|[Página Principal] [Página As Vidas]|
Poet: 1906 - 1994
John D. Godinho
WHEN IT ALL HAPPENED...
1906- Mario de Miranda Quintana is born in the City of Alegrete (State of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil), on July 30, the fourth son of Celso de Oliveira Quintana and Virginia de Miranda Quintana. 1915- He finishes his primary schooling. 1919 – He enrolls at the Military College of Porto Alegre and his first writings are published in Hyloea, a magazine published by the school’s Civic and Literary Society. 1924- He leaves the Military College. 1925 – He begins to work in his father’s pharmacy. 1926 – His short story A sétima personagem (The Seventh Character) is awarded a prize in the competition promoted by the Diário de Notícias, a Porto Alegre daily. 1927 – One of his poems is published in the magazine Para Todos, of Rio de Janeiro. 1928 – He begins to work in the newsroom of O Estado do Rio Grande do Sul, a daily. 1930 – Some of his poems are published in the Revista do Globo, a magazine, and in Correio do Povo, a daily. He volunteers to serve in Rio de Janeiro with the Seventh Gunner Battalion during the Revolution led by Getúlio Vargas. 1931 - He goes back to work in the newsroom of O Estado do Rio Grande. 1934 – He becomes a translator for Editora Globo. 1940 – Publication of his first book, A Rua dos Cataventos (Pinwheel Street). 1943 – He begins to write Caderno H, a section of the Província de São Pedro Magazine. 1946 – His book Canções (Songs) is published by Editora Globo. 1948 – Sapato florido (The Flowered Shoe), poetry and prose, is published. Later that year, he publishes O batalhão de letras (The Letter Battalion), a children’s book. 1950 –Publication of O aprendiz de feiticeiro (The Sorcerer’s Apprentice). 1951 – Editora Globo publishes O espelho mágico (The Magic Mirror). 1953 – He returns to Correio do Povo and, once again, writes his daily column Caderno H. That year, he publishes Inéditos e esparsos (New and Scarce). 1966 – He publishes Antologia poética (Poetic Anthology), which is awarded the Fernando Chinaglia Prize as best book of the year. Quintana is saluted by the Brazilian Academy of Letters. 1973 – His book Do Caderno H is published. 1975- Publication of Pé de Pilão (Pestle Foot), a children’s book. 1976 – Special edition of Quintanares. The poet receives the Negrinho do Pastoreio medal, the highest decoration awarded by the State of Rio Grande do Sul. His book Apontamentos de história sobrenatural (Notes on Supernatural History) is published. 1977 –A vaca e o hipogrifo (The Cow and the Hippogriff) is published. That same year, the poet is awarded the Pen Club Prize for Brazilian Poetry, for his book Notes on Supernatural History. 1978 – The anthology Prosa & Verso (Prose & Verse) is published. 1979 – He publishes Na volta da esquina (Around the Corner), a collection of articles. 1980 – Publication of Esconderijos do Tempo (Time’s Hiding Places). Quintana is awarded the Machado de Assis Prize by the Brazilian Academy of Letters, for his life’s work. 1981 – Editora Codecri publishes Antologia Poética (Poetic Anthology). 1982 – Quintana is conferred the title of Doctor Honoris Causa by the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul. 1983 – The old Hotel Majestic, where the poet lived for many years, is recognized by the State as a historical heritage site and becomes the Mario Quintana Cultural Center. 1984 – Caderno H becomes a section of the weekly magazine Isto É. Nariz de vidro (Glass Nose) and O sapo amarelo (The Yellow Toad) are published. 1986 – Publication of Baú de espantos (A Chest Full of Surprises). 1987 – Da preguiça como método de trabalho (On laziness as a Form of Work) and Preparativos de viagem (Preparations for a Trip) are published. 1988 – Publication of Porta Giratória (Revolving Door). 1989 – Publication of A cor do invisível (The Color of the Invisible). Quintana is awarded degrees of Doctor Honoris Causa by the University of Campinas (UNICAMP) and the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ). 1990 – The Mario Quintana Cultural Center is reopened after being completely restored. Velório sem defunto (Wake without a Corpse) is published. 1994 – Publication of Sapato Furado (Shoe with a Hole). Mario Quintana dies on May 5, in Porto Alegre.
MEMORIES AND GHOSTS
From his window on the eighth floor, Mario practices his favorite sport—watching the daily life of the people of Porto Alegre. It’s only 10 in the morning, but the street below is already crowded. His eyes follow the crowd, slowly, in keeping with what would be his pace, that of an old man with a cane. He knows that, up ahead, a kind of excitement will be in the air near Alfândega Square, where inflamed religious zealots compete with a blind man and his harmonica, with the screams and laughter of children at play, and with the shouts of fruit vendors, for the attention of uninterested passers-by.
After a while, he sits on the red velvet chair near the window and lights another cigarette, as he ponders the full day ahead of him: first, he’ll have to put up with another interview and face the customary shoddy questions. Later, he’ll have to participate in the grand opening of the cultural center scheduled to coincide with his birthday and listen to the usual uninspired speeches. Damned interviews! Those guys don’t know how I hate to rehash old memories. They make me feel as if I were in a séance.
He begins to shuffle the stack of loose papers on the side table next to the chair, looking for some notes he had taken for an article he is writing for Isto É magazine. His attention is drawn to a yellowed crinkled envelope with a poem he had scribbled sometime ago and which seems to be a warning, now that he’s going to be interviewed once again…”Try to forget me…/To be remembered is like evoking a ghost…/Let me be what I am,/ What I have always been,
A flowing river…
The hours will sing, in vain,
Along my river banks.
I will adorn myself with stars
Like a royal mantle.
I’ll be embroidered
with clouds and wings,
Children will, now and then,
Bathe themselves in me…
A mirror does not keep
the things it reflects!
And my fate is to move on…
Move on toward the sea,
Losing what I reflect along the
Let me flow, let me pass,
let me sing…
The sadness of all rivers
Is that they cannot linger! (1)
THE SHELLS OF THE HOURS
Mario sits back on the tufted red velvet chair and lets his eyes wander around the room, until they rest upon an astrological chart on the wall (Sun in Leo in the 6th house, rising in Pisces in the 7th, Moon in Sagittarius), then drop to the top of his desk and get lost in the rummage of books, packs of cigarettes, and sundry papers, until they move up again to meet with the insistent gaze of Greta Garbo, in a ¾ profile, in a poster hanging above the headboard of his bed. Quickly, he turns his head away as he remembers that “portraits on the wall/ Cannot remain abstract for long/Sometimes their eyes will gaze at you, unyielding,
Because they never become
Never look back, suddenly.
Don’t, don’t look now!
The best thing to do is to sing
Crazy and endless songs…
Endless and meaningless.
The kind of song
we used to make up
To fool the loneliness of
moonless paths. (2)
He smiles and slowly walks to his worktable, dragging with his feet newspaper sheets spread all over the floor. He picks up the phone, calls room service and orders a thermos jug of coffee, a sandwich and two coconut puddings. A few minutes later, someone knocks at the door—it’s Mauro, the waiter.
“Good morning, Mr. Mario,” says the waiter, carrying a tray with the coffee, the food and a package decorated with a colorful ribbon. There’s an envelope tied to the bow.”Happy birthday, sir.”
“Thank you, Mauro,” says the poet, while clearing the worktable where the waiter places the tray. “I knew you wouldn’t forget.”
“How could I? You’ve been our guest for so many years.”
“Is this package a gift from you?”
“No, it was left early this morning by a lady who said she was your friend. She asked that it be delivered only after 10 o’clock.”
“Thanks for bringing it. And thanks for being such a friend all these years,” says the poet, as the waiter walks out the door.
Sitting on the edge of his bed, Mario begins to open the package, mulling over the words of the waiter. You’re right, my friend. So many years. And yet they seem like no time at all. But what can we do? ”Life is a lot of school assignments to be done as homework/Before you know it, it’s already six o’clock, there’s time…
Before you know it,
It’s already Friday…
Before you know it,
Sixty years have gone by!
Now, it’s too late to flunk out…
If, some day, I were given
I wouldn’t even look at a clock.
I’d keep moving,
always moving ahead
Discarding along the way
the useless golden
shells of the hours… (3)
Mario knows the contents of the package, since he had suggested the present to Gloria: liqueur filled chocolates. The gift contains the only form of alcohol allowed by his doctors, after his great excesses, which resulted in two long stays at a rehab clinic in the 1950’s. Mario thinks they are being too strict; to him, it had been a simple binge…which lasted twenty-five years.
CONFESSIONS IN A COMMA
of Blue Boy because of the contrast
between his very white skin and the
color of his veins.
I hope the interviewer doesn’t touch on the drinking episode. These fellows can be unpredictable crashing bores, so I’d better take the initiative. “The worst bores are those that keep asking questions. I prefer the narrative bores because we can think of something else while they talk…” Hell, if they want to know about me, let them read my writings. “My life is in my poems, they are me; I never wrote a comma that wasn’t a confession.”
Now, lying on the bed, Mario lights another cigarette and selects a chocolate. Savoring the liqueur contents with relish, he rehearses what to say during the interview, without losing his good humor.
“Look,” he says, addressing a wicker chair occupied by an invisible interviewer. “I was born on July 30, 1906, in Alegrete, close to the Uruguayan and Argentinean border, in a rough winter, with below freezing temperatures. To top it all, I was a premature baby, which gave me a certain complex, because I thought I was an unfinished project. Until the day I discovered that someone as complete as Winston Churchill had also been a premature baby.” 4)
“In 1928, I came to Porto Alegre, worked in a number of newspapers and had some of my poems published. But I suspect you already know all about that. What you probably don’t know is that I translated thirty-eight books by such authors as Proust, Balzac, Voltaire, Maupassant and Virginia Woolf, among others. Now you might ask: Didn’t you do any writing during that time? Of course I did. ‘I’ve been writing since I can remember. But my first book was published only in 1940, when I was 34. It was Rua dos Cataventos (Pinwheel Street).’”
Mario goes to the window and, once again, appears absorbed by what’s going on in the street below. After a while, he turns to the imaginary interviewer and continues: “Evil tongues give you no peace—they say that I keep chasing ghosts within myself, that I insist on exhuming the streets of Alegrete in the middle of the big city. Hell! I’ve always been fascinated by streets and by everything that happens in them.” It pains me just to know/There are streets in Porto Alegre/Where my feet will never go…
One of these days, when I am
A speck of dust, or a leaf, windblown
In the early hours of dawn,
I’ll be a bit of that something,
With which you have been blessed,
and makes your delicious air
seem to be a loving stare.
City where I walk my life;
where, perhaps, I’ll be laid to rest…(5)
The telephone rings. Someone at the reception desk informs Mario that there’s a woman journalist coming up to see him. He nods toward the empty wicker chair and says: “It’s you, in the flesh”, then straightens out his blue-gray robe and goes to open the door.
POETRY IS A MANNER OF TALKING TO YOURSELF
After the usual exchange of smiles and greetings, the journalist remarks:
“It’s a pleasure to see you again. We met during a symposium at last year’s Book Fair.”
“Yes, of course. You’re also a poet, right?” says Mario. He invites the journalist to sit in the wicker chair, next to a small table where he’d already put the coffee jug and two demitasse cups. “Make yourself at home.”
The journalist places a small tape recorder on the table and says that the interview will be aired on Radio FM Cultura later in the day. She takes out a notebook and an anthology of Mario’s poems, and puts them next to the coffee jug, while she comments on the event that’s going on the city—a type of poetry marathon when, for 24 hours, a number of poets will take the microphone and recite their poems as well as those of other poets, including Mario’s.
“A number of your poems were presented and commented on”, says the journalist, showing Mario a copy of the program of the event. “At the very beginning, someone presented one of your poems that talks about poetry. May I say it for our listeners?”
“Of course. I’m glad you said ‘say it’ instead of ‘recite it’. I hate recitals.”
The journalist begins to read:
birds that come
nobody knows from where
and touch down on the book
you are reading.
When you close the book,
they take flight
as if fleeing from a bird trap.
They have no resting place,
they feed, for an instant,
from each pair
Then, you look
at your empty hands
that their nourishment
was already in you... (6)
“I didn’t go to the event, I was tired. But it’s always good to know that there’s such a multitude of poets.”
“I remember another one of your comments about poetry: ‘Poetry and photography have one thing in common—they make the passing moment eternal.’ What else is poetry to you?”
“Poetry is a manner of talking to yourself, it’s a lucid madness, because there are subjects that I can’t bring up in a conversation or people will think that I’m crazy. Things that impress me, like a shape or stain on a wall, the reflection of street lights in a puddle, or a little cloud alone in the sky, lost from the other clouds…That’s what my poems are about.”
“Can you imagine yourself in another profession?”
“Being a poet is not a profession. It’s more like a state of mind or being in a coma. I wanted to be a page in medieval times…But never mind. Today I would like to be something even crazier: I would like to be myself.”
“Judging from your body of work, many critics say that there are several Quintanas. In reality, how many are there?”
“Well, there’s Quintana, the poet, when he is creating poems. That’s why when they ask me ‘Are you Mario Quintana’ I answer ‘Sometimes!’ Then there’s the humorist, the joker, the romantic, the lonely, and, perhaps, a number of others. I’ve been called a gentle poet and even the angel poet. Obviously, an exaggeration.
“What advice would you have for our listeners regarding poetry?”
“Well, I can recommend a poem they can use as a starting point. It goes like this:
You’ll find none of that here.
A poem is not meant
to entertain you
like the changing images
in a kaleidoscope.
A poem is not when
you pause to enjoy a detail.
Nor is a poem finished
when you stop at the end,
because a true poem
goes on living forever...
A poem that does not
help you live and doesn’t
prepare you for death
is meaningless: it is
a poor rattle of words. (7)
COME! LET’S JOIN THE CROWD!
“Your book Pinwheel Street has been described as a kind of movie made up of scenes in the form of sonnets. Do you agree?”
Mario lights up a cigarette and pours a cup of coffee for the interviewer.
“Yes, of course. Poetry is not an association of ideas, it’s an association of images.”
“The book was published at a time when modernism was at its peak and a sonnet was considered a thing of the past. Why did you choose the sonnet?”
“Well, to the critics in Rio and São Paulo, with their noses up in the air, it was archaic poetry full of traces of a Symbolism long dead and buried. They didn’t even suspect that ‘to belong to a school of poetry is to be sentenced to life imprisonment.’ As a result, they promoted a type of collective poetry, because the herd doesn’t know how to conjugate in the first person singular.”
“But the book was a best seller, wasn’t it?”
“Yes. And do you know why? Because it spoke of simple things, of little things in life and all I wanted was to take a new look at the world and surprise reality.”
Or be surprised by it? As in your poem:
I have no idea
what these trees,
these old street corners
want from me,
to become so much
a part of me
only because I looked
at them for a moment...
Ah, if they require any documents
when I get to the Other Side,
since all other memories were erased,
loose leaves from a picture album:
a lost cloud,
Dear Lord, what a strange way to tellone’s life story!
“According to the critics, there’s been an evolution in your poetry since you wrote Pinwheel Street. How would you describe such evolution?”
“That’s what they’re saying now. But, don’t forget, ‘worse, far worse, than crocodile tears are crocodile smiles. I’ve never evolved, I’ve always been myself.’”
“Would you say that you rejected the isolation of the ivory tower of the schools of poetry and chose to remain in the streets?” asks the journalist, as she leafs through her notebook. “There’s a clear indication of that in your Sonnet IV. I think our listeners will enjoy it.”
My street is full of
vendors’ yells and cries.
It feels as though I’m seeing
with my ears: “Fresh greens!
I’m going out to join
the Carnival of noise.
Come, my Guardian Angel...
Why are you so horrified
and cover your ears?
Come, let’s listen to the voice
of brazen street urchins
as they rejoice!
Why live in a cloister
in another sphere?
Let’s feel the agitation of the world
The rhythm of the street
is calling us, clear and loud.
Come! Come with me and mix
with the crowd!
This is not socialist poetry...
It contains not a hint of strife,
This, my poor Angel...
…to put it simply…. is…
While she reads, Mario remains still, lost in the curly wavy transparencies emanating from the tip of his cigarette.
“Elena, your niece, said in a recent interview that you are irreverent and that you have difficulty following formalities. Isn’t that sonnet proof of that?
“Well, there’s no use trying to interpret a poem, because a poem is already an interpretation.”
“But isn’t your irreverence and humor what makes so much success in your column Caderno H published in the newspapers?”
“Maybe—says Mario, laughing out loud. “Humor can turn everyday banalities into magic. Do you know why? It’s because our daily existence is full of mysteries and surprises.”
“And full of losses and blows of bad luck, as you so well described in Sonnet XVII,” says the journalist. She opens the anthology and starts to read:
The very first time that I was murdered
I lost my smile, the way I used to be...
Then, each time they came
and I was killed again
They always took something that belonged to me...
Today, of all my bodily remains,
I am the barest corpse with nothing left.
flame of a yellowed candle stump
Come, all you jackals, crows,
Ah! None will succeed, should you to try to sever
Birds of Night! Wings of Horror! Fly out of
The light of a dead man will never die! Never!
“Anyway,” says the poet, “it’s still worth to be alive, if only to be able to say that life is not worth living.”
EPIGRAMS AND LITTLE POEMS
“Many of your prose poems have become extremely popular. Our listeners know many of your sayings such as “The soul is that thing that keeps asking us if the soul exists” or “Cannibalism is an exaggerated form of enjoying your neighbor.” In your opinion, this direct and witty contact with the public helps or hinders the promotion of your other writings?”
“To be honest, I prefer that you cite the opinion of other people about me and my work.”
“Some critics say that Caderno H helps because it presents a type of lyric and accessible writing that has won a large following. Who wouldn’t be impressed by something so honest and direct as ‘When two people make love, they’re winding up the world’s clock.’”
“What else do they say?”
“Well, they also say your simplicity makes your poetry plebeian, not very serious.”
“I know,” says Mario, with a deep sigh, “our pundits think it’s a huge sin to be accessible. And they don’t appreciate good humor.”
“Was your Poeminha do Contra (Little Poem of Opposition) addressed at those critics, when you played with the words “big bird/little bird”?
All those people who are now
standing in my way,
They, big warblers, will pass…
I, a Tweetie Pie, will stay… (11)
Mario doesn’t answer; he simply smiles.
WHAT IS HUMOR?
“Your poetry seems to be light and easy,” says the journalist, “but it really is deep and complex. Is your humor a mere disguise, a cover?”
“Humor is a kind of filter. ‘Actually, I detest verbal sentimentality, so I put touches of humor in my poems. Let’s say that they are touches of impurity. I think I can laugh at the world without mocking it.’”
“Even when you approach the most serious subjects, such as death, the supernatural, the passing of time, God, or the conflicts between essence and appearance?”
“Of course,” says the poet, “ because in life things are intertwined, as I said in my poem:
Time is an invention of death;
life is not aware of it,
that is, the true life,
when a moment of poetry
is all one needs
to gain all of eternity.
All of it, of course,
since it will not admit
any form of division,
except by itself,
and no one can claim
a mere piece of it.
And the Angels, perplexed,
trade looks of surprise
back in the afterlife—
happens to ask:
“What time is it?”…(12)
“And so, what is the message of your poetry?” asks the journalist.
“My message?” says the poet, feigning surprise. “There’s none. I’m not delivering any messages. I’m not an errand boy.”
“But your writings are full of religious references.”
“Yes, but ‘I’m really a heretic regarding all religions. That’s why I find it difficult to understand people who change religions. Why go from one set of doubts to another?’”
“In your column Caderno H you once said: ‘Theology is the longest way to reach God.’ Do you think poetry shortens that path?”
“Well, that’s what man did, without realizing it. Think about it. ‘An animal, when it wants to get away from others, digs a hole in the ground; man, to get away from himself, makes a hole in the sky.’”
“Is that where poetry comes in?”
“Yes, of course. There’s no salvation outside of poetry.”
Mario points to the anthology brought by the journalist:
“Please, take a look in that anthology and see the poem If I were a priest. I think your listeners will have a better idea of what I’m talking about.”
She finds the poem and starts reading:
If I were a priest,
I would not, in my sermons,
speak of God,
or of moral corruption
—much less talk about the
and his charming
I would not cite the saints
or terrible curses...
If I were a priest,
I would cite the poets
and pray their most
The kind that have lulled me
since early childhood,
some of which I wish
For poetry purifies the soul…
And a beautiful poem—
even if distant from God—
a beautiful poem
always takes us to Him! (13)
“To tell the truth,” says Mario, “it doesn’t matter if we believe in God or not; what really matters is whether God believes in us…”
The telephone rings, interrupting him. He answers.“Hi, Elena. What’s up? Yes… I’m in the middle of an interview for FM Cultura…I don’t know…I’m not sure…I’ll see you there.”
MY LIFE WAS NOT SO ROMANTIC
While Mario is on the phone, talking to his niece, the journalist takes notes on the astrological chart on the wall. When he finishes, she comments:
“I notice your sign is rising in Pisces, the most easy and fluent of them all because…”
“Because life began in the sea,” says Mario. “That’s where everything begins over and over again…always.”
“Is that why hope is such a constant presence in your writings? I remember the poem where you say:
So what if things are
beyond our reach!
No reason for not wishing
them to be ours…
How joyless would
our paths be, were it not
for the distant presence
of the stars! (14)
“You’re right, I deal with hope quite often.”
“And what about love? Was your poem Bilhete (Love Note) addressed to one of your famous muses, like Greta Garbo?
If you really love me,
whisper it to me.
Let the birds in peace
And let me be.
If you really want me,
if you will.
and love is briefer
Mario listens and remains quiet for a few moments when she finishes. He gets up and slowly walks toward the window, where he stays for a while, in silence. His eyes are lost in space and, for once, he doesn’t notice the hurly-burly in the street below. “My life hasn’t been so romantic.../ I’ve no secrets to hide,/And, to be sincere,
If you love me, don’t tell me,
for I might die
of surprise…of ecstasy… of fear
My life hasn’t been so romantic…
But when I felt it was near its demise,
My poor life became so dependant
on a smile...on a touch…
on a look in your eyes! (16)
When he returns to his chair, the journalist asks:
“You’ve always lived alone in hotels and boarding houses. What is loneliness to you?”
Mario toys with the cigarette lighter and lights a cigarette before answering.
“The only problem with loneliness is keeping it. The fact is that I need to be alone because I’m a poetry werewolf. I write after midnight until three or four in the morning. You see, at night we are visited only by ghosts and they are silent…And that’s great, because the solitude of a poet makes contact with other solitudes so as to create the flow of poetry.”
“Yes,” says the journalist. “That feeling seems clear in what you wrote about the little ant: ‘A little ant crosses, diagonally, the blank page. That night, the poet was not able to write at all. How could he, if the page had already felt the quiver and the mystery of life…’” (17)
WHO’S AFRAID OF QUINTANA’S HUMOR?
“The critics still talk about another mystery. You were a candidate for a seat in the Brazilian Academy of Letters, but they rejected you. Why?
“Not once, not twice, but three times,” explains Mario, smiling. “That was in 1981 and 1982, when some friends insisted on submitting my name.”
“But in 1966, the Academy had paid tribute to you and, in 1980, awarded you the Machado de Assis Prize for your life’s work. How come they voted against you?”
“Who knows? Maybe they thought I would start mocking one of their symbols, their gold-braided uniform. Or that I would end up breaking the precious china cups they use for their five o’clock tea.”
“Maybe,” says the journalist, “maybe they were afraid of your humor, as in the poem:
His was a great name...
no doubt about it!
It was truly top drawer.
One day he got sick, died,
and became a street name…
And they kept
stepping on him as before. (18)
“No, no, far be it from me to be ironic!” says Mario. “After all, the Academy makes its members… immortal.
The journalist covers her mouth to conceal a smile.
“What is your relationship with the Academy today?”
“I get along very well with everyone there. Please, don’t consider this to be sour grapes, but I really never wanted to be a member.”
“There was a time when you were evicted from the Hotel Majestic and had no place to stay. Wasn’t it then that you wrote: ‘A bomb made a huge hole in the roof through which the blue sky smiled at the survivors.’ There it is again, the theme of hope.”
“I was evicted because the owner went bankrupt and the hotel was going to become a branch office of a bank.”
“I remember the strong public reaction against that,” says the journalist. “The state ended up declaring the hotel to be a cultural monument and turned it into the Mario Quintana Cultural Center to be inaugurated today. Isn’t that ironic?”
“It’s a great honor, for me” says Mario, his voice a little weaker.
He picks up the cigarette lighter and the pack of cigarettes and asks:
“What time are they going to broadcast our conversation?”
“At 6 p.m.,” says the journalist, as she gathers up her things and thanks him for the interview.
Mario accompanies her to the door, kisses her on the cheek and tells her how much he enjoyed chatting with her.
“Too bad I won’t be able to hear it. I’ll be at the Center at that time.”
Mario selects his favorite clothes to wear to the inauguration of the Cultural Center—a dark blue suit, a white silk shirt and a tie with touches of red and yellow. His dream is coming true. In no time at all, he is on Pinwheel Street walking toward the stand set up for the ceremony, already surrounded by several hundred people, who step aside to make way for him, shouting his name and throwing confetti. He can hardly hide his emotions, as he slowly walks up the steps to the platform. Everyone is already there—the Governor, the Mayor, and other government and cultural authorities for the official opening of the biggest cultural center in Porto Alegre dedicated to literature, music, theater, cinema and to the research of the poet’s work. While he awaits his turn to speak, he tries to listen to the jaded speeches of the dignitaries, but is finally overtaken by a strong desire to be alone with his thoughts, to talk to himself. The streetcar I take goes by the market/ but the good things in life are not for sale there,
Because all such things are really free.
This, my moment of euphoria,
is the flower of eternity
but my joy also includes
Suddenly, Mario is brought back to the reality of the moment when one of the speakers utters his name with greater emphasis. Mario looks at the him and adds to his thoughts, while smiling:
Don’t you know, my traveling companion?
All streetcars go toward infinity!
A GREAT BLUE LOVING GAZE EMBRACING ME…
Mario’s streetcar kept on moving through time toward its destination and has brought him to a bed at the Moinho dos Ventos Hospital. He now realizes that his homework of life is almost at an end; soon, there’ll be no homework at all. He smiles as he says to himself: “death means total freedom; it’s when you can, at long last, lie in bed with your shoes on.” His eyes wander around the room, on the ceiling for a while, then on the walls, until they are caught by a piece of sky that comes in though the large window. And he continues talking to himself, making poetry, mulling over his surroundings:“This barren
sickroom, reflects my barren day:
My books, I cannot read them anymore.
My life, I no longer live it as before,
it’s like a novel I stopped reading halfway…
I’m looking at the sky,
so intimately near,
a sky that comforts me,
and soothes my every fear,
so close and friendly
that it seems to be
a great blue loving gaze
Death should be like this:
something like a friend,
a sky that gently darkened into night
and we wouldn’t even know it was
30/ 07/1906 05/ 05/1994
Inscription for a Cemetery Gate
in The Color of the Invisible
On the same headstone you’ll find
tradition and a bit of gloss,
above the date of birth, a star,
date of death, a cross.
But many of those who rest here now
would correct us with their final breath:
“There should be a cross above my birth…
“and the light of a star above my death!
N.B.: This article includes some comments expressed by the poet in actual interviews. All of the phrases and poems of Mario Quintana used here were translated from the original Portuguese by John D. Godinho.
(1) Tenta esquecer-me (Try to forget me) in
Nova Antologia Poética, Ed. Globo,
S. Paulo, 1998.
(2) Os retratos de parede (Portraits on a
Wall) em Esconderijos do tempo (Time’s
(3) Seiscentos e sessenta e seis (Six Hundred
and Sixty-Six) in Time’s Hiding Places
(4) Article written by the poet for the weekly
magazine Isto É, of Nov.14,1984.
(5) O mapa in Apontamentos de História
Sobrenatural (Notes on Supernatural
(6) Os poemas in Time´s Hiding Places
(7) Projeto de prefácio (Draft of. a Preface)
in Baú de espantos (A Chest Full of
(8) Vida (Life) in Time’s Hiding Places
(9) Sonnet IV in A rua dos cataventos
(10) Sonnet XVII in Pinwheel Street.
(11) Poeminha do contra(Little Poem of.
Opposition) in Prosa e Verso(Prose and
(12) Ah, os relógios(The Clocks) in A cor do
invisível(The Color of the Invisible)
(13) Se eu fosse um padre em Nova Antologia
(14) Das utopias(On Utopias) in Espelho
(15) Bilhete(Love Note)in Time’s Hiding
(16) Canção para uma valsa lenta (Song for a
Slow Waltz) in Canções (Songs)
(17) A formiguinha (The Little Ant) from
Sapato Florido (The Flowered Shoe)
(18) Era um grande nome (His was a great
name) fromCaderno H
(19) Meu bonde passa pelo mercado (The
streetcar I take) in A Chest Full of
(20) Este quarto ( This sickroom) in Notes on
[Página Principal] [Página As Vidas]