By Carlos Drummond de Andrade
From everything a little remained.
From my fear. From your disgust.
From stifled cries. From the rose
a little remained.
A little remained of light
caught inside the h￼at.
In the eyes of the pimp
a little remained of tenderness,
A little remained of the dust
that covered your white shoes.
Of your clothes a little remained,
a few velvet rags, very
From everything a little remained.
From the bombed-out bridge,
from the two blades of grass,
from the empty pack
of cigarettes a little remained.
So from everything a little remains.
A little remains of your chin
in the chin of your daughter.
A little remained of your
blunt silence, a little
in the angry wall,
in the mute rising leaves.
A little remained from everything
in porcelain saucers,
in the broken dragon, in the white flowers,
in the creases of your brow,
in the portrait.
Since from everything a little remains,
why won’t a little
of me remain? In the train
travelling north, in the ship,
in newspaper ads,
why not a little of me in London,
a little of me somewhere?
In a consonant?
In a well?
A little remains dangling
in the mouths of rivers,
just a little, and the fish
don’t avoid it, which is very unusual.
From everything a little remains.
Not much: this absurd drop
dripping from the faucet,
half salt and half alcohol,
this frog leg jumping,
this watch crystal
broken into a thousand wishes,
this swan’s neck,
this childhood secret…
From everything a little remained:
from me; from you; from Abelard.
Hair on my sleeve,
from everything a little remained;
wind in my ears,
from an upset stomach,
and small artifacts:
bell jar, honeycomb, revolver
cartridge, aspirin tablet.
From everything a little remained.
And from everything a little remains.
Oh, open the bottles of lotion
the cruel, unbearable odor of memory.
Still, horribly, from everything a little remains,
under the rhythmic waves
under the clouds and the wind
under the bridges and under the tunnels
under the flames and under the sarcasm
under the phlegm and under the vomit
under the cry from the dungeon, the guy they forgot
under the spectacle and under the scarlet death
under the libraries, asylums, victorious churches
under yourself and under your feet already hard
under the ties of family, the ties of class,
from everything a little always remains.
Sometimes a button. Sometimes a rat.
By Julio Cortazar
Have you seen,
have you truly seen
the snow, the stars, the felt steps of the breeze…
Have you touched,
have you really touched
the plate, the bread, the face of that woman you love so much…
Have you lived
like a blow to the head,
the flash, the gasp, the fall, the flight…
Have you known,
known in every pore of your skin,
how your eyes, your hands, your sex, your soft heart,
must be thrown away
must be wept away
must be invented all over again.
The Passion According to G.H. (1964) is a disturbing and shocking novel by Brazilian writer Clarice Lispector. Set in Rio de Janeiro, it tells the story of a wealthy woman, G.H, who encounters a cockroach in the service quarters of her apartment. The occurrence leads to a nervous breakdown and an existential crisis and ends in our heroine eating a part of the roach…
“The roach is an ugly and sparkling being. The roach is the other way around. No, no, it doesn’t have a way around: it is that. Whatever is exposed in it is what I hide in me: from my outside being exposed I made my unheeded inside. It was looking at me. And it wasn’t a face. It was a mask. A diver’s mask. That precious gem of rusted iron. Its two eyes were alive like two ovaries. It was looking at me with the blind fertility of its gaze. It was fertilizing my dead fertility. Would its eyes be salty? If I touched them — since I was gradually getting more and more unclean — if I touched them with my mouth, would they taste salty?
I’d already tasted in my mouth a man’s eyes and, from the salt in my mouth, realized he was crying.
But, thinking about the salt in the roach’s black eyes, suddenly I recoiled again, and my dry lips pulled back to my teeth: the reptiles that move across the earth! In the halted reverberation of the light of the room, the roach was a small slow crocodile. The dry and vibrating room. The roach and I posed in that dryness as on the dry crust of an extinct volcano. That desert I had entered, and also inside it I was discovering life and its salt.”
Extract from Ode to Bread By Pablo Neruda
Dense or light,
flattened or round,
you are, bread,
and how profound!
Extract from a short story by Julio Cortázar, Letter to a Young Lady in Paris:
When I think I’m about to vomit a rabbit I put two fingers down my throat like an open set of tongs, and I wait until I can feel the warm hair rising like the fizz of an alka-seltzer. It’s quick and clean, it all happens in an instant. I remove my fingers from my mouth and with them a little white rabbit comes dangling by the ears. The rabbit looks happy, it’s a perfectly normal little rabbit, only exceedingly tiny, as small as a chocolate rabbit except for the fact that it’s white and most definitely a rabbit. I place it in the palm of my hand, stroke its fur with my fingers; the rabbit seems happy to be alive and hoovers about burying its nose in my skin with that quiet, ticklish gnoshing of a rabbit’s nose on one’s hand. It looks for something to eat so I (I’m referring to when this used to happen in my house on the outskirts of the city) I take it out to the balcony and place it in the big pot with the clover I’ve planted especially. The little rabbit pricks up his ears as high as they go, grabs at a clover with a quick swirl of his snout, and I know then that I can leave him there and go off, continue with a life that’s no different to that of so many other people who purchase their rabbits from farms.
Original text in Spanish:
Cuando siento que voy a vomitar un conejito me pongo dos dedos en la boca como una pinza abierta, y espero a sentir en la garganta la pelusa tibia que sube como una efervescencia de sal de frutas. Todo es veloz e higiénico, transcurre en un brevísimo instante. Saco los dedos de la boca, y en ellos traigo sujeto por las orejas a un conejito blanco. El conejito parece contento, es un conejito normal y perfecto, sólo que muy pequeño, pequeño como un conejilo de chocolate pero blanco y enteramente un conejito. Me lo pongo en la palma de la mano, le alzo la pelusa con una caricia de los dedos, el conejito parece satisfecho de haber nacido y bulle y pega el hocico contra mi piel, moviéndolo con esa trituración silenciosa y cosquilleante del hocico de un conejo contra la piel de una mano. Busca de comer y entonces yo (hablo de cuando esto ocurría en mi casa de las afueras) lo saco conmigo al balcón y lo pongo en la gran maceta donde crece el trébol que a propósito he sembrado. El conejito alza del todo sus orejas, envuelve un trébol tierno con un veloz molinete del hocico, y yo sé que puedo dejarlo e irme, continuar por un tiempo una vida no distinta a la de tantos que compran sus conejos en las granjas.
By Pablo Neruda
Maru Mori brought me
knitted with her own
two socks soft
my feet into them
with threads of
and sheep’s wool.
my feet became
two long sharks
of lapis blue
with a golden thread,
two mammoth blackbirds,
that for the first time
my feet seemed
unacceptable to me,
two tired old
of the woven
of those luminous
the strong temptation
to save them
the way schoolboys
the way scholars
the wild impulse
to place them
in a cage
and daily feed them
and rosy melon flesh.
who in the forest
surrender a rare
and tender deer
to the spit
and eat it
I stuck out
and pulled on
then my shoes.
So this is
the moral of my ode:
and what is good doubly
when it is a case of two
(translated by Margaret Sayers Peden)
By Julio Cortazar
Death stands there in the background, but don’t be afraid. Hold the watch down with one hand, take the stem in two fingers, and rotate it smoothly. Now another installment of time opens, trees spread their leaves, boats run races, like a fan time continues filling with itself, and from that burgeon the air, the breezes of earth, the shadow of a woman, the sweet smell of bread.
What did you expect, what more do you want? Quickly. strap it to your wrist, let it tick away in freedom, imitate it greedily. Fear will rust all the rubies, everything that could happen to it and was forgotten is about to corrode the watch’s veins, cankering the cold blood and its tiny rubies. And death is there in the background, we must run to arrive beforehand and understand it’s already unimportant.
By Julio Cortázar
There is no one who hasn’t observed that frequently the floor will fold in such a manner that one part of it rises at a right angle with the plane of the floor, and later the following part is placed in a parallel manner to this plane, giving way to a new perpendicular, and that this conduct repeats as a spiral or broken line up to an extremely variable height. Each one of these footholds, formed along the way by two elements, is situated equally higher and more forward than the former, a principle that gives meaning to the staircase since whatever other combination will produce a form perhaps more beautiful or picturesque, but incapable of translating the lower floor to the upper floor. Stairs are climbed from the front, since climbing them from behind or the side will result particularly uncomfortable. The natural attitude consists in maintaining oneself on one’s feet, the arms loosely hanging at the side, the head erect but not so much so that the eyes stop seeing those elevated footholds immediate to the one that is being tread upon, and breathing slowly and regularly.
In order to climb a staircase one commences by raising that portion of the body situated at the below right, covered almost always in leather or rubber, and almost without exception fits exactly upon the foothold.
Said part being placed upon the first foothold, and in order to abbreviate we will hitherto call it “foot”, the equivalent part on the left is then removed (also called foot, but one must not confuse it with the aforementioned foot.) and raising it to the height of the foot, it is to be made to follow until it is placed upon the second foothold, upon which the foot may now may rest, and upon the first the other foot may rest. (The first footholds are always the most difficult, until acquiring the necessary coordination. The coincidence of the name between foot and foot make the explanation difficult. Be especially careful to not raise the foot and the foot at the same time.) Arriving in this manner to the second foothold, it is enough to alternate the movements until one finds oneself at the end of the stairs. One can easily leave them with a light blow of the heel that fixes it in its place, from which it shall not move until the moment of descent.
In honour of the late Gabriel Garcia Marquez, a quote from Love in the Time of Cholera:
“With her Florentino Ariza learned what he had already experienced many times without realizing it: that one can be in love with several people at the same time, feel the same sorrow with each, and not betray any of them. Alone in the midst of the crowd on the pier, he said to himself in a flash of anger: ‘My heart has more rooms than a whorehouse.”
An extract from From the Observatory by Julio Cortazar:
…amor de siesta o duermevela, entreviendo en esa mancha clara la puerta que se abre a la terraza, en una ráfaga verde la blusa que te quitaste para darme la leve sal que tiembla en tus senos.
…holding you in my arms, siesta love or half asleep, glimpsing in that patch of light through the door that opens onto the terrace, in a green gust the blouse you took off to give me the faint taste of salt trembling on your breasts