The Famous Male Poet's Favorite Love Poem
Regarding the poem “Brazilian Tragedy” by Manuel Bandeira, as translated by Elizabeth Bishop.
This only works if I trust. Bishop says Misael “could have” torn Maria Elvira but didn’t. Misael “installed” his rescued prostitute in various homes. Like a watercolor in the foyer, like central air? & what Maria Elvira “wanted” she was given. We’re told. But this is Misael’s poem. We can finger him because Bishop says “finally” when Misael kills Maria. When she gets what he gives. & here I am, about to talk about how The Famous Male Poet favored Bishop’s Bandeira—the work where the first word is Miseal. Who owns Maria.
Maybe Maria wanted a man. Who didn’t know her in “the life.” The trap was obligation. The organdy itched. She wanted her mamae. But she didn’t want mamae to know. & when visiting & looking at Misael, his ham fist around Maria’s wrist—mamae knew. Like a man he’d fixed her fucking mouth, her fucking hands. What he had left from his paycheck was what he called love. He was a government. A servant. & maybe he couldn’t give love as transcendence. Could not understand. She didn’t want Misael’s feelings. There was no rescue. There was his purchase. & later, she tried to escape into who tried to escape into her. They were all slaves. Miseal sealed the deal. Lodged six bullets into her “ulcerated” form. The poem ends on her empty, on her “supine” form.
Love. “This is my favorite love…” said The Famous Male Poet in a reading at a fundraiser. He opened his hands, afterwards, when I told him, “That poem is about slavery.” I could have said, “Where’s the love?” Because I was hoping to school him. But his hands, held together at waist level, just bloomed. Palms up. There was a bit of a shrug at the word “slavery.” He walked away bagwa style, in a defensive semi-circle, to the bar behind me. “It is Art,” he said. His face to me, his body away. “Bandeira took this story & made Art.”
This only works if I trust a lot.
He shaped a body out of words. A container. Art, the container. The body, one too. (Of shit, sometimes. Of anima.) Let’s talk it all over, you ignorant ass. What does Maria contain?
Maybe mamae leans back, against one wall. Sees him as Maria Elvira’s brother, the one on a stool at the stove, stirring the big soup pot. It’s too big for him. He thinks he’s big too. She hooks singed palms under his armpits & hoists the boy to a green couch in the sunlight. First of all, this is love. “Are you a big boy?” Mamae rustles his bristle head… (I could learn a lot from this woman.)