Stella Maris Rezende

Translated by Mark Ridd with the collaboration of students in the Portuguese-English Literary Translation discipline at University of Brasilia: Alessandra Lima, Beatriz Facchin, Gabriela Nascimento, Gilda Carvalho, Guilherme Borges, Jakeline Nunes, Mariana Vicente and Michelle Campos.

Traduzido por Mark Ridd com a colaboração dos estudantes da disciplina Tradução Literária Português-Inglês na Universidade de Brasília (UnB): Alessandra Lima, Beatriz Facchin, Gabriela Nascimento, Gilda Carvalho, Guilherme Borges, Jakeline Nunes, Mariana Vicente e Michelle Campos.

    • I’m poor as a church mouse, no more than a Tony Lumpkin but I open my notebook and begin to jot down everything that crosses my scatty mind or wells up from my be-troubled heart.
    • I swear by all Holy Potted Plants, my scribbling will not rest till every item of this ledger has been disclosed. Strong as the urge to just let life lapse may be, I prefer to restore it.
    • You can tell when a house is not resigned to just being a house. It is just as much a hodgepodge of interspersed beds of thorns and roses.
    • Inventory of banes. Inventory of goods.
    • I stand squarely before the house of Polidora and Grandma Judite. I can live no longer without the house of Polidora and Grandma Judite.
    • It is verdigris, blue doors and shutters. A white-washed garden wall, dark-grey gate. It stands in Morada Nova Street at number 25, the Indaiá River a bit farther down.
    • The first owner was called Agenor, Polidora’s great-grandfather, who left the house to his son, João, the who in turn bequeathed it to his widow Judite, Judite being Antônio’s mother, Antônio, Polidora’s father. Célia was her mother’s name.
    • Now the house belongs to Polidora and Grandma Judite.
    • Little more than a lush, dainty jade treasure where, for those who view it from afar, the white wall and little dark-grey gate stand out.
    • A short time ago – oh, fickle Fortune! – Polidora tragedously lost her parents. They were fording the river when a januarious flash-flood caught them up.
    • When they broke the news to Polidora, she left the washing soaking in black Guinea soap. Or rather, she forgot all about the washing soaking in Guinea soap. The clothes soaked for over a week.
    • Guinea soap will blanch any garment. Even the bright red blouse faded and turned to a worn, threadbare pink blouse.
    • When a neighbour thought to check, and rinsed the washing in the basin, she said to another neighbour: you lose your head grip.
    • The moment you enter, you see the jabuticaba myrtle bush on the right. To the left, the pomegranate tree. Between them, the rose bushes: yellow roses, white roses, red roses, rose-pink roses.
    • Besides that, clumps and clumps of flamingo flower, Hawaiian holly and bracken fern.
    • And see the brick-red cement path.
    • And the four steps leading up to the porch.
    • The brown-and-golden-tiled porch where two wicker chairs flank a cast-iron table.
    • You should take a closer shooftie at the crochet cloth covering the table. However grimy, it still displays the dab-hand craftsmanship the likes of only Grandma Polidora, no-one else.
    • Grandma Polidora escaped the fateful incident because she got it into her head not to attend the wedding of her close friend Natércia’s daughter. Preferred to stay cooped up in her room. And that penchant for afternoon sloth saved her from fording the river and being swept away by the torrent of a januarious flash-flood.
    • Célia and Antônio, meanwhile, had been set on eating wedding-cake. They had a thing about wedding-cakes. What they wanted most was the cake. Shan’t pretend they were keen on weddings. Truth to tell, their sights were set on the cake. For that, they would have to ford the river – no contrivance to be had.
    • But a januarious flash-flood does not come to bid welcome and cheer the spirits of folks venturing to cross the river. Specially in these gullies that are headed for the great São Francisco River.
    • Wedding cake tickles your fancy? Cross the river, then. But don’t come whining afterwards.
    • A januarious flash-flood comes to ferry a select few guests to another, stranger, grander, more unexpected party, though the date has been set well in advance – that it has, by gum! Eat the salty cod stew, drink the water...
    • When you enter the living-room, best stand stock still and, eyes shut, breathe in the aroma of the coffee and pamonha corn-husk dumplings Polidora’s grandma is preparing in the kitchen. After savouring the smell of coffee and pamonha, the console mirror is usually providential. In it anyone can check their hair isn’t dishevelled or their face spattered with dentifrice. I see myself in it, stand aback, knowing I’m another girl before proceeding into the rest of the house.
    • I keep wondering about Polidora and Grandma Judite.
    • Did they inherit at least a little jewel-box?
    • More likely they’re poor-as-a-church-mouse as me, yet far richer in remembrance.