ISSN 2359-4101

Brazilian Literature in Translation / Literatura Brasileña en Traducción

Issue / Numero

year/año: 2012
issue/numero: # 03

When it’s this it’s not that

Author | Autor: Cecília Meireles

Translated by Sarah Rebecca Kersley and Telma Franco Diniz Abud

When it’s this it’s not that

When there’s rain from above, there’s no sun,
if there’s sun, there’s no rain from above.

When I put on my glove, I can’t wear my ring,
if I’m wearing my ring, there’s no place for the glove.

If you fly to the sky, you can’t stay on the ground,
if you stay on the ground, you can’t fly to the sky.

It is really a shame that you just cannot be
in two places at once; you can’t even try.

When I’m saving my cash, I can’t buy any candy,
if I buy myself candy, I can’t save my cash.

When it’s that it’s not this, when it’s this it’s not that,
I spend my whole day choosing which way to dash.

Should I play with my toys or study my books?
run about and around or sit still with no chat?

And I still have trouble understanding
which one is better: if it’s this one, or that?

Flash flood

Go fetch Alexandre!
Go fetch him!

Watch the rain approach!
It’s a flash flood.
Watch it wash away the floor...

Watch out as the rain drenches one and all!
Fetch the key to shut the door.
Shut the door to shield the lashing rain,
watch the street awash!

Boil a fresh teapot on the hearth:
Watch out for flames! for flashes!
for the rain on the chopped up wood!

Let’s relish in tea, as the rain lashes
so much that even in galoshes
we cannot slosh across the street!

Go fetch Alexandre!
Go fetch him!

The catch

Basket of fish on the ground.
Shoals of fish in the sea.
Sharp smell of fish in the air.
And fish on the ground.

Weeping waves cover the sand
as the tide moves higher up the land.

The hands of the sea move up and down
the hands of the sea on the sand
where all the fish can be found.

The hands of the sea move up and down
but always rebound
never reaching the ground
where the fish can be found.

That’s why the waves always weep on the sand
as they try in vain to move up the land.

The little white horse

The little white horse at sundown
feels tired and grey;

but in the farm there’s a piece of ground
where it’s always holiday.

So the little white horse tosses back
his long, blond mane,

and flings his white life to the mosses
giving it free rein.

When he whinnies, the roots tremble
and he teaches the wind

the joy of having freedom to amble,
trot and sprint.

He’s worked so hard all day!
from dawn till the night came!

Amid the flowers idle away, little white horse
with the golden mane.

The mosquito writes

The long-legged mosquito
twists his leg, an M he makes
then he shakes, shakes, shakes,
into a rather long O,
then an S.

The mosquito flies high, then falls
with style, but far from view,
he forms a Q,
then U, then I, he scrawls.

This most curious
crosses his leg, makes a T.
Did you see?
He plumps out: a second O is done
prettier than the other one.

illiterate he is not,
this flying dot.
Yes, he can sign on the line.

But then he’ll set his sight
on someone he can bite,
for writing isn’t always fun,
don’t you think, little one?
And it’s his feeding time.

Titmouse in its house

T has a toupee.
T has toes.
Is it T who trills?


Who is it?
T cannot trill:
T can’t do so.
T just has toupee
and toes.

Is that the toad?
The toad can’t do so.


It’s the titmouse
who built his house
in a tree hole.

Trill with toupee.
Trill with toes.

in a tree hole.

The ballerina

This little miss
no bigger than this
thinks ballet is bliss.

She can’t tell her Res from her Dos
but she knows how to stand on her toes.

She can’t tell a Fa from a Sol
but moves her body to and fro.

She can’t tell a Lah from a Ti
but closes her eyes full of glee.

Her arms stretched high, she twirls and twirls around,
never dizzy or losing ground.

She covers her head with a veil and a star,
telling us all she has come from afar.

This little miss
no bigger than this
thinks ballet is bliss.

But then all the moves disappear from her head
and just like the other kids, she wants her bed.

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