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Poetry


 

"On High" by Paulo Henriques Britto
    (translated from the Portuguese by Idra Novey)

"I Have Been Calling Them" and "Faders" by Vivian Demuth


Paulo Henriques Britto
    (Translated from the Portuguese by Idra Novey)


On High

I
Even the world doesn’t fit
within the slender space
consigned to it.

All things overflow their borders.
(And so the taut angst of armchairs,
the ashamed cry of faucets.)

Not only you, poet, suffer from
the stingy work of demiurges.
Even the gods write twisted lines.

Still, one has to attempt. For instance:
“Night is a deep backpack.”
No, not backpack. Maybe bat cave?

Not that either. Far too wild,
too tiresome, again. And the night,
plainly, is no longer a child.

II
Careful, poet: time fattens the soul.
After a certain number of pages
angels no longer rise between the lines.
And even reason, that modern thing
wears out as well, like any coin.

Having a meaning is a risky game,
and can’t be resolved in a single dice throw.
The precision of a gesture alone isn’t enough.
Even the most catlike movement is nothing
without the ballast of existence, that

tired thing, with its texture too thick
to pass through the timid sieve
of pale poetry, that ancient thing.
Time is scarce. The dictionary is fat.
Careful: no silence is ever enough.


Brazilian poet Paulo Henriques Britto was born in Rio de Janeiro in 1951. His third collection of poems, Trovar Claro, received Brazil’s equivalent of the National Book Award, and his fourth book, Macau, won the Portugal Telecom Prize. Britto is also one of Brazil’s principal translators of British and American literature. His translations include works by E.L. Doctorow, Henry James, V.S. Naipaul, Thomas Pynchon, Wallace Stevens, and Elizabeth Bishop. He currently teaches at the Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro.
Poet and translator Idra Novey is the author of the poetry collection,
The Next Country. Her poems and prose appear or are forthcoming in The Paris Review, Ploughshares, The Literary Review, and The Believer, as well as the poetry anthology, Third Rail. The poem, "On High," is reprinted here in translation, by permission of the translator, from the new book, The Clean Shirt Of It (2007, Boa Editions, www.boaeditions.org), a bilingual collection of Paulo Henriques Britto's poems in Idra Novey's translation which received a PEN Translation Fund Award.



Vivian Demuth

I Have Been Calling Them

For a long time I have been calling them without reply
I smell them in the DNA hills of my boreal bed
I see them waiting on a black forest coat of male arms
I hear them arguing, tongues flying in Native winds
I rub their dark feathers dipped in a dry Alberta stream
As I write in the rocky darkness to talk with them

For a long time I have been calling them without response
And after I saw the twirling Precision helicopter crash
After I ran downhill into the smell of crushed metal and dreams
After I touched a cold firefighter's blue-winged lips
with the erratic cry of my breath, then I called them again
while walking alone in logged woods and for once
the giant ravens croaked and lifted me
as we listened to our breath alight in tall evergreens



Faders*
--for Anna Politkovskaya

What fades?
Evergreens, survivors of chain-linked
generations of logging, now a cemetery
of vertical bones with marrow devoured
by defrosted mobs of mountain beetles.
Dry pine trees, fragile, faded red
like splattered blood of hunted journalists
marked in blinding daylight of corruption
and wars. The paper dollar skin of a million
carved trees changes hands to kill or save
a forest, to pay the salary of a determined
investigative reporter or to complete
the handshake of a prearranged hit.
When the deal is done, baked winds
blow tinder needles into the world’s circular
currents where the sad news is read by ever-
globalizing children scavenging through
trashed newspapers. This is the hazardous
graveyard, dumped skeletons of trees and
journalists, the unpredictable resting place
from which a thoughtful spark has potential,
in spite of death, to melt and release
a thousand tender seedlings.


*Faders is a forestry term for pine-beetle-infested pine trees
 

Vivian Demuth is a Canadian poet and fiction writer, whose first novel, Eyes of the Forest, was recently published by Smoky Peace Press (www.smokypeacepress.com)  She is also the author of a poetry collection, Breathing Nose Mountain (www.poetspath.com/exhibits/viviandemuth).  For the last fifteen years, she has worked summers as a fire lookout in the boreal forest of Alberta, Canada, where she hosts an annual Poetry on the Peaks events.  In recent winters, she has lived in New York, where she has taught creative writing and worked in an outreach center for the city's homeless.  

 


Logos 6.3 - summer 2007
© Logosonline 2007