José Luís Mendonça
mesqueci de reparar os êmbolos do motor da minha morte natural
por isso entra comigo na câmara mitológica da minha impressão motorizada
a percorrer de pé os dédalos da eternidade fixo à margem do tempo
(amorteço-me) no fôlego vazio e mutante da imagem
da minha cara-metade dimensionada através do satélite .a morte
não está por minha conta.
sobre a felonia cosmológica da eternidade ainda tenho a dizer
mesqueci de meter carburante na motorizada mitológica da minha morte natural
mantenho-me de pé com duas fogueiras de grife na ossatura
mito clássico da proporção do homem pungida por assíduas manhãs de santidade
percursiono-me fixo à margem
não digo sim nem sopas mesqueleto entre aprendizagem de asfalto
e manequins cutâneos da rua
nesse trânsito intencional dos metais podres de luz e sombras do teu retrato
abre-te sésamo velho e vivo agora anda e marca pontos contra
o pecado de ser país mulheres das primeiras obras do mar
lavam-se nos álbuns de ferramentas em queda livre
vestidas de alga e madrepérola de um vaso abstracto
com peixes a cores nas fotografias impiedosas inspiradas
na constelação do eco do sexo de retorno à contemplação ecológica do pão
onde os mortos ainda com a vida sentada no cair da tarde
revelam suas sombras velozes antigas profundas se motorizando quando o vento arrasta
a minha voz à distância sob a lente da nova objectiva leika .a morte
não é da minha conta.
Revista do Núcleo de Estudos de Literatura Portuguesa e Africana – UFF, 2010, p. 205
I forgot to repair the pistons in the engine of my natural death
so it follows me into the mythological chamber of my motorized imprint
walking the labyrinth of eternity fixed to the edge of time
(I stifle myself) in the hollow, shifting breath of the image
of my better half viewed via satellite .death
is not on me.
on the cosmological felony of eternity I should also say
I forgot to add fuel to the mythological motor of my natural death
I keep on my feet with two designer bonfires on my bony frame
classical myth of man’s measure afflicted by relentless mornings of saintliness
I beat my path fixed to the edge
neither here nor there I become bare bones between asphalt apprenticeship
and cutaneous street mannequins
in this intentional traffic of the putrid metals of light and shadows of your portrait
open sesame old and alive now go and score points against
the sin of being a country women among the first opuses of the sea
wash themselves in the albums of tools in free fall
dressed in seaweed and mother of pearl from an abstract vase
with fish in color in the merciless photographs inspired
by the constellation of echoes of sex back to the ecological contemplation of bread
where the dead still in life perched at nightfall
reveal their swift deep ancient shadows driving along when the wind drags
my voice from far away through the lens of the new objective leika .death
is not my business.
José Luís Mendonça (b. Golungo Alto, Angola, 1955) is part of the so-called “novíssima geração” (newest generation) of writers who emerged in the 1980s, shortly after Angolan independence (1975). He is best known for his many collections of poetry, including Chuva Novembrina (1981), Quero Acordar a Alva (1996) and Esse País Chamado Corpo de Mulher (2012), as well as for the novel O Reino das Casuarinas (2014). Mendonça’s poetry is marked by a fluid, dreamlike quality, and makes ample use of “Angolanisms” and neologisms.
The main challenge in translating Mendonça’s “Poema Paparazzi” lies in its ambiguous syntax, wherein words can often be grouped into more than one possible combination of phrases/clauses. Wherever possible, this structure has been maintained, but the target language does not always permit the ambiguity of the original version, thus forcing specific interpretations in some places. Such choices are also necessary with lines such as “a morte não está por minha conta”, where Portuguese permits a higher degree of ambiguity, seeing as “a morte” could refer to a specific death or to death in general (the interpretation chosen in this instance).
As much as possible, the original structure (punctuation, division, etc.) of the poem has been maintained. Naturally, some key linguistic elements are lost, such as instances of alliteration, as well as beautifully expressive angolanisms/neologisms, including “mesqueci” (as opposed to Brazilian Portuguese “me esqueci” or European Portuguese “esqueci-me”) and “percursiono-me” (a new verb combining “percurso” – path – and “percussão” – percussion) which defy direct translation, but which can sometimes be compensated by descriptive turns of phrase (e.g. “I beat my own path”). Likewise, the almost hip-hop (or, in a more Angolan sense, kuduro-like) rhythm of the original poem – while not dependent on any particular rhyme scheme – is established through fluid syntax, alliteration and sequences of similar word endings (e.g. masculine/feminine markers) which are not entirely transferrable into English, but which have nonetheless guided the translation.
Translation and comment prepared by Torin Spangler