How to recognize the road: three more poems by Cecília Meireles

Cecília Meireles
This entry is part 9 of 38 in the series Poetry from the Other Americas



A small gesture would be enough,
made lightly and from a distance
for you to come with me
and for me to hold you forever…

Basta-me um pequeno gesto
feito de longe e de leve
para que venhas comigo
e eu para sempre te leve…



For me, and for you, and for the others
wherever the others are,
I’m leaving the raging sea and the quiet sky:
I want solitude.

My road is without a sign and without a landscape.
So how do you recognise it? — they ask.
— By the absence of words, the absence of images.
Not a single enemy and not a single friend.

What do you need? — Everything. What do you want? — Nothing.
I travel alone with my heart.
I’m not wandering lost, merely un-met.
I carry my course in my hand.

Memory has flown from my head.
Flown my love, my imagination…
Maybe I’ll fade before the horizon.
Memory, love and all the rest, where are they?

Here I leave my body, between earth and sky.
(I kiss you, my body, all disillusioned!
Sad flag of a strange war…)

I want solitude.


Por mim, e por vós, e por mais aquilo
que está onde as outras coisas nunca estão,
deixo o mar bravo e o céu tranqüilo:
quero solidão.
Meu caminho é sem marcos nem paisagens.
E como o conheces? — me perguntarão.
— Por não ter palavras, por não ter imagens.
Nenhum inimigo e nenhum irmão.

Que procuras? — Tudo. Que desejas? — Nada.
Viajo sozinha com o meu coração.
Não ando perdida, mas desencontrada.
Levo o meu rumo na minha mão.

A memória voou da minha fronte.
Voou meu amor, minha imaginação…
Talvez eu morra antes do horizonte.
Memória, amor e o resto onde estarão?

Deixo aqui meu corpo, entre o sol e a terra.
(Beijo-te, corpo meu, todo desilusão!
Estandarte triste de uma estranha guerra…)

Quero solidão.

Film by Swoon (Marc Neys) in memory of his mother, using the above translation and reading. Read Marc’s process notes on his blog.



Allow me to close my eyes,
I’m so far away and it’s so late!
I thought you were merely delayed,
and I began to wait for you, singing.
Allow me to change now:
adapt myself to being alone.
There’s a soft light in the silence, and the pain is of divine origin.
Allow me to turn my face towards a sky bigger than this world,
and let me learn to be as docile in dreams as the stars in their wandering.


Permita que eu feche os meus olhos,
pois é muito longe e tão tarde!
Pensei que era apenas demora,
e cantando pus-me a esperar-te.
Permita que agora emudeça:
que me conforme em ser sozinha.
Há uma doce luz no silencio, e a dor é de origem divina.
Permita que eu volte o meu rosto para um céu maior que este mundo,
e aprenda a ser dócil no sonho como as estrelas no seu rumo.


Read the earlier post: “Contrary Moon: three poems by Cecília Meireles


poem ending with lines from Natalie d’Arbeloff’s
translation of “Motivo” by Cecília Meireles

Bamboo can be food, its tender shoots
stripped and swirled in flavorful hot
oils in a basin of well-seasoned steel.
It can be nourishing, bamboo.

Bamboo can be a habitat, a refuge
of tall green pillars, camouflage
safety, welcome shack with shade.
It can be sufficient home, bamboo.

Bamboo can be long tubes, dried
and cut, angled beneath the splashing
of the fountain or the roof, accepting
in its hollowness, directing water’s journey.
It can be a flowing pipe, bamboo.

Bamboo can be lumber, cut and dried
and tied, a fence to keep the garden
safe at home, a ladder for the beans
and roses climbing upward for the sun.
It can create a paradise, bamboo.

And yet, the ones that speak, when they
speak of bamboo, they do not talk of
new growth in loving terms, slanted braids
in glazed ceramic pots, their overlapping
angles secured in ribbon-gold —
it can be beautiful, bamboo —

but rather of a war, of daily sweat,
of stomping each new shoot
that emerges in the yard, of broken
mowers, of heavier metals, of
trying new solutions to repel
this invasive enemy, bamboo.

Nourishing, sufficient home,
a flowing pipe, a paradise,
this lucky-braided beautiful —
it is not welcome here, bamboo.

But those who listen can still
hear it whisper as it grows:

I sing because the moment exists
and my life is complete.

And one day I know that I’ll be mute:
— that’s all.

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…