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PHILOKALIA

 

For the monk,

the solemnity

of the body.

 

Beneath silence,

our anxieties find the serenity

of the amaryllis.

 

 For every prophet,

a city of God:

Moses removed his sandals

and climbed Mount Sinai.

 

He was the first alpinist

of the holy.

 

In the mystical, what's translated

is the divine voice.

 

There are caverns in me,

and paradise is wild.

 

 

NUMEN

 

                                    for Regina Celi Mendes Pereira

 

Knowing yourself to be dust of the void:

the sea is immense,

and your eyes indigent.

 

Nothing

is as certain as the theory of the fall.

Nothing

as fundamental as the freedom of Eve.

We are

children of that woman.

 

 

CONFLICTS 

 

I lived with myself

as if the sound of my name

were an origami

in the aurora of cedar.

 

I'd lost myself

as if the fall were

one of marble,

and in the good that came to me,

I'd lost all direction.

 

The curve,

the terrible blow,

the presage

of an illusion.

 

It was full of hail,

the tempest

that wounded me

then vanished.

 

It was poetic,

the body that endured

and then became

a metaphor.

 

It was a saber

in its sheath, my desire

for any road

that turned away from facts,

 

as if, with the lethargy

of the skeptic, I could wake

without believing

in the hideousness

of bestial cellars.

 

 

WHAT WE DO NOT POSSESS 

 

Sonorous is solitude, and sonorous

the silence, sonorous

the flesh of the ghetto

and sonorous the mouth

searching for words

that open in eyelids.

  

In the ephemeral,

where the eternal copulates

with the void

and androids deify sensation

with consumer goods,

 

it's left to the poet, condemned

to the drunkenness of words,

to make allusions to the house

we do not possess.

 



Original ↓

PHILOKALIA

 

Para o monge,

a solenidade do corpo.

 

Sob o silêncio

as inquietudes ganham

a serenidade do amarílis.

 

Para cada profeta

uma cidade de Deus:

Moisés tirava as sandálias

e subia o Sinai.

 

Ele foi o primeiro alpinista

do sagrado.

  

No místico, traduz-se

a voz do divino.

 

Há cavernas em mim

e o paraíso é selvagem.

 

 

 

NÚMEN

 

                  Para Regina Celi Mendes Pereira

 

Saber-se poeira do vazio: o mar é imenso

e os olhos, indigentes.

 

Nada

é tão preciso quanto a teoria da queda.

Nada

é tão originário quanto a liberdade de Eva.

Somos

filhos daquela.

 

 

 

CONFLITOS 

 

Eu habitava comigo

como se a sonoridade do meu nome

fosse um origami

na aurora de cedro.

 

Eu me perdera de mim

como se a queda

fosse de mármore

e no bem que ganhara

perdesse a direção.

 

A curva,

o baque,

o presságio

de uma ilusão.

 

Era de granizo

a procela que feriu

e depois partiu.

  

Era poético

o corpo que suportou

e depois metaforizou.

  

Era um sabre

no bolso a vontade

de qualquer estrada

que desapontasse as evidências,

 

como se na letargia

dos céticos, pudesse

acordar sem acreditar

na fealdade

dos porões bestiais.

 

 

 

 

O QUE NOS FALTA

 

Sonora é a solidão, sonoro

o silêncio, sonora

a carne do gueto

e sonora é a boca

em busca de palavras

que se abram em pálpebras.

 

No efêmero,

onde o eterno

copula com o vazio

e androides deificam a sensação

em bens de consumo,

 

cabe ao poeta, condenado

à embriaguez do verbo,

fazer alusões à casa

que nos falta.

 

 

Translator's Note

Reading these poems in the original language, I felt the contemplative –  indeed the monastic – silence that anchors the poet's syntax.

In conversing with Tito Leite about his poetry, I wanted to make sure I was being faithful to the fundamental paradox of his compelling, abstract and deeply spiritual work: a clarity of thought that achieves profound ambiguity.

One of the challenges I faced as a translator was to keep the line as stripped-down, or as efficient, as possible, without embellishing, even though English often demands a bit more language. I knew that, on occasion, English would inevitably ask for those extra syllables or perhaps more context – but I tried to keep close to the original silence of the poem. 

Tito Leite and I have never met face-to-face; we've communicated only through digital messaging and, of course, through poetry. But we have an interesting connection. About twenty years ago, there was an exhibit of Brazilian art at the Guggenheim in New York City, where I was living. One of the pieces on display was an imposing, golden, Catholic altar that had been transported all the way from Brazil to the lobby of the museum. 

When, just recently, the poet and I began communicating about his work and about my translations, he explained to me that his monastery is the Benedictine monastery in the town of Olinda. The altar before which Tito Leite prays every day is the very altar I happened to see at the Guggenheim all those years ago. 

I took it, of course, as a sign.


Johnny Lorenz

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