ISSN 2359-4101

Brazilian Literature in Translation / Literatura Brasileña en Traducción

Issue / Numero

year/año: 2012
issue/numero: # 01

Mururu in the Amazon

Author | Autor: Flávia Lins e Silva

Translated by Alison Entrekin

Chapter XI.

My love for the Anavilhanas was a head-over-heels thing: I dived in. I had never felt such an urge to pour myself out in a single place before. I let my ears go numb underwater and, little by little, moss started sprouting on my body, telling me: stay, stay... The first time, I didn’t stay. So, I had to go back. Now all I want is to let the moss cover me because getting a mantle of moss is something magical that doesn’t happen anywhere else. You receive your mantle and go green all over. Those who choose this moss make a pact of time: forever. 
  A kiskadee mistakes me for a plant and lands on my shoulder, colouring me delicately. I accept its feathery affection, but our rendezvous is short-lived. A screech comes from the forest, tearing the air and driving all beauty far away. 
  A dry cry comes from the forest and I beg time to make the screeching stop. The nervous, metallic sound of a saw arrives, without waiting, without afterwards. I touch the water in parting and dress my feet for the forest. I don’t understand land. I have to move carefully so as not to rouse the animals. On land there may be snakes, ants, scorpions. I look at everything from afar. Tells fall on trees and the land is gradually stripped naked. I can’t bear so much end.
  Who is that hugging the cedar as if he were a vine? He is clinging to the last tree as if it were a person. The saw continues screeching, cutting down time and history. So many roots torn up, so much life piled up on the ground. The logs are taken downriver and the forest cloaks itself in darkness. It is a day of mourning. 
  The boy’s feet are firmly planted. He doesn’t let go of the trunk. He doesn’t shout or speak. He is trying to protect that life with his body, but here comes the screeching. On an impulse, I take his hand and pull him into my dugout canoe. He gets in with me, but he has the lost, sad gaze of one who has seen the land die a little more without being able to do anything. I look at him and realize: lots of water outside, lots of silence inside.

Chapter XII.

I am woken by the pelting rain. The downpour has made the river rise during the night and my canoe has been swept away on the current to a far-flung place I’ve never seen before. We are lost on a tributary. No help comes from the sky: the rain becomes a waterfall and if it continues the canoe will end up at the bottom of the river, serving only as a home for fish. We station Mururu under an enormous silk-cotton tree, which shelters us. After tying Mururu up well, the boy breaks his silence.
  "My name is Guapiú."
  "Guapiú, like the healing vine. But you can call me Piú," he says, then looks at me, waiting. I tell him my given name, my nickname and also mention that the canoe’s name is Mururu. Piú’s grin is as wide as the Amazon. My brown skin turns red. Now I’m feeling slightly dizzy and don’t know how to continue the conversation. Luckily, a songbird perches on the prow and starts warbling. Piú mimics each of its notes. It’s as if they were chatting musically. The singing deepens my happiness. I feel as if the world has just been invented right before my eyes. It’s as if we are the only things in existence: me, Piú and the songbird. To make the moment even more beautiful, I’d invent a plant with eight colours and Piú would create a blue and purple bird; I’d invent a fruit that you can eat and eat and it never ends; and he’d invent a soft tree trunk for us to lean on... 
  Piú seems to be on friendly terms with everything that flies, everything that swims and even everything that doesn’t move. I feel a chill without cold in my stomach. Without wind or breeze, Piú causes me to bat my eyelids. I could go on staring at Piú forever, without a thought for my mother, my father, what time it is or the rising river. But Piú knows what he wants and he wants to go back to the canoe, to life, to the river that never stops. We need to find our way back.

Chapter XIII.

Sitting in Mururu, I row with the oar while Piú rows with a dry branch. I follow his movements and we cross the long waters, looking for a way back to the Anavilhanas. There are many waterways in these parts but no sign of a way out. The sun slowly turns orange and suddenly we row into a big mirror. It is the river dressed as a tree! Everything is reflected in the water, even the sky! The sky wanders vainly through the river, now decorated with clouds. The forest also admires itself, bathing itself in the water’s mirror. Tree branches yawn, splitting into two. Everything is duplicated, even Piú. Now there’s a good-looking guy! I don’t mean to stare, but in his reflection I can gaze into his forest-coloured eyes. I’ve never looked at anyone like that... Piú is handsome like no other. If I were a fisherwoman, I’d throw my net over his image and take it with me. Oh! Whew! For an instant there I thought he was looking back at me in the water’s reflection. I’d better look away before he discovers my thoughts sinking into desire.
  Piú rows in silence in the agony of trying to find a channel to take Mururu back to the Negro River. His concern is serious, something deserving of his full attention. He wants to find our bearings, to find land that is familiar, where he knows his way around. I’m not much help. I’m so full of emotion that I can’t even pay attention to the geography of the river. All I know is that a river is forming inside me, with lots of water rising quickly. It’s not going to be a temporary channel. It’s a flooded jungle: a river that has burst its banks and won’t recede.
  In Piú’s presence, words leap about savagely in my chest and I think it’s going to take me a while to tame each one. I wish I could say beautiful things. I wish I could tell him about the water rising in me. But I’m afraid he’ll figure things out. I don’t even know what you call this thing that’s almost drowning me. Before, I only existed inside. Now I need to learn to let these feelings spill out.

Chapter XIV.

By the time dusk fell, we had secured Mururu with a vine. I dreamed of Piú’s arms around me, warding off the cold of the night. Fear and desire swirling together like the place where the Negro and Solimões rivers meet. Too much water. Luckily, Piú is still asleep in his corner, softened, unaware that I’m awake. Swallows play in the water, beginning a new day. I could go for a swim too, but I can’t stop staring at Piú’s feet: he has thick nails, a sore on one of his big toes, skin flaking off at his heels and a scar on his ankle. He’s awake! I wonder if he saw me staring at his feet? I don’t think so. He talks about fruit and hunting. He’s hungry. We jump onto the beach sand and I grab a handful of buchuchu, a bluish fruit that looks like a flower. But buchuchu only sweetens your tongue. It doesn’t fill your belly. Piú heads into the forest looking for fruits and nuts. I prefer to stay here by the water’s edge, trying to catch a fish with my hand. 
  Distracted, I don’t even notice the river turtle. A really big one just went by! It’s a turtle! Yes, it is! It has to be! I have to catch it! But it swims quickly and disappears upriver! I should’ve been paying more attention! I scour the beach from end to end. I follow the turtle’s prints in the sand and... I knew it! It was a female! She left everything there: a pile of eggs waiting in a hole in the ground. I bend down to pick up an egg, without looking around, and along comes the slitherer! I barely have time to spit out a scream before it has wrapped itself tightly around me. It wants to grind my bones and squeezes me hard. First the air vanishes, then colour and everything goes black. Just one thought remains: I wish I’d had more time with Piú. My last breath is entirely for him, his vine-like hug, his portrait in the water, his grown-man’s feet and his smile as wide as the Amazon. I wish he’d called me his, even if only once. I wish I’d found out if he felt something for me... Suddenly, silence in my mind. I don’t think about anything. The end. 

Chapter XV.

It was hunger, Piú explained. Water is still pouring through me, inside and out, and little by little my courage returns. I open my eyes and see Piú in front of me. He strokes my hair and soothes me with songbird warbling. Then he gives me a piece of fruit and tells me what happened. I was so hungry I fainted. I’m not convinced. I tell him about the Big Snake and he smiles. 
  "There was no snake! If there had been, I would have choked the wretched thing with both hands!"
  "No you wouldn’t have!" I say to provoke him.
  So he gets up and starts showing me what he’d do to save me from the Big Snake. First, he’d throw a cupuaçu fruit at it to frighten it, making it release its hold. I like imagining Piú saving me. Such a beautiful thing, a man wanting to save a woman. I think it shows how deeply he cares. Piú goes on: after throwing five fruits at it, I’d roll free and the snake would forego lunch to fight the enemy. Then he’d take a Brazil nut shell, the hardest thing there is, and throw it right at that head with a forked tongue. Finally, he’d cook the snake’s white flesh and eat the whole thing to get its strength.
  "You’d really eat that thing?" 
  "You would too!" 
  "No way, never!" 
  "Yes, you would, so other snakes would leave you alone."
  Just as well there’s no snake to fight or eat. We have lots of cupuaçu, which Piú makes me eat so I’ll regain my strength and not miss the world’s colours. I feel better but he’s still messing around: he takes a cupuaçu pip and shows me what he’d do with the snake’s flesh, grinding each piece between his teeth. He makes me laugh. Suddenly, he laughs too and places his hand on mine. Feeling awkward, I get up and point to the place where I thought I had seen the turtle eggs. Piú goes over to the spot and explains: it was all invented by my hungry tummy, wishful thinking. I probably didn’t even see the turtle. Then I began to wonder: what if my bad dream was actually an inkling of what was to come? And what if the Big Snake had cast a spell on us? They say snakes do that. They tire out their prey by causing them to get lost, wandering around in circles until they just about give up. Then, when the prey is desperate, the snake strikes. It might have cast a spell on us and that’s why we’re lost, going round in dizzy circles, unable to find a way back to the Negro River. If that’s the case, Piú thinks we’d better turn all of our clothes inside out to break the spell. I don’t think twice. He has gone over to one corner, while I turn myself inside out right here by the water’s edge. I’m not even sure what is inside out and what is the right way around any more. For an instant, I see myself reflected in the water with the body of a woman: hair covering my mound, budding breasts, body ablaze. Does Piú notice all this? Does he see everything almost leaping out of my clothes? Before my thoughts get any bigger, I jump into Mururu and huddle in the bottom. 

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