Translation: At Our Feet. 49 Poets Respond to Ana Cristina Cesar

I am living hour by hour, with so much fear.
One day I won’t suffer — bit by bit I’ll stop suffering, I’ll go on safari.

— Ana Cristina Cesar

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I first came across Ana Cristina Cesar (1952-1983) years ago in a photo of a friend’s apartment with a pile of books of his to-read list. It was hard to avoid: the Brazilian edition is eye-catchingly fluorescent in pink and blue.
—Have you heard of her?
—No…
I’d almost certainly seen the influence of her poetry: she was included in the 1976 anthology that defined the so-called Marginal Poets and the poetry written in her short life certainly feels very present in Brazilian poetry today.
A nossos pés (At Our Feet, a play on her book A teus pés, At Your Feet) is written in response to her work and brings together poems by 47 Brazilian and two non-Brazilian poets. Six of them that I’ve translated here. Elsewhere Leonardo Gandolfi constructs a biography and bibliography based on the question “what if”, Heitor Ferraz Melo responds to her death, Carlos Augusto Lima takes a walk with her around Lagoa, Micheliny Verunschk seems to follow her style, Marília Garcia puts the lines of A teus pés in alphabetical order, Ricardo Aleixo samples her, my poem is based on my fascination with her outsider’s insight into student life at a university in the East of England.

ana
—    Tarso de Melo

among the poet’s wreckage, notebooks thrown on the fire
and half-finished translations (as if between one language and another
the poem had fought back), the neighbours are calling for your eviction

but don’t worry, Ana, bit by bit poetry detaches itself
from photos, from your eyes, breaks the hidden grille of your handwriting
comes back from its travels, resists the invitations at the last window

“poetry can’t wait”? yes, it can, years, maybe decades,
in the rayban silence, trapped in the family album, the loose strand
of a girl’s hair, a bridge in the landscape – but then it jitters

: it is already too much for the ear, it doesn’t fit inside the eye,
it slips from your fingers to return to the mass grave it lives off
– and escapes, without a word, a thread of blood on the gums


slow
—    Rita Isadora Pessoa

I swap hymen
for a he-man
like swapping
one phoneme

.                         for another

.                         my skin
.                         for another

.                         flower

written in the vicinity
.                         of natural catastrophes


Postcard
—    Ruy Proença

in my country there are palm trees. I don’t want to die without you and me spending a summer afternoon at the zoo, a winter afternoon at the planetarium. I leave behind thought and travel the whole world. people always think they’re Fernando Pessoa. or the opposite. I’m from an age when travel is departure. Pedra Sonora, Uruguay, Amsterdam, London, Ireland, Wales, Spain, the US, Paraguay, Maranhão, Bahia, Pernambuco, Ceará, Bariloche, Buenos Aires, Búzios, Brasília, Campos do Jordão, Rome, Paris, Santiago, São Paulo, Portsmouth and, above all, Rio and Niterói where I was born. this is my small world, my exile. my country is wherever I’m not. I live. I live pretending. I pretend to live. poetry is a lie. I don’t want to die before seeing previously unseen meteors kiss impotently. I don’t want to die without trying glasses for colour blindness. I don’t want to die before my therapy notebook is full. I don’t want to. and if I die before I’ll never see the moon close up. I outlive. I outpretend. it seems there’s a way out just here where I thought all roads ended. a way out of life. now you’re getting here, I don’t need to rob myself anymore.


misunderstanding
—    Júlia Studart

from this close you
seem a little
silly, vulgar
so I tell you
again:
.                         things die

but also it’s
that age where everything
begins, that
we break with
any misunderstanding

I already mistrusted
this bony nakedness

.                thinness

I repeat the line stolen
and crossed out on a
notepad,

.                                there is a love that takes holidays

I don’t have
any idea
how to excite
your body
today a cat
scratched me
and vanished
with the sole of
my left foot,
I woke up with an itch
on my hymen and no
wish to speak

now if everything
was no more than
a misunderstanding

.                                we can start another correspondence

if you really
insist, but I
won’t make any
guarantees, I make no
promises

.                                [death would be worse – I think,
.                                but it would be definitive]


a hummingbird bangs its head against the glass
—    Manoel Ricardo de Lima

someone screams in the middle of
the road – loud, so very loud. a
name. there’s fear in this. fear
when someone screams a name
so loud in the middle of the road. or
laziness when they write
a name down as acronym, number,
logo or favour. and vomit: a kind of
disgust, nausea

[ a compensation ]

there is delight and desire in speaking
a name. it can rip any
heart, in two. anonymous
name, no-one’s
name

to speak a name is to rip
the heart in two. it’s good
to think about this. how it would
be if they said something like
I know your handwriting. these
things we don’t know
well, these things we know
nothing about, not even askance

[ so many times this wish not
to die, ever ]

a kind of disgust, nausea, love
story, but one about love in
war and one that begins licking
from the foot up 


albatross
—    Paloma Vidal

they preferred
not to speak
ipanema beach
post 9
on the left
the 80s
that went by
without us noticing
a thing
they used to come
when my parents
travelled
against the flow
and who knows
from us
the beach packed
olha o mate
olha o biscoito
and we didn’t buy
a thing
the sandwiches
we’d brought
in a polystyrene box
the umbrella
the chairs
my grandparents sitting
silently
so as not
to give themselves
away
the 80s
went by
I didn’t see a thing
they preferred
not to speak
I learnt
the packed beach
the rough sea
my grandfather
who barely knew how
to swim
jumped in
and bobbed about
I ran
across the sand
calling
he didn’t hear
the sea took him
far away
I didn’t understand
from the sand
today
my children
call me
I prefer
not to speak
in the car
they want to know
“when you
were a kid”
I don’t know
if rather
than speaking
whether to jump in
and bob about
the blue covers everything
I am the blue
it’s like being
part
it’s like flying
in the water
it’s like being
in two places
at once
I drive silently
would like to say
the sign says
“albatross
bay”
they want to know
what is
an albatross
I say it’s
a bird
that looks
like it’s not made
to fly
but flies

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