“With Words” by Egito Gonçalves

Egito Gonçalves


I get up every day with words!
I wash my face each morning and go down
to the street with words.
With words—inaudible—I scream
so as to tear to bits the laughter that surrounds us.
Ah! we all are stuffed with words.
We own whole archives, know them all by heart,
in four tongues or in five.
We take them at night in little pills
so our exhaustion can fall asleep.
Words wrap themselves around our tongue.
The purest ones transmute themselves, purple,
blue with silence. What good are they
asphyxiated by saliva, prisoners?
of words, we own the loveliest;
those that unyoke love, freedom …
I swallow them as I ask myself if one day
I will sail with them; if my lung
that holds them in them will ever swell.
There flows through us a river of words:
I go to bed with them, I get up with them,
and words cannot express …

—tr. by Alexis Levitin

from Rattle #15, Summer 2001


Egito Gonçalves (1920–2001) was a Portuguese poet. He wrote over twenty collections of poetry and translated dozens more.

Alexis Levitin: “Translation keeps me traveling. I learned Portuguese while living for two years in a shrimp-farming village in southern Brazil. Rio de Janeiro is the world’s most beautiful city, but my best place is Sagres, the wind-swept southwest extremity of Europe, from which Henry the Navigator launched Portugal’s exploration of the globe. Before I die, I hope to make it to the base of Mt. Everest base camp for a glimpse filled with awe.”

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