Hormonal Snares

by Astrid Cabral.
Translated by Alexis Levitin.

You turn the corner
and no lascivious gaze
envelops you from breast to thigh.
On the peopled street no one
to arouse your instincts
and take an x-ray of your body.
You have gone from woman to person.
The mirror never lies.
For your part, you feel
disengaged from all entanglements
safe from passion and the jeopardy
of those hormonal snares.
But liberation does not bring exhilaration.
You are far still from an angel.

Death By Water

by Astrid Cabral.
Translated by Alexis Levitin.

The first time
no one saw the danger.
Even her mother smiled thinking
how dramatic that child is
and saw her once again beneath an acacia tree
swooning in pretended death.
How lucky that, responding to her cries,
an angel suddenly appeared among the leafy branches
to snatch her from the river’s navel.

The second time
the wall of the sea came crashing down
a shroud upon a mermaid’s silhouette.
But it was a time of courtly love and valorous
gestures. Without delay
two chivalric gentlemen rose from the sand
and astride the backs of waves
conquered the marine monster
in service to the damsel fair.

The third and last time
upon a breast shaken with sobs
eyes unleashed a flood.
It was her soul that died departing
with her son’s dark skiff headed back to clay.
This time there was no escape from foundering.
When her body floated up from
the abyss, it was a drifting corpse,
soul severed by the razor-edge of pain.

Familiarity

by Astrid Cabral.
Translated by Alexis Levitin.

No sooner do you touch the trophy
than the brightness dims.
Seize a star
and you will find between your fingers
a skeleton of battered tin.
Take the beloved from the castle
both crown and scepter will be lost.
Better leave the trophy
on the shelves of Olympus.
Let the star stay in its galaxy.
And let the loved one dwell among the clouds.
Familiarity defiles
and corrupts all things.
With the divine, distance
plays its part. Only the impossible
partakes of the celestial breath.

Ancient Scenario

by Astrid Cabral.
Translated by Alexis Levitin.

The outizeiro tree beside the wall
has only grown a bit.
There is more rust on the gate
and the house has gathered moss
along with streaks carved
by the plowshare of the rains.
In fact, nothing has changed.
But where are the tender words
(I thought eternal)
the caresses still timid
the ecstasy of discovery?
It is as if everything has
gone down the drain
and what we lived was nothing
but a dream or imagining.
You went away and now come back
like an afflicted soul,
one of those that prowled
the terrors of my childhood.
And so I say, get away from me, nostalgia,
leave no trace of me,
that bud blossoming beneath caresses.
Beside that wall, I now discover:
the heart is not mere muscle.
More than anything, it is a sepulcher.

The sphinx followed the footsteps of the wanderer

by Carmen Váscones.
Translated by Alexis Levitin.

The sphinx followed the footsteps of the wanderer
she conceived an enigma
she opened her palate with a slash
she circled the desert with her cries
engendered a tongue for someone absent
a strange displeasure touched her origins
she began to hear the echo of the craggy spring
separated from her name she asked herself who am I
she demolished indifference
for the first time a sob accompanied her gaze
the mirror never wished to be her confidant
the wind carried her voice towards exile
her appropriation of being announced what is hidden
the ghost of the act brought the path to light.
They saw themselves in the babbling of the spring
sonorous breath of a gesture like an accent
in the descent to the perverse she recognized the man
she fled into his arms
she bit into pleasure
he encircled her with tenderness.

Night whirls amongst flesh on flesh
the storm her music
they excavate her secret
their bodies an exodus.
Between the two a mortal intimacy.

Enigma anticipates its existence and its deciphering

by Carmen Váscones.
Translated by Alexis Levitin.

Enigma anticipates its existence and its deciphering
it comes before the sphinx itself and the solver of the riddle
it rests its feet in the orifice of illusion
while it professes from obscurity
the only chance for mortals
is to blunder and return.
It tells me of my future:
desire will be the ghost of your voice
your word your soul
where tragedy will not be your destiny.
I speak to my ghost
from its mouth and in my body
at the same time
we declare the place of evanescence
It attends me and I attend it
it touches me and I touch it
it takes on flesh
and at its touch I fade away.

The Black Panther

by Leconte de Lisle. Trans. by David R. Slavitt

A pink glow suffuses the cumulus,
tricked out with a delicate fringe of lace at the far
horizon in the east.  A spectacular
flash undoes night’s necklace. Superfluous,

its pearls shatter and fall into the sea.
The sky’s peignoir, fastened by the bright
clip at its top, modifies the light
to fleck the water’s green.  There appears to be

a rain of flakes of fire. Bamboo trees
rustle, and the purple lychee fruit
dazzles in the dew in absolute
voluptuousness that cannot fail to please

the most demanding connoisseur.  From the wood
there comes a rich mélange of sweet perfumes
we cannot find in any drawing rooms.
Nature here seems luxurious and good.

Tangled grasses steam in the morning heat
of the virgin forest in which, half-hidden, run
paths no man has ever walked upon
that were made by the quiet passage of animal feet.

Comes then the Queen of Java, the huntress, black
and sleek, returning to feed her small cubs where
they play among gnawed bones.  She drags to her lair
what’s left of the deer she has killed and is bringing back.

She undulates along, and with her pale
yellow eyes peers into the underbrush
and the branches overhead.  There is a hush
as she passes.  The deer’s blood leaves a crimson trail.

Butterflies dance above.  Industrious bees
hover on their way to the flowers that grow
along the track to perfume the air.  There is no
end to the dense forest’s felicities,

except for the curious python that now rears
its flat head from a scarlet cactus bed
to watch the panther’s progress with the dead
deer she drags until she disappears,

a dark phantom gliding into the deep
ferns and mossy tree-trunks.  Gone from sight,
she leaves a changed silence beneath the bright
blue sky as if the forest were asleep.

 

 

 

 

Une rose lueur s'épand par les nuées ;
L'horizon se dentelle, à l'Est, d'un vif éclair ;
Et le collier nocturne, en perles dénouées,
S'égrène et tombe dans la mer.

Toute une part du ciel se vêt de molles flammes
Qu'il agrafe à son faîte étincelant et bleu.
Un pan traîne et rougit l'émeraude des lames
D'une pluie aux gouttes de feu.

Des bambous éveillés où le vent bat des ailes,
Des letchis au fruit pourpre et des cannelliers
Pétille la rosée en gerbes d'étincelles,
Montent des bruits frais, par milliers.

Et des monts et des bois, des fleurs, des hautes mousses,
Dans l'air tiède et subtil, brusquement dilaté,
S'épanouit un flot d'odeurs fortes et douces,
Plein de fièvre et de volupté.

Par les sentiers perdus au creux des forêts vierges
Où l'herbe épaisse fume au soleil du matin ;
Le long des cours d'eau vive encaissés dans leurs berges,
Sous de verts arceaux de rotin ;

La reine de Java, la noire chasseresse,
Avec l'aube, revient au gîte où ses petits
Parmi les os luisants miaulent de détresse,
Les uns sous les autres blottis.

Inquiète, les yeux aigus comme des flèches,
Elle ondule, épiant l'ombre des rameaux lourds.
Quelques taches de sang, éparses, toutes fraîches,
Mouillent sa robe de velours.

Elle traîne après elle un reste de sa chasse,
Un quartier du beau cerf qu'elle a mangé la nuit ;
Et sur la mousse en fleur une effroyable trace
Rouge, et chaude encore, la suit.

Autour, les papillons et les fauves abeilles
Effleurent à l'envi son dos souple du vol ;
Les feuillages joyeux, de leurs mille corbeilles ;
Sur ses pas parfument le sol.

Le python, du milieu d'un cactus écarlate,
Déroule son écaille, et, curieux témoin,
Par-dessus les buissons dressant sa tête plate,
La regarde passer de loin.

Sous la haute fougère elle glisse en silence,
Parmi les troncs moussus s'enfonce et disparaît.
Les bruits cessent, l'air brûle, et la lumière immense
Endort le ciel et la forêt.

 
Charles-Marie LECONTE DE LISLE,