Two erotic poems by Carlos Drummond de Andrade
translated with original music by Tim Kahl
The Girl Reveals a Thigh
The girl reveals a thigh,
the girl reveals an ass cheek,
only she doesn’t show me that thing
— conch shell, beryl, emerald —
which blossoms, with four petals,
and contains the most sumptuous
pleasure, that hyperboreal zone,
a mixture of honey and asphalt,
a door sealed at the hinges
with a giddiness held captive,
a sacrificial altar without
the blood of the rite, the girl
doesn’t show me that thing.
And she is torturing me, this virgin
with her modesty making me dizzy
from the sudden blow struck
by a vision of her luminous breasts,
her pink and black beauty
that winds itself into a ball,
wrinkled, intact, inaccessible,
that opens, then closes, then takes flight
and this female animal, by laughing,
dismisses what I might have asked her about,
about what should be given and even beyond
given, what should be eaten.
Oh, how the girl kills me,
turns my life into one in which
all hope is consumed
by shadow and sparkle.
Rubbing up against her leg. The fingers
discover the slow, curving,
animal-like secrets, yet
they are the greatest mystery,
always crude, nocturnal,
the three-pronged key to the urn,
this concealed craziness, it doesn’t
give me anything to go on at all.
Before it never would have provoked me.
Living didn’t have a purpose,
the feelings walked around lost,
time wasn’t set loose
nor did death come to subject me
to the light of the morningstar,
which at this hour is already the first star,
violent, rising up like nausea
in the wild beasts at the zoo.
How I might know her skin,
where it is concave and convex,
her pores, the golden skin
of her belly! But her sex
has been kept a secret of the state.
How I might know the cold, dewy
meadow of her flesh,
where a snake rouses from sleep
and traces its path
back and forth, among all the tremors!
But what perfume would there be
in an unseen cave? what enchantment
what tightness, what sweetness,
what pure, pristine line
calls me and leads me away?
It might offer me all its beauty
and I would kiss or bite
and draw blood: I would.
But her pubis refuses me.
In the burning night, in the day
her thighs come together.
Like a deserted inn
closed on the inside by a latch,
her thighs seal themselves,
seclude themselves, save themselves,
and who said that
I could make her my slave?
I could debate this possibility
without a glimmer of hope for victory,
already her body erases itself,
already its glory tarnishes,
already I am made different by that thing
which wounds me on the inside,
and now I don’t know for certain
if my thirst was more ferocious because of
that thing of hers that I might have possessed.
There are other fountains, other hungers,
other thighs of other animals: the world is
vast and the forgetting profound.
Maybe today the girl in the daylight . . .
Maybe. For certain it never will be.
And if it hides itself away
with such fugues and arabesques
and such stubborn secrecy,
on what day will it open?
What would need to change for it to offer
itself to me on an already cold night,
its pink and black blossom in the snow,
never visited by me,
that boat carrying incense that I can’t board?
Or is there no boat carrying incense at all . . .
* * *
In the Sentimental Little Museum
In the sentimental little museum
the strands of hair are tied up again
in very slight knots of ribbon;
they are all that remains of the mounds
visited by me, the mounds of Venus.
I examine by touch, I fondle the dark flower
and the darkness continues into the complete
whiteness of time that is lost forever
in which I, poor shepherd, used to herd
perfumed curls of hair, the dark locks,
and the serpents of Christ’s Passion, brought together in
the mirror, well-suited for each other beneath this clear sky.
The lively movements in the past
get tangled in these strands that I spoke about
of those who are lost, panting,
born again with kisses that glide over
the abyss of flowers and resins.
I will be kissing the memories of these kisses.
Editors’ note: We were unable to contact the current copyright holders of the Brazilian Portuguese originals, “A Moça Mostrava A Coxa” and “No Pequeno Museu Sentimental”. We will of course be happy to accommodate their wishes should they ever decide to contact us.Carlos Drummond de Andrade (Wikipedia page) was born in Minas Gerais in 1902 to a family of farmers. He attended a Jesuit College in Belo Horizonte where he was expelled for “mental insubordination.” Eventually, he obtained a degree in pharmacy at the insistence of his family. In 1934 he moved to Rio de Janeiro where he decided on a career of public service and became the chief of staff for the minister of education. After that he worked as the director of history for the National Historical and Artistic Heritage Service of Brazil. He was a major influence on modern Brazilian poetry in the middle of the 20th Century, who experimented with poetic form and laid the foundation for the concrete poetry movement in Brazil. The two pieces here were taken from O Amor Natural [The Natural Love], a collection of erotic poetry that he did not wish to share with the public while he was alive. The book was published after his death in 1987.
Tim Kahl (website) is the author of Possessing Yourself (Word Tech, 2009). His work has been published in Prairie Schooner, Indiana Review, Ninth Letter, Notre Dame Review, The Journal, Parthenon West Review, and many other journals in the U.S. He appears as Victor Schnickelfritz at the poetry and poetics blog The Great American Pinup and the poetry video blog Linebreak Studios. He is also editor of Bald Trickster Press and is the vice president of The Sacramento Poetry Center. He currently teaches at The University of the Pacific.