Five Poems

 

Street art, São Paulo, Brazil. Photo: Mínimo, Unsplash.

Editor’s Note: These poems are available exclusively in English and Portuguese. Click here to read in Portuguese.


 

The Clown                                 

he twirls and cracks up laughing
at his poor drab life
gangly he leaps, jokingly
he kisses slutty men

plays dress up, camouflages pain
in smeared makeup
on his mind marchinha
bands cheers and streamers

empty after four days of
short and colorful happiness
he traces a melancholic smile
yanks off his tie and cries

 

 

Liquid Thoughts

he likes thoughts
in wordform
written or spoken

strained through supple lips
plugged up in ears with
verblike viscosity

he spews canned speeches
with a measly drop
of seventy proof liquor

bar philosophies suspicious
glances ideologies long
expired forgotten at

rock bottom of a poet’s glass
logic be damned
liquified

 

 

Espresso Poem

i beg your pardon
if i may recite a little poem
from the old school

i need a man cigarette
tenderness weed book and
a cup of piping hot sex

whip up a double Carioca
full-bodied strong and steamy
hold the sweetener

but a teaspoon of sugar
yes, to go, and a shot of poet
please

 

 

Lyrics

i found a scratch
on the record i sensed
your guilt

but it was better to
pretend i thought
quietly mouth shut

withstanding assaults
struggles marking
my skin for days on end

i cried humiliated
by a tiny bit
of love

nothing
but scratches
the music lacked

harmony with each
verse wearing down
wearing weary

until the needle breaks
and i? scared
to touch the record player

waiting
for a useless fix
i try

too tired
to sing i screamed
your name

timeworn melody

 

 

How to Exorcise Monsters & Demons

for Ronaldo Serruya and Fabiano de Freitas

repeat after me:
i am not a virus
come on repeat:

i am not a

virus

i tell people i am insane so that those who are afraid of crazies don’t
get close to me
Leão told me     

i have adopted the same method
to living with hiv

promiscuous perverted fag
i collect labels and toss them in with the fine print patient pamphlets
that fill my dresser drawers

at least i have managed to understand
who i am amidst the cd4 tally and virus count in my blood that
they use to classify me

undetectable

i can fuck without a condom and not infect anyone
affirm the doctors

infect not contaminate, i relearned to say
as well as how you shouldn’t say aids carrier
a word snarled in stigmas
my mother[’s]
tongue is infected with hiv-aids

Not her tongue, but my ass—Copi bellows through Carrera’s mouth
with his difficulty of self-expression that still reverberates in my ears

it’s my ass!

velvet muscle sung by Piva
hindmost-vows-devil’s-backdoor

i have exorcised monsters &
demons
on the daily
with valiant prayer

i placed my biases on the altar

watched them, prayed
to later curse them each one
in tears for three years

until I vomited them up in shamanic rituals
scouring myself inside and out
full of fear

becoming creaturely
a jaguar that licks its own wounds
or a two-headed snake
injecting the cure

while i participated in my own wake
without tear or candle
and left my library in Marona’s name

how many deaths in this discursive epidemic?
40 million deaths worldwide

disguised as a beggar Dionysian danced with me to poetry cosmic and nameless
I used to trim back my fears with throat slits
                                                                                  and slice off
bits of my desire to single out     

                                                                      culprits

Dolutegravir Sodium + Tenofovir Fumarate + Lamivudine
Caio + Leonilson + Cazuza (better this way)
at noon on an empty stomach

keeping time in pills
my body becomes clogged with toxins

still we count the dead
smiling even

trying to believe in the chronicity of days
reinventing narratives

strolling along with the incendiary fear
of Al Berto
Perlongher’s songs of illusion

and the viral language of Burroughs
on nights of maritime
insomnia

Translated by Heath Wing

“The Clown,” “Liquid Thoughts,” “Espresso Poem,” and “Lyrics” from Vinis mofados (2009)

“How to Exorcise Monsters & Demons” from A porta de trás do paraíso (forthcoming)
 

 

Heath Wing, a West Texas native, received a PhD from Texas Tech University in 2015. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Spanish at North Dakota State University. He translates for contemporary Latin American writers and poets from Spanish and Portuguese. His work has appeared in magazines and journals such as Fishousepoems, Brooklyn Rail, The Common, Asymptote, Waxwing, and Hinchas de Poesía. His translations also appear in the anthology of contemporary Brazilian writers titled Becoming Brazil: New Fiction, Poetry, and Memoir (MANOA).

Languages

Megan McDowell in LALT No. 21
Number 21

In our twenty-first issue, we shine a spotlight on translation with a cover feature dedicated to Megan McDowell, the translator of many of Latin America’s best-known contemporary writers. Other features include a dossier of literary voices from Bolivia and a full set of fiction, poetry, essays, and interviews, plus exclusive translation previews and writing by Indigenous poets of the Wayuu, Shuar, and Quechua peoples.

Cover photo: Sebastián Escalona

Table of Contents

Editor's Note

Featured Translator: Megan McDowell

Dossier: Bolivian Literature

Brazilian Literature

Fiction

Poetry

Essays

Interviews

From World Literature Today

Indigenous Literature

Translation Previews and New Releases

Nota Bene