"particular grief" 1

In the last post, I only focused on poems that felt to echo Drummond de Andrade’s conversational nihilism. For this post, I wanted to look at two poems that are more social in reach: “SONG OF THE PHANTOM GIRL OF BELO HORIZONTE” and “THE DISAPPEARANCE OF LUISA PORTO”. Although the poems are quite different, they illustrate a different strand of Andrade’s work.

Belo Horizonte (beautiful horizon) is the third largest city in Brazil, and the first modern Brazilian city to undergo complex urban planning (actually designed after Washington, D.C.) – but its urbanization could not keep up with the demands of the population, and suffered all the major difficulties of urban development/underdevelopment.

The poem is haunted by the human consequences of urbanization:

I am the phantom girl
Who waits on Chumbo Street
for the coach of dawn.
I am white and tall and cold,
my flesh is a sigh
in the mountain dawn.
I am the phantom girl.
My name was Maria,

Maria haunts the beautiful horizon (unfortunately I couldn’t locate the importance of “Chumbo Street”) in her innocent whiteness (Belo Horizonte is surrounded by mountains). The fact that she is speaking gives her agency as a phantom that she probably did not have in life:

I am the girl you loved
who died of sickness,
who died in a car crash,
who killed herself on the beach,
whose hair stayed
long in your memory.
I was never of this world;
when kissed, my mouth
spoke of other planets
where lovers burn
in a chaste fire
and without irony
turn into stars.

Whatever potential “Maria” had of achieving an actual referent in history, seems to diminish as she becomes the Maria-of-all-women-who-suffer. She is the innocent Brazil perhaps, the los Beatrice.

Unlike the other, I died
without having time to be yours.
I cannot get used to this,
and when the police are asleep
in and around me,
my wandering ghost
goes down Curral Hill,
spying on the new houses,
circling the lovers’ gardens
(Claudio Manuel da Costa Street),
stopping for shelter in the Hotel Ceara
that offers no shelter. A perfume
I do not know invades me:
it is the odor of your sleep,
soft and warm, curled up
in the arms of Spanish women….
Oh! Let me sleep with you!

Who is the other? Mary? other Muses? the new houses and the hotel offer no shelter, the promise of modernity failing at its most basic function. who is the you? the poet? the reader? do the spanish women represent a betrayal? i am lost like the phantom girl is lost:

My ghost keeps going,
For I meet none of my lovers,
who were seduced by French women,
who drank all the whisky
in Brasil
(and are now in a drunken sleep),
and meet only cars that pass
with drivers who surprised
by my whiteness, flee.
The shy policemen,
poor things! One wanted to grab me.
I opened my arms… Incredulous,
He felt me. There was no flesh
And outside the dress
And under the dress
The same white absence,
A white anguish…
It is obvious: what was body
Was eaten by the cat.

Well, the you is most likely male, most likely allegorical (as she is). angered by the seduction of Spanish and French women (colonial corruption and exploitation). I find the police to be odd presences: shy or asleep. what role did the police have during this time? why did a policeman try to grad her? was the police system corrupt as well? is this to show also that there is no where to find refuge.

The girls that are still alive
(they’ll die, you can be sure)
are afraid that I appear
and pull them down by their legs…
They’re wrong.
I was a girl, I will be a girl
Deserted, per omnia saecula.
I have no interest in girls.
Boys disturb me.
I don’t know how to free myself.
If only my ghost wouldn’t suffer,
if only they would like me.
If only the spirit would consent,
but I know it’s forbidden,
and you are flesh, I am mist.

She shares Drummond’s nihilism. Her motive is revealed here: to join mist and flesh. In the possible degradations of urbanization and transculturation, the spirit of innocence, that deserted child, is forbidden to merge with the body of the poet – a poet who is importing muses from the colonial powers – and thus she becomes

A mist that dissolves
when the sun breaks in the mountains.
Now I feel better,
I’ve said everything I wanted to
I would climb that cloud,
be a frozen sheet
sparkling over mankind.
But the stars will not understand,
nobody will understand,
my reflection in the pool
on Parauna Avenue.


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