There's an old saying
Amongst the river peoples:
Devours the body's shadow
And invents the light of solitude
You departed in the sun
On the 14th of April.
I sought your shadow
In the street
And no shadow was to be seen.
I still sought to touch you.
We spoke of life
And we spoke of death
(The weapon that will kill me,
Is already in the workshop
And gently you smiled,
From the firm-defended
Solitude of mystics.
We spoke of strength
And the need to go on
(For the weavers of death
Force the looms ever on,
Of the cloth that will cover you
They set fire to our houses.
They destroyed plantations.
They sacked our granaries.
They overturned coconut groves.
They poisoned the waters.
They invaded villages.
They tortured our mothers and fathers.
They ripped the ears from our dead.
They threw mutilated corpses into the rivers.
They knocked down the cross we raised,
Flaring signal of our memory.
They cut out the tongues of our brothers,
They raped our daughters.
They murdered invalids.
They burned children in their mothers' laps,
They laid siege with blood and fire
to the land that we worked.
Who will lend voice
to the language of pardon
protecting with beseeching
the laughter of assassins?
They annihilated the roots of hope.
The time of tolerance is gone
and the time for vengeance is come:
in the primitive name of justice.
Everyone knew of this death.
The fence(1) of the latifundia
The gunmen, salaried agents of death,
the uniformed country police, the GETAT(2),
the prospectors, drunkards, prostitutes,
young women teachers, old women of the Church,
the children playing in the sandy street
The men of the land, the posseiros, the pillaged,
The women educated through pain
And through waiting
The prefect, the judge, the delegate, the UDR,
the landowners, the debauched
polished their guns.
the church knew
The proud spear of the babassu-palm
And bent its fronds in a lament
and multiplied the knowledge of that death,
the little birds, the church clocks
chewing on hours in convoy
didn't stop, and the river water
didn't stop, flowing irremediable
at the hour of the death.
The stone on the roads
And remained silent,
The wind knew
And announced its groan still
Your sandals knew
And kept on walking
I who was born joyful
And lived counting the interminable rosary
Of the dead
I did not write the verse,
Sword of fury,
That might split in two
The convoy of hours
Derailing the time of your death.
Like someone who washes
In order to arrive dressed
At the time of solitude.
Who's the black boy
who defies limits?
Hardly a man.
Patience and indignation.
He fought against fences(3).
Fences of fear.
Fences of hate
Fences of famine
Fences of the body.
Fences of the latifundium.
I bring in the palm of my hand
A fistful of earth that covered you.
It's still fresh.
It's dark but still not free
As you wanted it to be.
I know inside
That you don't just want tears.
Your earth on the table
Tells me in its sharp silence:
My blood will rise
As a river torrent
Breaking open all the world's fences.
A river's blood of others called
Shall flow across your shirt
And it will be the banner
Held above the heads of rebels.
1 Editor's note: "Fence" relates to the Landless's symbology of barbed
2 Editor's note: GETAT, or Grupo Executivo das Terras do Araguaia-Tocantins
(Executive Group of the Araguaia-Tocantins Lands) was created by the Brazilian
government, Decree-law No. 1.767 of February 1, 1980. Subordinate to the General
Secretary of the National Security Council, its president is a representative
of the Secretary, its purpose is to coordinate, promote, and execute the laws
necessary for land regulation in the working area of the Coordenadoria Especial
do Araguaia-Tocantins (Special Coordinator of Araguaia-Tocantins), created in
February, 1977. (http://www.planalto.gov.br/ccivil_03/decreto-lei/Del1799.htm).
According to the author of the poem, the GETAT withdrew from the function of
land regulation and ended up becoming part of the apparatus for the repression
of the rural workers' struggle during the dictatorship.
3 Editor's note: See note 1.