Translator’s Note on Rosa Alice Branco’s Work:
My task is to keep things unencumbered, as lithe and simple as possible. Poem #10 is simply about the discovery of adolescent sexuality through a quiet observation of others. That eventually the girls may have to pay a price for this natural and unpremeditated activity is only vaguely hinted at by the phrase “never quite made it back.” In poem # 29, again a child is observing teenagers going off in pairs “to make nests here and there.” The suggestion that all this reveals our animal nature is made clear by the juxtaposition of the girl’s breasts “bouncing from her blouse filled with heat” and the immediate counterpoint of “The pig was grunting in the sty. /There was a smell of hay.” Rosa Alice Branco sees all this sexual activity as natural, but also as rather ominous, since in the end it will be the girls who have to pay for the animal pleasure they shared with the boys.
Rosa Alice Branco’s most recent collections are Cattle of the Lord (winner of the Espiral Poetry Prize of 15,000 Euros for 2009), The World Does Not End in the Cold of Your Bones (she tells herself) (2010-2011), and Live Concert (2012). Her books have appeared in Spain, Tunisia, Switzerland, France, Luxembourg, Brazil, Venezuela, and Francophone Canada. Here in the U.S. her work has appeared in over thirty magazines, including Atlanta Review, Gulf Coast, The Massachusetts Review, Prairie Schooner and The New England Review.
Alexis Levitin’s (translator) thirty-two books include Clarice Lispector’s Soulstorm and Eugenio de Andrade’s Forbidden Words (both from New Directions). Recent publications include Tapestry of the Sun: An Anthology of Ecuadorian Poetry, co-translated with Fernando Iturburu (Coimbra Editions, 2009), Brazil: A Traveler’s Literary Companion (Whereabouts Press, 2010), and Blood of the Sun by Brazil’s Salgado Maranhao (Milkweed Editions, 2012). Alexis Levitin translates Rosa Alice Branco from Portuguese.
10. The girls were lovely lithe
The girls were lovely lithe.
They went to the spring for water
with their earthenware jars and not even that weight
lessened the elegance of their haughty necks.
Quick as they could, the boys went after them,
and the water, the girls and the boys
never quite made it back
They must all have died of thirst
29. The men’s hands would graze
The men’s hands would graze
their skirts, their cunning breasts,
and everything would make them laugh.
they would wander off a bit,
going away in pairs
to make nests here and there.
But I still could see the breasts of one of them
bouncing from her blouse filled with heat.
The pig was grunting in the sty.
There was a smell of hay.
It was night
and I an invisible little girl.
Eram esguias as raparigas.
Iam buscar água à fonte
em bilhas de barro e nem o peso
diminua a elegância do pescoço altivo.
Mal podiam, os rapazes iam ter com elas,
mas a água, as raparigas e eles
nunca mais chegavam.
Devem ter morrido de sede
As mãos dos homens roçavam-lhes
a saia, o peito matreiro
e tudo as fazia rir.
afastavam-se um pouco,
iam indo aos pares
e criavam ninho mais além.
Mas ainda vi o peito de uma
a saltar da blusa cheio de calor.
O porco grunhia no curral.
Cheirava a feno.
e eu uma miúda invisível