from Joy, Memory, Novitiate of Passion

Hilda Hilst

This mournful moon, this unease
Inner turbulence, lagoon,
Inside the solitude, a dying body,
All this I owe to you. Such immense
Plans and future, ships,
Walls of ivory, words full
Always consented to. It would be December.
A jade horse beneath the waters
A double transparency, a line in mid-air
All these things at your fingertips
All undone through the portal of time
Silent and blue. Mornings of glass,
Wind, a hollow soul, a sun I can not see

This, too, I owe to you.

When Beatrice and Cayanna ask you, Dionysus,
If you love me, you may say you love me not. It little matters to me
Being nothing around you, a shadow, tattered stuff
In the judgement of your mother and sister. What matters to me,
Dionysus, is what you say in bed, in my ear
And what you say cannot be sung
Because they are shameless, raging words
And in my verse they would sound wrong

And in my room love is the word.

It is as it should be, Dionysus: do not come
Voice and wind only
Of the out there

Supposing alone
That if you were inside

This important voice, this wind
of the branches out there

Would never reach me. Absorbed
I would listen
To the essence of your song. Do not come, Dionysus,
For it is better to dream your roughness
And every night, savour victory anew
Thinking: tomorrow, yes, you will come
And tomorrow will be a time of plenty:
Every night, I Ariana, making ready
Fragrance and body. And a verse every night
Unfolding from the wisdom of your absence.

Send me word, if you can,
"The moon is full, the house is clear."
Send me word, and paradise
Shall be nearer, and your uncertain face
Shall seem more recent.
Send for me if your day
Is as long as your night. If it's true
Without me you see nothing but monotony.
If you remember the gleam of tides
Some pale red fish
In certain seas
And my wet feet, send me word:
"It's a moonless night"
And dressed in light, I come to see you again.

I smile when I wonder
Where in your room
You keep my verse.
Away from your
Political books?
In the first drawer
Close to the window?
Do you smile when you read
Or are you tired of seeing
Such abandon
Amorous spark
On my ripened face?
Do I seem beautiful
Or am I to you, perhaps
Too much of a poet,
And not serious enough?
What does the man think
Of the poet? That there's no truth
In my drunkenness
And that you prefer
A friend more peaceful
And less adventurous?
That you simply cannot
Keep in your room
Worldly traces
Of my passionate words?
Do you see me as mad?
Do you see me as pure?
Do you see me as young?

Or is it true
That you never knew me?

translated from the Portuguese by Beatriz Bastos