Wednesday, April 29, 2009

My 1998 Mind

When I first moved to Brasil in 1997, I started keeping a paper journal. I wrote dilligently every day for the first year I lived abroad, and then kept the habit for some 6 years after that initial exchange experience. I started transcribing my journals to the computer sometime last year, and have made slow progress since then.

Recently, I went through my journals from 1998, and found several quotes - some recorded by me, some written by friends - in the inside cover. I thought I might share...

A gente sempre destrói aquilo que mais ama
em campo aberto, ou numa emboscada;
alguns com a leveza do carinho
outros com a dureza da palavra;
os covardes destroem com um beijo,
os valentes, destroem com a espada.

- Oscar Wilde, copied from a display at the Museu do Índio in Alter-do-Chão, Pará, in the Amazon. I remember taking a photograph of the display because the quote struck me so deeply. I was 16 years old. Reading through websites about the museum, I just learned it has been closed. What a shame.


Como as mulheres são lindas!
Inútil pensar que é do vestido...'
E depois não há só as bonitas:
Há também as simpáticas.
E as feias, certas feias em cujos olhos vejo isto:
Uma menininha que é batida e pisada e nunca sai da cozinha
Como deve ser bom gostar de uma feia!
O meu amor porém não em bondade alguma
É fraco! fraco!
Meu Deus, eu amo como as criancinhas...
És linda como uma história da carochinha...
E eu preciso de ti como precisava de mamãe e papai
(No tempo em que pensava que os ladrões moravam
no morro atrás de casa e tinham cara de Pau.)

- Manoel Bandeira, as written by my high school classmate Fabiano, more commonly known as "Chato". He was perhaps the smartest person in our 200-student class. He knew poetry by heart - as exemplified by this verse he copied by memory into my diary - and scored nearly perfect on all our tests despite being a known user of cocaine and weed, and a regular sniffer of glue.

"Chato", my friend from school, wrote more in my journal, quoting poets from memory:


Eu queria ser um poeta do povo
Com o rosto queimado pelo hálito quente das multidões
Ao invés disso estou aqui
Pondo sal nesta sopa rala
Que no máximo vai dar para dois

- Paulo Leminsky, as written without effort by Fabiano Chato.

I wonder if I'd be capable of transcribing a poem by heart.

I don't think so.

Perhaps song lyrics, or a memorable quote from Subcomandante Marcos that has been at the base of my email for over a decade. But not a poem. I'm not a poetry kind of person. Nonetheless, I appreciate immensely the verses on the pages at the front and back of my precious journals.

Here are a couple more, also from Chato:

A garota protestante foi buscar água no poço
Eu disse que ela era linda
Ela disse que Jesus ia voltar
Eu disse que seus olhos eram lindos como os olhos de Jesus
Então ela me deu um beijo na boca e eu disse
[Jesus existe.]

- Manoel Bandeira

Deus dá a todos uma estrela
Alguns fazem dela um sol
Outros nem conseguem vê-la.

- Elena Kolody

Eu estava aqui amargurando
Então ela veio chorando com um leve sorriso
E nós pulamos juntos do prédio
[Morrendo felizes.]

- Paulo Leminski

Fisga a lua prata
Pescador imaginário
Deixou o mar no escuro
Pintou estrelas no muro
E sentiu o céu ao alcance
das mãos.

- N.J.

I am impressed with my old friend Chato. He wrote multiple poems in the blank pages of my journal without any particular effort. He was also 16. How many boys that age do you know now who would be capable of reciting poetry? Not that many, I imagine...He was a special kid, for sure. I wonder what happened to him.

My lyrical wisdom, at least in the end cover of that particular diary from 1998, came in the following form:

Se o mundo fosse dos jovens
Todo dia faria sol
Todo mar teria onda
Toda música seria reggae
E toda fumaça faria a cabeça.

- Bob Marley

Not quite as eloquent as the modern Brasilian masters, but it spoke to me. To this day, I've not taken the time to look for this quote in English. The Portuguese version reminds me so much of my first exchange year abroad, of my friends, of our collective adventures. Good times, for sure.

I find it funny that I went through so much trouble to record verses and poetry in all my diaries from my teens and early twenties, and now I'm essentially a poetry-phobe. I don't appreciate it (with few exceptions), I don't seek it out, and I don't feel moved to record it for later perusal. Funny how we change...


abby said...

It IS funny how we change. I like that you can appreciate who you were, but also love who you have become. I used to almost only read fantasy novels and now feel drawn to modern fiction... life is funny like that. :)

Fly Brother said...

Yowza! Having read this post has me completely convinced that Brazilian Portuguese is the most amazing language on Earth. On Earth.

It's a shame when any museum closes, but especially ones that offer insight into marginalized cultures. I just pray that the Museu Afro-Brasil never shuts down. And speaking of museums, Portuguese, and poetry, I copied this mesmerizing snippet into my notebook after visiting the Museu da Lingua Portugesa in Sampa:

Garoa do meu São Paulo
Um negro vem vindo, é branco!
Só bem perto fica negro,
Passa e torna a ficar branco.
Meu São Paulo da garoa,
- Londres das neblinas frias -
Um pobre vem vindo, é rico!
Só bem perto fica pobre,
Passa e torna a ficar rico.
-Mario de Andrade
Lira Paulistana

Ali la Loca said...

~Abby - I used to read tons of "serious" books, classic literature, etc. Since working in development, all I want to read now is total chick-lit trash, or a good novel. I imagine that will change again once I'm in a new context.

~Fly Brother - I'm dying to visit the Museu da Língua Portuguesa. I remember reading about it in the news when it opened.

I'm not a huge fan of poetry, but something about the word plays and expressions you can get in Portuguese makes me appreciate the style much more.

Thanks for sharing the Mário de Andrade - what an awesome verse.