[Extras] UNDER THE WINDOW: OURO PRETO

UNDER THE WINDOW: OURO PRETO (For Lilli Correia de Araújo) The conversations are simple: about food, or, “When my mother combs my hair, it hurts.” “Women.” “Women!” Women in red dresses and plastic sandals, carrying their almost invisible babies – muffled to the eyes in all the heat – unwrap them, lower them, and give […]

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UNDER THE WINDOW: OURO PRETO

(For Lilli Correia de Araújo)

The conversations are simple: about food,

or, “When my mother combs my hair, it hurts.”

“Women.” “Women!” Women in red dresses

and plastic sandals, carrying their almost

invisible babies – muffled to the eyes

in all the heat – unwrap them, lower them,

and give them drinks of water lovingly

from dirty hands, here where there used to be

a fountain, here where all the world still stops.

The water used to run out of the mouths

of three green soapstone faces (One face laughed

and one face cried; the middle one just looked.

Patched up with plaster, they’re in the museum.)

It runs now from a single iron pipe,

a strong and ropy stream. “Cold.” “Cold as ice,”

all have agreed for several centuries,

Donkeys agree, and dogs, and the neat little

bottle-green swallows dare to dip and taste.

Here comes that old man with the stick and sack,

meandering again. He stops and fumbles.

He finally gets out his enameled mug.

Here comes some laundry tied up in a sheet,

all on its own, three feet above the ground.

Oh, no – a small black boy is underneath.

Six donkeys come behind their “godmother”

–        the one who wears a fringe of orange wool

with wooly balls above her eyes, and bells.

They veer toward the water as a matter

of course, until the drover’s mare trots up,

her whiplash-blinded eye on the off side.

A big new truck, Mercedes-Benz, arrives

to overawe them all. The body’s painted

with throbbing rosebuds and the bumper says

HERE I AM FOR WHOM YOU HAVE BEEN WAITING

The driver and assistant driver wash

their faces, necks, and chests. They wash their feet,

their shoes, and put them back again.

Meanwhile, another, older truck grinds up

in a blue cloud of burning oil. It has

a syphilitic nose. Nevertheless,

its gallant driver tells the passerby

NOT MUCH MONEY BUT IT IS AMUSING.

“She’s been in labor now two days.” “Transistors

cost much too much.” “For lunch we took advantage

of the poor duck the dog decapitated.”

How talkative are the seven ages of man,

how soiled and thirsty!

Oil has seeped into

the margins of the ditch of standing water

and flashes or looks upwards brokenly,

like bits of mirror – no, more blue than that:

like tatters of the Morpho butterfly.

–   ELIZABETH BISHOP

Publicado, pela primeira vez, em 24 de dezembro de 1966 na Revista The New Yorker. “Under the window” aparece também em “The Complete Poems” – antologia poética de Bishop de 1969, editado pela Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

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