Seven Poems, Translated by Dean Thomas Ellis

by Adélia Prado

Adélia Luzia Prado Freitas was born in Divinopolis, a small city in the interior of Minas Gerais, Brazil in December of 1935. She wrote her first poems upon the death of her mother fifteen years later. In 1958 she married a banker, with whom she had five children. After the birth of her last child, in 1966, she and her husband began a course in Philosophy at the Faculdade de Filosofia, Ciências e Letras in Divinópolis. Upon graduation, and the death of her father, she sent a letter and nine poems to the poet and literary critic Affonso Romano de Sant’Anna, stating her admiration and affinity for the work of Carlos Drummond de Andrade. A couple of years later, Drummond himself would recommend to an editor friend at Editora Imago that he publish Prado’s poems, which he called “phenomenal … she makes poetry as naturally as nature makes weather.” The collection became her first book, Bagagem, about which Drummond wrote a piece in Jornal do Brasil calling attention to the work of the previously unpublished poet; her literary career, at the age of 40, was launched. Since then she’s released 14 works of poetry and prose, and several of her works have been adapted to the stage and the ballet. The Brazilian National Library’s “Jornal de Poesia” ranked Adelia Prado on its “List of Twenty Foremost Living Poets.” She also worked as an educator for many years at various institutions, directed a theater group, and at the behest of the mayor, spent half a decade as Secretary of Culture for her home city of Divinopolis, where she continues to reside, and from which she draws her characters and inspiration. “Daily life in Divinopolis is the same as in Hong Kong, except that it’s lived in Portuguese.” In an interview with Ellen Dore Watson, she said, “I want to feel, with any book I come to write, the same doubt, the same anxiety, the same joy I felt when I wrote Bagagem. I always want to be in that precarious and difficult position.”

EXAUSTO

Eu quero uma licença de dormir,
perdăo pra descansar horas a fio
sem ao menos sonhar
a leve palha de um pequeno sonho.
Quero o que antes da vida
foi o profundo sono dos espécies,
a graça de um estado.
Semente.
Muito mais que raízes.

 

FATIGUE

I want a license to sleep,
the clemency to recline hours on end
without the least dreaming
the light bedding of a tiny dream.
I want what before this life
was the profound slumber of the species,
the grace of being.
Seed.
Much more than roots.

 

 

TRÉGUA

Hoje estou velho como quero ficar.
Sem nenhuma estridência.
Dei os desejos todos por memória
e rasa xícara de chá.

 

ARMISTICE

Today I am old as I wish to remain.
With no hubbub whatever.
I’ve swapped all desires for reminiscence
and a shallow cup of tea.

 

 

IMPRESSIONISTA

Uma ocasião,
meu pai pintou a casa toda
de alaranjado brilhante.
Por muito tempo moramos numa casa,
como ele mesmo dizia,
constantemente amanhecendo.

 

IMPRESSIONIST

Once,
my father painted the entire house
a brilliant shade of orange.
For the longest time we lived in a house,
as he liked to say,
of perpetual daybreak.

 

 

POEMA COMEÇADO NO FIM

Um corpo quer outro corpo.
Uma alma quer outra alma e seu corpo.
Este excesso de realidade me confunde.
Jonathan falando:
parece que estou num filme
Se eu lhe dissesse você é estúpido
ele diria sou mesmo.
Se ele dissesse vamos comigo ao inferno passear
eu iria.

 

POEM BEGUN AT THE END

A body wants another body.
A soul wants another soul and the body as well.
This surfeit of reality confuses me.
Jonathan saying:
it’s like I’m in a movie
If I tell him you’re stupid
he would say I am too.
If he said let’s take a walk through hell
I would go.

 

 

SEDUÇÃO

A poesia me pega com sua roda dentada,
me força a escutar imóvel
o seu discurso esdrúxulo.
Me abraça detrás do muro, levanta
a saia pra eu ver, amorosa e doida.
Acontece a má coisa, eu lhe digo,
também sou filho de Deus,
me deixa desesperar.
Ela responde passando
a língua quente em meu pescoço,
fala pau pra me acalmar,
fala pedra, geometria,
se descuida e fica meiga,
aproveito pra me safar.
Eu corro ela corre mais,
eu grito ela grita mais, sete demônios mais forte.
Me pega a ponta do pé
e vem até na cabeça,
fazendo sulcos profundos.
É de ferro a roda dentada dela.

 

SEDUCTION

Poetry catches me in its cogwheel,
forces me, immobile, to listen to
its freakish discourse.
Clutches me behind the wall, lifts
its skirt for me to see, love-crazy.
A wicked thing, this, I tell it,
I am also a child of God,
leave me to my despair.
She replies passing
her hot tongue across my neck,
says cock to calm me down,
says stone, geometry,
neglects herself and becomes gentle,
I exploit this and sneak away.
I run she runs faster,
I scream she screams louder, seven demons fiercer.
She snatches me up on tiptoes
and comes up to my head,
plowing deep furrows.
Her cogwheel is made of iron.

 

 

DIA

As galinhas com susto abrem o bico
e param daquele jeito imóvel
—ia dizer imoral—
as barbelas e as cristas envermelhadas,
só as artérias palpitando no pescoço.
Uma mulher espantada com sexo:
mas gostando muito.

 

DAY

The hens, startled, open their beaks
and freeze in that style, immobile
—I was going to say immoral—
their mandibles and ruddy crests,
only the arteries pulsing in their necks.
A woman spooked by sex:
but liking it much.

 

 

CONFEITO

Quero comer bolo de noiva,
puro açúcar, puro amor carnal
disfarçado de corações e sininhos:
um branco, outro cor-de-rosa,
um branco, outro cor-de-rosa.

 

CONFECTION

I want to eat wedding cake
pure sugar, pure lust
disguised with hearts and baby bells
one white, the other pink,
one white, the other pink.

 

 

Dean Thomas Ellis is a writer and translator living in New Orleans. His work has appeared in Another Sticky Valentine, The New Orleans Review, Bloodroot, St. Petersburg Review, and the online series Working Stiff at PBS.org. He has also contributed to the KGB Bar Lit Magazine, and hosts the radio programs Tudo Bem and The Dean’s List on WWOZ-FM in New Orleans and online at wwoz.org. His translation (with Jaime Braz) of Jacinto Lucas Pires’s novel The True Actor was published last fall by Dzanc Books.


Adélia Luzia Prado Freitas was born in Divinopolis, a small city in the interior of Minas Gerais, Brazil in December of 1935. She wrote her first poems upon the death of her mother fifteen years later. In 1958 she married a banker, with whom she had five children. After the birth of her last child, in 1966, she and her husband began a course in Philosophy at the Faculdade de Filosofia, Ciências e Letras in Divinópolis. Upon graduation, and the death of her father, she sent a letter and nine poems to the poet and literary critic Affonso Romano de Sant’Anna, stating her admiration and affinity for the work of Carlos Drummond de Andrade. A couple of years later, Drummond himself would recommend to an editor friend at Editora Imago that he publish Prado’s poems, which he called “phenomenal … she makes poetry as naturally as nature makes weather.” The collection became her first book, Bagagem, about which Drummond wrote a piece in Jornal do Brasil calling attention to the work of the previously unpublished poet; her literary career, at the age of 40, was launched. Since then she’s released 14 works of poetry and prose, and several of her works have been adapted to the stage and the ballet. The Brazilian National Library’s “Jornal de Poesia” ranked Adelia Prado on its “List of Twenty Foremost Living Poets.” She also worked as an educator for many years at various institutions, directed a theater group, and at the behest of the mayor, spent half a decade as Secretary of Culture for her home city of Divinopolis, where she continues to reside, and from which she draws her characters and inspiration. “Daily life in Divinopolis is the same as in Hong Kong, except that it’s lived in Portuguese.” In an interview with Ellen Dore Watson, she said, “I want to feel, with any book I come to write, the same doubt, the same anxiety, the same joy I felt when I wrote Bagagem. I always want to be in that precarious and difficult position.”

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