Contrary Moon: three poems by Cecília Meireles

This entry is part 7 of 38 in the series Poetry from the Other Americas


Cecília MeirelesCecília Benevides de Carvalho Meireles (Rio de Janeiro, 1901–1964) was a Brazilian writer and educator, known principally as a poet. She is a canonical name of Brazilian Modernism, one of the great female poets in the Portuguese language, and is widely considered the best female poet from Brazil, though she combated the word poetess because of gender discrimination. Her style was mostly neo-symbolist and her themes included ephemeral time and the contemplative life. (Thanks, Wikipedia. Read the rest.)


I sing because the moment exists
and my life is complete.
I’m not happy and I’m not sad:
I’m a poet.

Fraternal to fleeting things
I feel neither pleasure or torment.
During all the nights and days
in the wind.

Whether I build or I destroy,
whether I continue or am undone,
— I don’t know, I don’t know. Don’t know if I’m staying
or passing through.

I know that I sing. And the song is everything.
It has eternal blood and rhythmic wings.
And one day I know that I’ll be mute:
— that’s all.


Eu canto porque o instante existe
e a minha vida está completa.
Não sou alegre nem sou triste:
sou poeta.

Irmão das coisas fugidias,
não sinto gozo nem tormento.
Atravesso noites e dias
no vento.

Se desmorono ou se edifico,
se permaneço ou me desfaço,
— não sei, não sei. Não sei se fico
ou passo.

Sei que canto. E a canção é tudo.
Tem sangue eterno a asa ritmada.
E um dia sei que estarei mudo:
— mais nada.



I didn’t have this face then,
so calm, so sad, so thin,
nor these eyes so empty
or these lips so bitter.

I didn’t have these hands so weak,
so still so cold so dead:
I didn’t have this heart
so hidden.

I didn’t expect this transformation,
so simple, so sure, so easy:
— In which mirror did I lose
my face?


Eu não tinha este rosto de hoje,
assim calmo, assim triste, assim magro,
nem estes olhos tão vazios,
nem o lábio amargo.

Eu não tinha estas mãos sem força,
tão paradas e frias e mortas;
eu não tinha este coração
que nem se mostra.

Eu não dei por esta mudança,
tão simples, tão certa, tão fácil:
– Em que espelho ficou perdida
a minha face?


Contrary Moon

I have phases, like the moon.
Phases to hide myself,
phases to walk the street…
I have phases of being yours,
and others of being solitary.

Phases which come and go,
in the secret calendar
invented for me
by an arbitrary astrologer.
And melancholy goes round and round
its interminable time-table!

I don’t connect with anyone
(I have phases like the moon…)
A day that someone is mine
is not the day that I am theirs…
And, when that day does arrive,
the other has disappeared.

Lua Adversa

Tenho fases, como a lua.
Fases de andar escondida,
fases de vir para a rua…
Perdição da minha vida!
Perdição da vida minha!
Tenho fases de ser tua,
tenho outras de ser sozinha.

Fases que vão e vêm,
no secreto calendário
que um astrólogo arbitrário
inventou para meu uso.

E roda a melancolia
seu interminável fuso!

Não me encontro com ninguém
(tenho fases como a lua…)
No dia de alguém ser meu
não é dia de eu ser sua…
E, quando chega esse dia,
o outro desapareceu…

Series Navigation← Five translators, one poem: dreaming about caimans with José Santos ChocanoGénesis doméstico / My Private Genesis by Teresa Calderón →


5 Replies to “Contrary Moon: three poems by Cecília Meireles”

  1. I’m so glad to discover Cecilia Meireles – moving and minimalist and so much to my taste! You seem to have the gift Dave has, Natalie, of translating in a way that looks completely simple and straightforward, but of course is not at all as easy as it looks – I can read Portuguese enough to see that.

    1. Thanks Jean. I was happy to discover her too, never having read any of the Brazilian poets. These three poems in particular instantly spoke to me and I confess that didn’t really have to make much effort to translate them. This is such an enjoyable project!

  2. Hi Natalie! I’m brazilian and love Cecília’s poems!
    Great job with the translations, congratulations!

    I would like to ask you if you happen to believe there’s any resemblance in her work with Emily Dickinson’s? If possible you comment a bit.


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