One afternoon, sitting on a stump under the guava tree, my eyes out on stalks
when I looked at the hill in front of me at my old mud-block house(1).
The bare land of the flat hilltop, seemed an open wound bleeding silently,
"the sorrow of the sign of erosion".
Three days went by!
Now the afternoon is stormy, with heavy rain that falls suddenly washing everything
away, casting leaves on every side.
I, at the veranda windows, again felt panic as I looked at the flat hill-top
The torrent of red earth that poured down the hill seemed like a river of blood
hurtling down, its waters bearing cockerels, insects, roots and, with the mud
and the plants, "the sorrow of the sign of erosion".
On the third day the rain abated, I got out of the house to see the plantation
in the gully (2)
I settled down in front of what used to be my plot. Now it was my heart that
bled, broken by the pain of loss.
Not a stalk of beans to be seen, the orchards not a clue where they'd been,
mandioc uprooted, I'd no idea where my pumpkin and squash patch was.
All I could see was red earth covering the plantations.
I looked over there at the hilltop stripped bare. The crater on the slope,
now cleaner, deeper, seemed like a gaping throat, an open mouth guffawing, laughing
at men for futilely sowing his own woes.
If there had been any trees on the hill, if there had been some protection,
my plot would have been saved, for bushes hold back in the rain flood and spread
the water evenly across the whole surface.
But when man has cut down woods forever, the water flows straight through the
little furrows and breaks out, carrying before it everything in its path, even
nature's loam of the soil, leaving the land ever drier.
I looked again at the hillside, it seemed to laugh no longer.
I too fell grave. For days face to face, the hill stripped naked and defenceless,
and I paying a high price for the destruction of nature, feeling in my torn
heart, "the sorrow of the sign of erosion".
1 Editor's note: mud-block hut: a type of dwelling common in the north
of Minas Gerais, built with a lattice-work of sticks on which mud is packed.
2 Editor's note: hollow: a preferred locale for planting, generally
on the side of a mountain where the hills form a half-moon.