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Poetry

Becoming Ishmael

By Antônio Moura
Translated from Portuguese by Stefan Tobler
I part the sea in two.

Becoming Ishmael in Moby Dick,
whenever I find myself growing grim

about the mouth, whenever
it is a damp, drizzly

November in my soul,
it is time to take to sea.

And armed with next to nothing, just
the word that is almost less than a breath

a gust with which I fill the sail and part
in two the air and the water that carry

the soul’s wing and the body’s hull
to meet the beautiful beast

that beckons from the horizon with
his gaze green and lively: the Not-known,

the always most welcome, twin-
brother of creation, the stealer of fire

surrounded by clouds who throws
through the windows of my lodgings

the following flash: all water
around your house is stagnant

pasture for hordes of mosquitoes.
And hearing, turned Ishmael

I part the sea in two—the poem
always one step from the abyss.

© Antônio Moura. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2013 by Stefan Tobler. All rights reserved.

English Portuguese

Becoming Ishmael in Moby Dick,
whenever I find myself growing grim

about the mouth, whenever
it is a damp, drizzly

November in my soul,
it is time to take to sea.

And armed with next to nothing, just
the word that is almost less than a breath

a gust with which I fill the sail and part
in two the air and the water that carry

the soul’s wing and the body’s hull
to meet the beautiful beast

that beckons from the horizon with
his gaze green and lively: the Not-known,

the always most welcome, twin-
brother of creation, the stealer of fire

surrounded by clouds who throws
through the windows of my lodgings

the following flash: all water
around your house is stagnant

pasture for hordes of mosquitoes.
And hearing, turned Ishmael

I part the sea in two—the poem
always one step from the abyss.

© Antônio Moura. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2013 by Stefan Tobler. All rights reserved.

Feito Ishmael em Moby Dick

Feito Ishmael em Moby Dick,
sempre que sinto na boca uma

amargura crescente, sempre
que há em minha alma um

novembro úmido e chuvoso
é tempo de fazer-me ao mar.

E munido de quase nada, só
da palavra que é puro sopro,

através dela inflo a vela e parto
em dois o ar e a água que levam

a asa da alma e o casco do corpo
ao encontro do belo monstro

que acena do horizonte com seu
olhar verde e vivo: o Desconhecido,

o sempre bem vindo irmão-
gêmeo da criação, ladrão do fogo

lançando envolto em nuvens
pelas frestas dos aposentos

o seguinte clarão: toda a água

em volta da casa já está estagnada,

pasto para hordas de mosquitos.
E, ouvindo isto, feito Ishmael

parto em dois o mar—poema
sempre a um passo do abismo