Joao Cabral de Melo Neto (1920-99), who was born and grew up in northeast Brazil, served as a diplomat in Spain and other countries for many years. Despite this, his poetry generally reflected his pastoral origins, with natural elements as the motif of many of his works.

Imitation of water

Joao Cabral de Melo Neto

On the sheet, on your side,

already so marine a scene,

you were looking like a wave

lying down on the beach.

A wave that was stopping

or better: that was refraining;

that would contain a moment

its murmur of liquid leaves.

A wave that was stopping

at that precise hour

when the eyelid of the wave

drops over its own pupil.

A wave that was stopping

in breaking, interrupted,

would stop itself, immobile,

at the height of its crest

and would make itself a mountain

(being horizontal and fixed)

but in becoming a mountain

would yet continue to be water.

A wave that would keep,

in a seashore bed, finite,

the nature without end

that it shares with the sea,

and in its immobility,

guessed to be precarious,

the gift of overflowing

that makes the waters feminine,

and the climate of deep waters,

that shadowy intimacy,

and a certain full embrace

you copy from the liquids.

Translated by Ashley Brown

*Third World Resurgence No. 287/288, July/August 2014, p 68