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.