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Adventures with Portuguese: “A PELE QUE HÁ EM MIM”

“I did nothing yesterday,” I said to Kris, emphasizing “nothing.” Kris was my new friend in San Miguel de Allende and we were lounging on the grass at La Gruta hot springs. It was the second week of my writing workshop and I was feeling anxious for not having written five novels already in 14 days.

“Me neither,” Kris said dipping her chips in the guacamole. Our beers were barely chilled but I couldn’t care less. Sunbathing with good company in Mexico not writing was better than staring cross-eyed at my facebook newsfeed not writing.

The truth is I was lying—I had done something the day before.

“Well, I did translate a song from Portuguese to English,” I said.

Kris laughed: “Of course, you did!”

“I don’t speak Portuguese.”

“Of course, you don’t.” She laughed some more.

After listening “A PELE QUE HÁ EM MIM” on repeat for two days, I copy pasted the lyrics into Google translate. It was awful; made no sense whatsoever. But I was obsessed and no matter what, I had to understand what this love ballad between Márcia and JP Simoes was all about.

I fed the lyrics into Google again, this time translating into Spanish, Turkish, and Hebrew—the languages I do speak. It helped a little with a sentence here, a word there. At that point, I had a general idea about the song but I couldn’t understand the nuances. The song was poetic, I could feel it. And I just had to understand it! That’s when I opened two more tabs: a proper Portuguese-English dictionary and a website called “conjuga-me.”

I learned that e means “and;” fala means “speech.” Those were easy. Ficou gave me a real hard time, so did recanta. O apparently can mean “the” but also “it” or “him.” Minha means “my” but so does meu. And why was this song talking about a yarn? Or was it a wire?

“I get it! You broke up, love died, great, but why?” That’s when I started talking to Google translate. It wasn’t my most graceful moment to say the least.

Did he “yank” her braided hair, which could obviously explain break-up? I for one would not stay with a man who pulls hair. That’s a deal breaker. But maybe that line was about locks ripped open. Highly unlikely. That guy definitely pulled her hair.

At some point my Mexican flat mate Crystal walked in, probably wondering why I kept playing the same song over and over. I solicited her help. A native Spanish speaker could perhaps have secret powers to unlock Portuguese grammar, I thought.

“My Hebrew is better than my Portuguese,” she said and exited my room.

The whole ordeal—including the obsessive clicking of the replay button on youtube—must have taken at least three to four hours of my precious writing time (read: staring into space, looking through random people’s pictures on pinterest, eating a second lunch… I could keep going but you get the picture).

Anyway, I translated the damn song. Now I know why the lovers in the song had to separate: They are idiots. And so am I.

Anyone who actually knows Portuguese want to help me fix these lyrics?

Update: Thank you Ana Pessoa, who happens to be a professional translator who helped with the lyrics. The red below are her corrections! 

The skin in me (When the day grew dark)

When the day grew dark and your body touched my corner
a corner of mine, a dance awoke
and the sun arose, it was giant
in one moment it erased the serene sky
And a the serenity place to wait for waiting in me
The desire to tell the story according to counting from the end
It gave you air a sudden move of yours and your singing changed
And your body yanked from mine a braid
The blood cooled, my feet landed                                                                                                                                                                               My voice whispered, my dream died

Give me the ocean, my river, my way sidewalk
Give me the empty room of my house
I will leave you in the yarn thread of your speech
About the skin that is in me, you know nothing

When love has ended and my body forgot
The path it traveled through your the corners of your body
The moonlight faded and the night was speechless
The deep cold sky descended and it stayed
But the pain does not no longer lives in me
It already passed, it wore off, moved beyond the end
It is right to separate, to live again is the price of love
I feel neither the taste of sweat, nor the fear of your boiling lap
About the flower of your blood, I no longer want to know about the blooming of your blood.

Give me the ocean, my river, my way road
Give me an empty boat at dawn
I will leave you in the cold of your speech
In the vertigo of voice that finally shuts up


A Pele Que Há em Mim (Quando o Dia Entardeceu)

Quando o dia entardeceu e o teu corpo tocou
Num recanto do meu uma dança acordou
E o sol apareceu de gigante ficou

Num instante apagou o sereno do céu
E a calma a aguardar lugar em mim
O desejo a contar segundo o fim.
Foi num ar que te deu e o teu canto mudou
E o teu corpo do meu uma trança arrancou
O sangue arrefeceu e o meu pé aterrou
Minha voz sussurrou ?o meu sonho morreu?

Dá-me o mar, o meu rio, minha calçada.
Dá-me o quarto vazio da minha casa
Vou deixar-te no fio da tua fala.
Sobre a pele que há em mim tu não sabes nada.

Quando o amor se acabou e o meu corpo esqueceu
O caminho onde andou nos recantos do teu
E o luar se apagou e a noite emudeceu
O frio fundo do céu foi descendo e ficou
Mas a mágoa não mora mais em mim
Já passou, desgastei, para lá do fim
É preciso partir é o preço do amor
Para voltar a viver já nem sinto o sabor
A suor e pavor do teu colo a ferver
Do teu sangue de flor já não quero saber

Dá-me o mar, o meu rio, a minha estrada.
O meu barco vazio na madrugada
Vou deixar-te no frio da tua fala.
Na vertigem da voz quando enfim se cala.