The Rower of the Maré

By ELIANE MARQUES
Translated by TIFFANY HIGGINS

 

To Marielle Franco, city councillor, sociologist, and activist in Black and LGBTQI+ movements, who was assassinated along with her driver Anderson Gomes in Estácio in the middle of Rio de Janeiro on March 14, 2018. Those who ordered the crime have not yet been brought to justice. 

We are full of bullets from AKs in our heads and in our necks
With stray slugs that enter our bones our backs
We are in the Ecstasy neighborhood
But not dying of love

Starting yesterday
If anyone wants to kill me with love that raises the voice at my side
I live on fragments of the word hate

And I shout, growing ever louder
No, don’t you tell me to speak quietly
Or to be gentle like a white diplomat

I’m here with all of my fingers cut off

Understand me   

I carry, in my ancestors’ tresses, this aching hate
My hate is more ancient than the stars
It comes from my pores where the captives

So don’t tell me to speak quietly
Don’t ask me if I am angry
I’m only one rower of the maré and this is my portrait

Careful. Don’t step recklessly
Or dance amidst the ruins

They arrive quickly
And stumble on our habit of doing nothing
They arrive quickly
And order silence around us
They arrive quickly like a bullet train

They arrive quickly
And spread their scent of putrid smoke between us

Marielle of the maré
                                    Who makes herself present
The rower for many centuries

Understand, please, why we cannot speak quietly
We’ve got almost all our fingers cut

Translator’s note: The title refers to the Maré neighborhood, the community in Rio de Janeiro where Marielle Franco grew up.

 

Eliane Marques is a poet, essayist, editor, and director of the Poetry School in Santa Catarina and the Orísun Oro project, whose mission is disseminating to the world the poetic works of Black women from Latin America and Africa. Her books are Relicário and e se alguém o pano, which won the 2016 Açorianos Prize for best poetry book. She is co-author of Arado de palavras and Blasfêmeas: mulheres de palavra. She translated from Spanish into Portuguese O Trágico em Psicanálise by Marcela Villavella and Pregón de Marimorena by Virginia Brindis de Salas. Her new poetry collection O poço das Marianas is forthcoming this fall. A specialist in economics, politics, and human rights with a Master’s in public law, she works as an external auditor for the Rio Grande do Sul state auditor’s office.

Tiffany Higgins is a poet, translator, and journalist writing on Brazil and the environment, and a 2021 Fulbright scholar to Brazil’s Amazon. Her writing appears in Granta, Guernica, Mongabay, Poetry, and elsewhere. She was the 2020 Annie Clark Tanner Fellow in Environmental Humanities at the University of Utah. She is the author of The Apparition at Fort Bragg and And Aeneas Stares into Her Helmet, and translator from Portuguese of Alice Sant’Anna’s Tail of the Whale.

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The Rower of the Maré

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