Bloody Sun (Flat Lands) by Salgado Maranhāo

BOMB 102 Winter 2008
102 Winter 2008 Body

Discover MFA Programs in Art and Writing

For: Cineas Santos
Sérgio Natureza

1.

To return to the desolate shelter
of the flat
                   lands.
To return to the borders
of the word (larva ravenous,
a repressed roar)
that witnesses
from the pantry
the raping of existence.

To return to the atavistic soil
where madmen
                             laugh
in the shadows of the mist.

And—the bard—to break
the border,
               tear the hymen
of language
                               that traps
in its web
the tenants of astonishment.

What moves the legend
is the fire’s blaze,
the undefeated ray
fertilizing stone itself.

I tell of what is inscribed
on the unapproachable
like the moon flying
with the lake.
I tell of what the canines
tell in the time of crotalus.

To return to the ravenous
roar of the word.

 

2.

My home is the name
that blossoms the indomitable.

The physical word
in my disemboweled howl. My
home is to own
                             myself.

And to weave
—in a chapter of the flesh—
the wandering breath;

And to burn
beneath the sleep of time
and its lyric of debris

Withdrawn to playful
arteries
I listen to memory sing
in the living room of dry lagoons.

Insular and ascetic the fleeting
seed of markings
                                   holds me
in its mystery.

Far
is the flower that speaks through a restraint
that overflows.
And through a homicidal heat the wind
listens to, growing silent.

From the obliterated docks of waiting
nights keep vigil to the clashing
of African drums.

My home is my skin.

From cockfights
in which salt
gives water muscles

Comes the sun—
and the blackest black
mated to the flesh;
and mills for grinding sugar cane
and men in supplication;
and impositions of the whip
and centuries
of untangling phonemes
to add to the boil.

To me with whom they sailed their way
to the sea of
              the Antilles, lacerated.

 

3.

I recognize myself in the white
that welcomes the trail
of my words. In the murmur
of syllables that work
my woven cloth: a birth
like gathered grain without a monogram
or made in… .

—To be born was to domesticate
the stones.

Slowly the flesh exhorts
the poem,
its memory of cactuses.

Behold the words learned
in the desert; behold the fingers
blossoming poison
beneath the flowers.

(Oh the vertigo of thorns!)

Each breath is the night
fencing
with its wing of summer; each time of rut
is the alphabet
freeing the gesture from its fetters.

My legs inscribe
the brown patina
of turbid waters. Rivers
(ruminant) soiled with clay
and thirst.

Something forging me
this language of prisms,
sheaves of light that thicken
the expanding face of the dream.

Or furrows in days
without distinction: chiseling at
the mist. And maul
and lash, and lilies like islands
to the gaze—stray dart—
of the labor of my exiles.

Translated from the Portuguese by Alexis Levitin.

Alexis Levitin’s 25th book of translations, Astrid Cabral’s Cage, will be published by Host Publications in April. Earlier books include Clarice Inspector’s Soulstorm and Eugenio de Andrade’s Forbidden Words (both published by New Directions). A recipient of two NEA translation fellowships and two Fulbright Lectureships, Levitin has placed translations in more than two hundred magazines.


Salgado Maranhão won Brazil’s prestigious Prèmio Jabuti in 1999 for his book Mural of the Winds. In addition to six books of poetry, including The Snake’s Fists and The Kiss of the Beast, he has written song lyrics and made recordings with some of Brazil’s leading jazz and pop musicians. These poems—his first to appear in the US—are drawn from his recent collection Bloody Sun.

Four Poems by Adélia Prado
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I got on the bus and saw that my seat was at the end of the aisle, next to a very pretty blonde. Typical blonde girl’s freckles under her eyes. She was wearing a black sweater and blue velvet pants. Her seat was next to the window.

Originally published in

BOMB 102, Winter 2008

Featuring interviews with the Campana Brothers, Cao Guimaraes and Marila Dardot, Ernesto Neto, OsGemeos, Bernardo Carvalho, Francisco Alvim, Lygia Fagundes Telles and Manuel Alegre, Karim Ainouz, Arnaldo Antunes, and Paulo Mendes Da Rocha.

Read the issue
102 Winter 2008 Body