Why must a person go through life, or even a day, with the same name? Shades of blue are worth decades of study. In a “pompous” world full of “certainties”, this vision shows us larger possibilities. If too much wonder is almost imperfect, do we want to be more, or less imperfect? Read and wonder.
— Mani Rao
The Bombay Literary Magazine
As an immigrant in Brazil, translation helps me delve into cultural nuances that are at once particular and universal. Take, for instance, the anti-ideological and humanist sentiments in Fabrício Marques’s poem ‘Surplus value’ or the relatable depersonalization of being that comes through the male narrator in ‘Totem for Homo Zapping’ who changes his personality throughout the day as though someone changing television channels. The translation of this set of Fabrício Marques Brazilian-Portuguese poems has come through several drafts involving research such as on the place Pampulha in the poem ‘Lake’ or the academic context of ‘Titian Blue’ to get a better sense of these. The language mediations involved addition of punctuation and capitalization for the narrative flow, translation of Brazilian names (such as João into John), and preference of words from the available range of synonyms that retained not only the original alliteration from the Brazilian-Portuguese but also the tension between the poetic and the prosaic of the colloquial phrases in the poems.
— Shelly Bhoil
A Totem for Homo Zapping
I wake up as John, go to the John market, the John ride
but John only until a certain point:
just out in the middle of the street and my name is Nasser.
I tell tales, manoeuvre words
and soon after they call me Herodotus.
I am Herodotus until I am exhausted.
From eight to nine, I am Mwaka
and in the next hour at the job of Zanchi.
I go to the left in pursuit of some fruit—preferably red.
I take a breather in a park like Chang,
I am Chang on my guard.
I go to work and my colleagues greet me:
“Hello, Górki! Bye, Górki!”
At breakfast, the attendant remembers me as Xerxes.
The market is restless, the exchange rate fluctuates when they learn I am Zeki.
At six in the night, Brasilia time, I take leave as
It’s bizarre for men to go through existence
[carrying but just one name.
I frequent bars telling about my feats, my name now is
The Corvette hisses on the asphalt.
Lights, free and buoyant, flash in the distance,
lights, buoyant and free, beckon me (my name is Raoni).
From Raoni to Quiroga, it’s just a jump,
in the waltzing loop at the ball.
In a matter of no time, I am Gale
who plays the accordion and is complacent.
At home they welcome me as Histeu,
tomorrow is Sunday, a flowering of uncertainty.
Outside, the lizards take in the wobblers.
Under this roof, I am also known as Jimmy,
but you can also call me Abraham
until the dream begins, I pass out and call myself Hades.
To not lose count:
I am John Nasser Herodotus Mwaka Zanchi Chang Górki
. [Xerxes Zeki Ximenes Baltazar
. /Raoni Quiroga Gale Histeu Jimmy Abraham Hades
I am some
I am some and the others at your disposal
I fuel the firewood
in this beautiful conversation
around the heat of life
I repair the flames
that depart without an aim
and call me by name
These men standing
along perennial glaciers
ceaselessly repeat their certitudes
which too are perennial.
The car is worth more than a symphony
The knife is worth more than poetry
The shares in the stock exchange are worth more than the clouds
The missile is worth more than a bunch of grapes.
And if a composer tells them that
the most certain of all things
is not worth a path under the sun,
they won’t have a clue
what the composer is talking about.
And they stand solemn, solemn under the blinding light,
choosing the car, the knife, the shares and the missile.
But I choose to be the rain
that slowly dissolves,
fiber by fiber,
Pampulha∗. Pampulha. Pampulha.
The bird flies adrift, yes, the red one
to the left of those who seek too much
because too much wonder is almost imperfect
Far away, it appears, the moon shines
on the surface of the lake, leaves stir,
and it is now that in the opposite side dives in
the bird, distracting those who don’t perceive
the discreet gesture of farewell by the recluses
who throw themselves into their old waters.
∗ Pampulha is an administrative region in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, known for its famous lake.
With the certainty that
nothing is more human than blue
(there are controversies)
the anthropologist studied
the Titian blues
for 30 years in Venice.
He became a specialist in blues.
At first look, I recognized
the blue sky of Madrid
And the nuances that set it apart
from the May sky of Belo Horizonte.
Between more than 100 shades
of blue, one could say:
this fish is cerulean, the sea is lapis lazuli
this plant is prussian blue
(the same blue
from Picasso’s Blue Period).
One could differentiate the shades of blue
more intense than aqua blue.
Now, so many decades later,
one has the necessary conviction to affirm,
above all authority:
decidedly, this blue belongs
to the Titian blues.
Fabrício Marques (b.1965) is an award-winning Brazilian writer. His poetry books include Samplers (2000), Meu pequeno fim (2002), A fera incompletude (2013), and A máquina de existir (2018). His first book won Bahia’s Cultural Foundation of Literature Award in 1998. Throughout his writing career, which also includes books in other genres, Fabrício was thrice chosen as finalist in the Jabuti Award, one of the most prestigious literary awards in Brazil. He has also edited the bilingual (Spanish-Portuguese) anthology titled Fuera del alcance de la memoria – Fora do alcance da memória with Vallejo & Co (Peru) in 2019.
Shelly Bhoil (translator)
Shelly Bhoil is an Indian poet and scholar on Tibet, and lives in Brazil. Her poetry books are published in English An Ember from Her Pyre (2016), in Brazilian Portuguese Preposição de entendimento (2023) and a pocket-book in Spanish Poemas em contrucción (2023). She has edited two reference books Tibetan Subjectivities on the Global Stage (2018) and New Narratives of Exile Tibet (2020) for Lexington Books besides the first collection of Tibetan exile poetry in Brazilian-Portuguese translation Testemunho poético dos tibetanos no exílio (2021) for the University of São Paulo.