Ruy Belo

The Poet in a Streetcar & The Sunflower of Rio de Onor
July 25, 2019 Belo Ruy

The Poet in a Streetcar
translated by Alexis Levitin

Suddenly with another year fallen away
for a moment I am I sense myself as evening falls
as the sun once brilliant now shimmers
a sticky light on the surface of the sidewalk
in the humiliating death of one who once was tall eternal and dominant
here I am as evening falls in the falling year
I the poet the established one the more than gentrified
a collective passenger on a streetcar
but only supposedly anonymous or collective or of the people
for I can give myself the luxury of calling forth a book read long ago
in one of those metallic animals by now already out-of-date out-of-place
and tomorrow alive only in that book by zé gomes that calls them forth
and I can give myself the luxury of right now calling forth myself after having spoken
in that drugstore where just now  I bought an antiasthmatic
of that asthmatic beach dog I first heard cough in a poem
by o’neill and only later in may in espinho
while tracing on the sand the grave footsteps of the nuptial poet
only now do I feel myself suddenly a person as I pay for my ticket
the ticket of one who will come back of one who lives by  work
but who can show off his most fashionable shoe
and note down verses on the wrapping paper of his medicine
and I distracted lost deprived already
of another side of wrapping paper round the medicine on which I was writing
I who never knew how to bring
all that endless gabble to an end
to say since I am still far off lyric and seated now
I hear the gravelly and neutral voice of the somber brakeman
say that we have come to the end the end of the trip for him
and the end of this poem for me


The Sunflower of Rio de Onor
translated by Alexis Levitin

There is I swear a sunflower in rio de onor
more important to me for example than who knows whom
I saw it today in andalucia the sunflower of rio de onor
at the side of the road just before getting to fernan nuñez
(Friends if you are passing by in the direction of cordoba or the copper work of lucena
send me news of this sunflower a less radiant sun
but much more accessible at least for us who do not have roots
but place what we have upon the earth
I recognized it right away though it had been many years since last I saw it
beside knowing it I knew it was at home in rio de onor
and could be found there always
that´s it goddamn it I said the same petals the same color
there it is oh heavens there it is exactly the same
my friend the sunflower of rio de onor
(it’s easy to have a flower as a true friend
if you didn’t know that before now you know it)
It was the same there it was exactly the same
the sunflower of rio de onor seen so many years ago
But we who were there and who passed by there
it is we who are no longer those who were there
and even less are we who are alive the same
as you oh my friend with your
two feet hanging there from the bridge over the river
small bridge diminutive river
just two steps from the eyes so round they seem like the sun
of those two or three four at the most children
(my god those children where is their country today)
I travel through spain but I swear I think this is the very sunflower
even though it’s not in portugal
we don’t have national plants as yet
and beside that that land is half spanish
But we who pass like this through the fields the days
we who do not have and never had
a small thing like a span of country
put all that we are in these beings we are passing by
and dwell only on certain photos that we took
It was I swear I think the sunflower of years ago
but we who like shadows are passing through
by chance could we be who we were years ago?
What exactly is our true country?
I throw the question to the green autumn fields of andalucia
but this countryside that speaks to me so deeply
who I am is what neither it nor anyone can tell

Ruy Belo, who died prematurely in 1978, published eleven collections of poetry, four collections of critical writings, and numerous translations of writers such as Jorge Luis Borges, Blaise Cendrars, Garcia Lorca, and Saint-Exupery. His work has appeared in over thirty anthologies in Portugal, as well as in collections published in France, Spain, Italy, Serbia, Germany, Sweden, Latvia, Bulgaria, Holland, Mexico, and, of course, Brazil. Recent translations of his work have appeared in or are about to appear in Catamaran, International Poetry Review, Metamorphosis, Per Contra, and Saranac Review.