Translated by Charles A. (Andrew) Perrone

1. bazaar of wonderments

there are, for me, no words, except for two
or three, that through all time with me have stood
ever since my person turned out iffy,
the olden days when I was quite myself.
and now that I’m a sort of mimicry,
that I’ve been stripped of my divinatures.
I no longer dare ego sum qui sum.
I just keep in my bazaar of wonderments
the word for splendor, the word for fury,
at times the flare of risk the word for love,
even with my knowledge of its back plumes
the improbable semantics of misty fumes
the unfixable trail of one other verse
the syntax, who knows, of this universe.

2. mirage in abyss

I can’t say what fabric being’s made of.
my plans my dreams my strife
are woven in the factory of life
and unwoven in chaotic architectures.
and off I go creating newer buildings
to stay awhile
then leaping off in search of who-knows-what.
my being me is part of this mirage
in abyss
a mirror where I cannot see myself
and me unseen I light the flame of fire
to form indeed the full name of desire.
a pier perchance some other place exists.
I know a certain distance always dances
between me
and the circus of my circumstances

3. ballad of the impostor

I’m an impostor, one day they’ll know
that I’ve simulated all I ever was.
I’m fiction, my blood is solely language
my breath an explosion that comes from within
in the form of words.
when I no longer am, I myself shall be.
during this delay, I’ll be cheating time,
the machine that’s devouring me,
and I keep pace as all things must pass
in search of grace to surpass
the circle of my circumstance
the mirror that’s none other than the other
that inhabits me and spies on me
and, not being me, heeds for me what’s frightful

4. principally

I’ve always been treated well as a prince
and I’ve grown attached to privileges
anthologies sojourns in the country
that befell to me in this ethereal
and deleterious reign, for to forget
is inevitable as life itself
and death is wholly made of mystery.
I try to hear my fortunes in my conchs
as Olavo Bilac heard his stars,
something I never heard, but comprehend
even not having a credible creed.
thus I kept constructing my edifice
on top of architectural chimeras,
whose architect was perchance a blindman,
or a genius, or just simply absent.

5. Final Judgement

he loved three or four mermaids, always
a sailor on his very first shipwreck;
he bore false witness and uttered half truths;
ambling he went in search of the sublime,
never to discover the Holy Grail;
he looked for a god who might offer terms;
but as that god did not put his spell on him,
he wooed the moon and other fickle goddesses;
wary of science, he suspects that the Sun
does revolve around the Earth
and that man is an animal to extravagance doomed;
at times he will suffer fits of grandeur,
self-fancied demiurge and pandemonium,
but the world always rebels
against his so poorly established hopes
and reduces him to distinguished insignificance.

6. in praise of soporifics

I cast soporifics at beasts that devour
the so solid nature of slumber in me.
solitude per se will not leave me appalled.
the others are inferno, purgatory
at times in addition they yield paradise.
I don’t know of the winter which approaches
or not, for I have yet to form a judgment.
in fact, poor judgment I’ve never ever lacked
and thus shall it be till the end of my years
death, that chapter of natural history,
which, in my case, won’t involve insurrection.
and metaphysical shields? I have none at all.
I envy the heavens, the dance of the spheres,
I’m dying of envy of Ptolemy,
still wandering safely through cosmologies
with God at the center, the rest all around.
I have no center, scepter, or direction.
the lone thing I don’t lack is affection.

7. insurrection

I’m a beast in a burst of poetry
devoted to revolts of lyricism,
that madness that they’ve bequeathed to us
by clandestination and patrimony.
I know not who I am exposed thus in rows
in impostures by me self-imposed
or maybe decreed by some crazy god,
atheist, pharisee, or muslim prod.
my destiny is the finis mundi,
the precipice of this very spring
that’s summer already, autumn almost.
I hope for minimal lucidity
in the dance of my winter winds here,
though that seems to be quite improbable,
for lack of an anchor, a vessel, a pier

8. After Fernando Pessoa

I don’t know a thing.
I don’t know where Abissinia is,
nor Bessarabia or Sri Lanka.
I don’t know on what detours of History
I lost the Belgian Congo and Madagascar.
I know only the provinces of fiction
which are, I’m happy to say, immutable:
Shangri-la, Pandemonium, Xanadu
and other El Dorados of the imagination.
I’m mystified by semantics and diction,
I confuse bypass with bygones,
nenuphar and putiphar;
I know not by what twists&turns language
is a peacock or gets plucked;
in sum, I only admire words
like a savage admires a helicopter.
despite this solid ignorance
at times I find myself before
a scene, a gesture, a word
whose splendor awakens a wave of resonance.
and suddenly the insolence of the sun
illuminates my darkness
and I’m like a god giving birth to the world

9. the other voice

it’s no use, nothing in this world
belongs to thee, not even the tiny part
it’s up to thee to re-cypher in art.
thou hast only the circus of disillusion,
the song of the sirens, a shipwreck
in which were lost life, direction,
          /the vessel,
the memory of the isle where thou livedest
the inaugural act of thy odyssey.
Penelope tore herself into many faces,
and even wars, with their hues and cries,
only survive in the versions of the bards.
there are no more isles, no more beginnings:
thy principality is only imaginary.

10. [no title I]

I adore Chekhov’s petite bourgeois ladies
with their lives suspended,
as if coagulated, wandering back and forth
from crystal to nothing at all,
in the circus of circumvolution of the void
while hanging in the air there’s always
an unrevealed secret, an unspoken word
the adventure eternally put off
the desire to go to Moscow
the echo of a ball in St. Petersburg
and those creatures ever confined
between naught and no thing at all
in their anxieties and insignificance
until after the end of the end of the world
when the probable deus ex-machina
decrees that there shall be a new beginning
and they go back to wandering like ghosts
in the midst of the mediocrity of infinity

11. eternity

for the Stoics time was not
the mere caravan of events and plot
that almost always hollow adventure
headed toward the anti-Canaan
the land with no Moses at all
beyond the signals of the Sinai Desert
thus there exists another time, immobile,
in which words wallow unsaid untaught,
myth, being all and being naught,
and ideas like flowers still waiting
for a new Era or just for spring
and deciphering to follow thereof
in sum, if the Stoics did not create
an irresistible solar system
capable of orienting the stars’ orbit
and the ships of the conquistadors.
as a trade off perhaps they invented
the best metaphor for love

12. sinister pact (Strangers on a Train)

maybe life’s romance fiction
a noir series
full of sound and fury etc.
or a B-movie sans verisimilitude
and god is the rival of Humphrey Bogart
sick and tired of the light on Martinique
& now under the moonlight
his task and caprice is to machinate
what’s the next step
of the story
what’s the next stop
of the starry
way to nowhere?

13. nevermore

we went on picnics in Xanadu
we wove Rocambolesque plots
on the most improbable shores.
ciphers griffins deep-sea dragons
spitting fire on our eros-diction
you were the light: I was the darkness
we were almost happy for ever and ever
before it was you to choose the day
the hour the grand finale of the show
(or not to choose: death is always
a pas-de-deux with divinities of chance)

14. [no title II]

clouds were invented in the XIXth cent.
to decorate the skies of the romantics.
before that, they were just instruments of rain
(except for the portal of the Parnassus)
and they did not hover like now over pleasures
of gazes never before.
in the future they may be banned
for the sake of the sanity of this sphere
in which we spin for sport & for ecstasy
(only a few scattered copies will remain
in the skies of the British Museum)

15. sad madrigal

I’m like the king of a sun-drenched land
and all the vagrants must be my vassals
as well as the butterflies, the mermaids
& the mollusks at the seashore
when I was 25 I decapitated
the bust of my grandpa the ex-monarch
and I inaugurated a new natural order
I abolished by decree reality itself
and I recused myself from certain pomp
the dreaded sloth
never allowed me to set
the limits of my kingdom
let’s say I’m confined
to the east by the Atlantic Ocean
to the South by Paradise
to the west by the savage fictions
of one José de Alencar
and to the North by my own death
still that’s not enough for me
(poor me) I so wanted to harvest
the plenary shouts of thy soul full of torment
(further information in Madrigal Triste
by Charles Baudelaire)

16. Six.

the timepiece is the machine where one keeps
death (against which logos turns rebellious)
fires flaying speech fictions the cabala
not knowing that this world will always be
redone and infinitely annihilated,
cf. Epicureus, the revolt of Zeus
against the insolence of the sun
capable of erasing the scene of Alcmena,
thus forging the fabrication of the infinite
and, by dint of love, the revoking
of timepieces)
where the music of the spheres echoes
& the rest drips away drop

17. the semantics of roses

the sign rose signifies the rose
the rose itself resides in the world
and at bottom it’s a flower of metaflowers
that only flourish in the hanging gardens
                                                  of Plato
(thus, if it is not known if a plume
is a plume or a plume-pity-pain
one never knows either if a rose
is a rose or only the insignia
the enigma or the sign or the metaphor
meaning some other rose)
in sum, every sign is a bridge
between the word, its empire
and every rose ever undeciphered
in its mystery

18. origin of the species

I’m homo sapiens more or less sapiens
I possess knowledge of my ignorance.
I know nothing of physics, or the stars,
of metaphysics or of scholastics,
in these my not-knowings so vast that tend
to extend their stretch to the infinite,
probable Shangri-la, parallel lines.
perhaps, at bottom, some sense there may be.
perhaps a God, or several, or not one.
perhaps just the tips of mysteries exist
or even desires well before the thoughts
that sometimes simply blow by like the wind.

19. fireworks display

the first time I saw Julia
my sword trembled at the gate of her castle
and I dreamt of shouts and serene tempests
and the towers crumbled into ruins
and nights put on displays of fireworks
and blind men deciphered moons
the second time I saw Julia
the rustling of animals in the park was gone
and the fountains unleashed mud and thunder
and ships wrecked in the mirror of the waters
and the seas aborted fishes
the third time I saw Julia
her car pulled up in front of the building
and the beggars opened up beneath the marquees
and the insects silenced the most prosaic rain
in the world

20. on nature

I never knew how to be civilized,
at most I might manage simulations.
in my breast the savannahs are savage
they’re aflame and for names they have heart:
in pieces I hurl myself toward the sky
against any force that’s oppressing me.
I’m my own solar system and sunflower.
in amorous matters I don’t self-suffice
sphere of the heavens to which I aspire.
to be disconcerted is part of me now.
I renounce the art of taking life apart
everything that doesn’t fit.
I’ve no idea who says my part for me
but yes that voice is similar to mine
and there I sometimes recognize myself
just like the moon goes spinning on its course

21. the non quixote

yes the human race has always pleased me,
however displeasing their customs may be.
I like human beings sans the armor
of concepts of how to proceed,
to sip the sky the salt one’s beloved.
I’m at variance with all circumstances.
one breath leads me to inebriation
in the moonlight of the lamps they turn on
inside all the people.
when they don’t turn them on, I am darkness
I dare to navigate the darkest seas
between dementia and melancholy
till I can dock at the berth of some verse,
I can choose some goddess to comfort me,
I’ll rush to make utopia my own lance
to be able to rush all the windmills
even knowing that I will be undone
returned to the dust of the universe.

22. Plato’s Anti-Heaven

a heaven exists where reside the beloved
whom the heart disinvented
a place where words of love wander
remainders of sun, solitude
echoes of speech made louder by passion
undone in the dust of time made ashen:
love is the greatest good that exists in me
love is the greatest evil that exists
love is of the greatest good
love is of loss, love is of gain
in this labyrinth-heaven, my beloved,
my shadow does wander forever
between ghosts of celebration and of pain

23. Summa Theologica

The only thing I learned was to seek
behind the rose the idea of the rose.
I found no signs of metaphysics
except in my graceful beloved
and in three or four enigmas,
insignias of an unrevealed mystery.
I know that buildings will crumble,
that hearts invent their own rubble
or, to the contrary, they lay bases
in flowers.
in sum, the world turns, flowers expand
and any old time comprehends the idea
          of what’s fleeting
and of the eternal

24. the erosions of Eros

my face wearing away and effacing
to erosions of time goes conforming.
I’ll not make poetic proclamations
of ignorance of the eternal stranger
facing me in the mirror’s lamination.
it’s surely no use to seek out angles
which show fewer marks of the journey:
fifty-two winters have already passed.
or springtimes? I don’t know, I’ve lost count.
(I won’t lose the tempo of the poem
just to remember the other seasons.)
perhaps I’ve approached crepuscular time,
there where chronos can no longer be invented.
but I feel an inner creeping, or a
a passion that blooms and has aims on the
a flower that dreams of spring and aspires
       to the skies
and yet seems the aurora

25. belle de toujours

I loved you for so many light years
for clandestinations plotted perhaps
by some gods, if gods there are in the universe.
I know we shared so many farewells
that I can’t say if there were five or six.
I stole from you my very best verse,
which I can remember as if it still
touched the very fleshiness of all words:
if it were mine, memory would not serve.
we would spend the mornings and afternoons
devouring each other in hanging gardens
of love, usually in the Hawaii Hotel.
then you departed, off to spin in the
other spheres of a bigger better world.
the taste of you remains here in my mouth
in the vain architecture of my heaven

26. conspiracies

something comes loose from my body
          and takes flight
not fitting in the frame of my sky.
I’m shipwrecked in the firmament.
the winds of poetry lead me beyond my self
the sun does warm me
          stars provide me support
Odysseus in the suburbs of the galaxy.
love is what knows me and what remains
another shipwrecked castle
as so many that the force of my dreams
wished to transform in cathedrals.
illusions? I’ve still got two plus half-a-score.
conspiracies of love, perhaps no more

27. the message of the goddess

she danced amongst the sequins in the sun
offering the heavens of her nudity,
and I, ever wanting to probe the improbable
and having a contradictory heart,’`
stood up from my own non-throne
and from my heights of what’s always not-known
I stripped myself of all auroras
and I saw that life would like to live now
and that she was the answer to a dream
that I had never dreamed,
the maritime-matter in which I, navigator,
see myself converted in winds and sails,
I get up like a gust,
and my place to moor must be never more.

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