In the Middle of the Way

 

In the middle of the way was a stone
was a stone in the middle of the way
was a stone
in the middle of the way was a stone.

Never, me I’ll never forget that that happened
in the life of my oh so wearied retinas.
Never, me, I’ll never forget that in the middle of the way
was a stone
was a stone in the middle of the way
in the middle of the way was a stone.

Translation: Charles Bernstein

 

No meio do caminho

No meio do caminho tinha uma pedra
tinha uma pedra no meio do caminho
tinha uma pedra
no meio do caminho tinha uma pedra.

Nunca me esquecerei desse acontecimento
na vida de minhas retinas tão fatigadas.
Nunca me esquecerei que no meio do caminho
tinha uma pedra
tinha uma pedra no meio do caminho
no meio do caminho tinha uma pedra.

(1928)

 


One day this past June, wandering with my unhappy thoughts on the Copacabana Beach of Rio de Janeiro, I saw a young woman lying lazily on a bronze statue of a man seated  on a bench. I went closer to see the information about the statue and was startled to find it represented Brazilian poet Carlos Drummond de Andrade (1902-1987). I wonder if we in America have any statues of poets on our most beautiful beaches? Drummond was on my mind since I had spent the week before coming to Brazil working on a translation of one of his best-known poem, “No meio do caminho” (1928). The poem is foundational for Brazilian modernism and I would say, beyond that, for the poetics of the Americas. I intend to use it as the epigraph for a collection of essays on which  I am working, to be called The Attack of the Difficult Poems. For English readers, it’s probably best known through Elizabeth Bishop’s translation, “In the Middle of the Road.”

For Drummond’s alexandrines I ended up with mostly pentameters, but for lines 5 and 6 (“Nunca me esquecerei desse acontecimento / na vida de minhas retinas tão fatigadas) hexameters worked (“Never, me I’ll never forget that that happened / in the life of my oh so wearied retinas”) , and then for line 7 (“Nunca me esquecerei que no meio do caminho”) I was delighted to wind up with an hexameter hemistich followed by a pentameter (“Never, me, I’ll never | forget that in the middle of the way”). Go figure.

Provincetown, Massachusetts, August 2006

 

The Middle’s Riddle

after Carlos Drummond de Andrade

In the middle of the road was a way
Was a way in the middle of the road
Was a way
In the middle of the road was a way

Never, me, I’ll never forget that thing
In all the life of my fagged eyes
That in the middle of road
Was a way
Was a way in the middle of the road
In the middle of the road was a way

2007