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By Ana Martins Marques
Translated By Elisa Wouk Almino


in the beginning
every language is foreign

it closes in on your body like on a city
until laying siege
it imposes on the body the names
that language gives it
foot leg stomach teeth
makes the tongue call itself tongue
language call itself by its own name
it closes in until mastering the tongue
teaches it a choreography of its own
that it, the tongue, in turn
teaches to the mind
while singing

to occupy language like a
crazy house
that compels you to dwell within it

it thinks your sex
it thinks your heart
laying it bare

it is music
and combat

it speaks in your mouth
with the mouths of the dead

it is the electricity
of cadavers

of those whose mouths it filled
before the soil did

it sets down roots in your body
you can’t be freed of

you are its

and if you learn another
it works against the first
against its excessive
and travels
with that first
which hovers and covers  
like a sea



Or it is a duet
an ancient

you also close in on it
borrow words
and also loan them
your energy
your courage or sweetness

and maybe it is in fact possible
to discard it
to dissolve the self in a sea that isn’t yours     (Cf. Jorge de Sena, “Notions of
to rid yourself of it
exchange it for another
newer or more versatile

(my only heroes
are translators)

or little matters language
but the saying of things
that upon being said
but with such a blaze

(to write poems:
to not content oneself with the languages one knows
not even with the languages that exist)

languages are a means
of travel, words
are a means of transport:
they carry the camel the skyscraper
the whale
not just a whale
all the whales
not just love
all the love


“Language” originally appeared in the Brazilian journal Revista Pessoa. It appears here as part of WWB’s ongoing partnership with Revista Pessoa. Several times a year, WWB will bring readers new work that originally appeared in Pessoa here in English translation, and Pessoa will publish work from WWB’s pages in translation into Brazilian Portuguese.

Published Aug 24, 2018   Copyright 2018 Ana Martins Marques

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