"Do you see me as mad?...
Because there is desire within me, everything glimmers"
Hilda Hilst was born in 1930 in Jaú, Brazil. A prolific writer whose work spans many different genres, including poetry, fiction, drama and newspaper columns, her eccentric personality — she claimed she would go to a planet called Marduk in her afterlife — attracted more public attention than her work. She was a beautiful woman with an active social life in São Paulo, but at a certain point she decided to retreat to the countryside to dedicate herself entirely to writing. She died in 2004, and while she had already received some public recognition, many of her important books were already out-of-print by then. Her popularity has grown since then, and all of her books have been published in new editions. Some of her work has also been translated into Italian, French, Spanish and German. - Beatriz Bastos
Because there is desire within me, everything glimmers.
Before, daily life was thinking of heights
Seeking Another decanted
Deaf to my human bark.
Sap and sweat, they never came to be.
Today, flesh and bones, laborious, lascivious
You take my body. And what rest you give me
After the readings. I dreamt of cliffs
When there was a garden by my side.
I thought of climbs where there were no signs.
Ecstatic, I fuck you
Instead of yapping at Nothingness.
(translated by Lavinia Saad)
I come from ancient times. Long names:
Vaz Cardoso, Almeida Prado
Dubayelle Hilst... events.
I come from your roots, breaths of you,
And I love you tiredly now, blood, wine
Unreal cups corroded by time.
I love you as if there were more and derailings.
As if we stepped on ferns
And they screamed, both our victims:
I love you small like one who wants MORE
Like one who guesses everything:
Wold, moon, fox and ancestors.
Say of me: You are mine.
(translated by Lavinia Saad)
I smile when I wonder
Where in your room
You keep my verse.
Away from your
In the first drawer
Close to the window?
Do you smile when you read
Or are you tired of seeing
On my ripened face?
Do I seem beautiful
Or am I to you, perhaps
Too much of a poet,
And not serious enough?
What does the man think
Of the poet? That there's no truth
In my drunkenness
And that you prefer
A friend more peaceful
And less adventurous?
That you simply cannot
Keep in your room
Of my passionate words?
Do you see me as mad?
Do you see me as pure?
Do you see me as young?
Or is it true
That you never knew me?
(translated by Beatriz Bastos)
Various poems (translated by Lavinia Saad)
From cicadas and stones, words want to be born.
But the poet lives
Alone in a corridor of moons, in a water-house.
From world maps, from shortcuts, voyages want to be born.
But the poet inhabits
The field of inns of insanity.
From the flesh of women, men want to be born.
And the poet pre-exists, between the light and the nameless.
Do not look for me there
Where the living call upon
The so-called dead.
Look for me
Within the deep waters
Within a heart fire
Between horses, dogs,
In the ricefields, along the high
Or with the birds
In someone else,
Climbing a hard path
Rock, seed, salt
Life's paths. Look for me there.
While I write a verse, you surely live.
You work your wealth, and I work my blood.
You will say that blood is not having your gold
And the poet tells you: buy your time.
Ponder your hurried life, listen to
Your inner gold. I speak of another yellow.
While I write a verse, you who never read me
Smile when someone speaks to you about my verse.
To you, a poet is like an ornament, and you change the subject:
“My precious time cannot be wasted on poets.”
Brother of my moment: when I die
Something infinite also dies. It’s hard to say it:
A POET’S LOVE DIES.
And this is so large that your gold cannot buy it,
And so rare, that that smallest piece is so vast
That it doesn’t fit in my corner.
If I seem to you nocturnal and imperfect
Look at me again. Because tonight
I looked at myself as if you were
looking at me.
And it was as if water
To leave your house that is the
Just slipping by, not even
touching the riverbank.
I looked at you. And it has been
That I understand that I am
earth. It has been so long
That I wait
For your brotherly body of water
To stretch over mine. Pastor and
Look at me again. From a lesser
And more attentively.
What if I tell you that I saw a bird
Upon your sex, should you believe it?
And if it isn’t true, the Universe will not change at all.
If I say that desire is Eternity
Because the moment burns without end
Should you believe it? And if it’s not true
So many have said it that it could be.
In desire we are touched by sophomania, ornaments
Immodesty, shame. Why can’t I
Dot with innocence and poetry
Bones, blood, flesh, the now
And everything in us that will become misshapen?
The Obscene Madame D
The hours. Ecstasy. Dryness. Stung before the outdoors, I lapped the
air, colors, nuances, and I stopped breathing before certain ochres, the veins
of certain leaves, before the smallest of leopards, before the gray-white
feathers that fell from the roof, gray of a stony gray, a shimmering
silver-gray, and having seen, having been what I was, am I this one now? How
can I have been Hillé, vast, and plunging fingers into the matter of the world,
how having been, can I have lost she who was, and be today who I am?
Life is raw. A handle of tripe and metal.
I fall into it: a wounded stone embryo.
Life is raw and hard. Like a mouthful of viper.
I eat it on my pale tongue
Ink, I wash your forearms, Life, I wash myself
In the scant narrowness
Of my body, I wash the bone rafters, my life,
Your leaden nail, my rouge coat.
And we wander well-heeled the streets,
Crimson, gothic, tall bodies and glasses.
Life is raw. Ravenous like the crow’s beak.
And it can be so giving and mythic: a brook, a tear,
An eddy in the water, a drink. Life is liquid.
Heights, strips, I climb them, I cut them out
And the two of us hover, Life and I
In the red of the tempest. Drunk,
We dive clear-headed into the croaking wine.
What stylish jest. What straight-backed
Seraphins. The two of us in vapors,
Lyrical and lobotomized, and the ditch
Becomes peak, and mud is transluscent
And Nothing is extreme.
I unpeel mad daily life
And its pasty rite of paraboles.
Patient, priestesslike, very well-mannered
We await the tepid dusk, the glass, the house.
Ah, everything becomes dignified when life is liquid.
Also raw and hard are the words and faces
Before we sit at the table, you and I, Life
Before the shimmery gold of drink. Slowly
Stillnesses, water lentils, diamonds appear
Over past and present insults. Slowly
We are two ladies, soaking in laughter, rosy
Like a berry, the one that I glimpsed in your breath, friend
When you allowed me paradise. The sinister of hours
Becomes a time of conquest. Languor and suffering
Become forgetfulness. After we lay down, death
Is a king who visits and covers us with myrrh.
You whisper: Ah, life is liquid.