Translated from Portuguese by Dan Hanrahan I am whatever you think a black man is. You almost never think about black men. I will always be what you want a black man to be. I am your black man. I’ll never be only your black man. I am my black man before I am yours. Your black man. A black man is always somebody’s black man. Or they are not a black man at all, but a man. Just a man. When they say that a man is black, what they mean is that he is more black than he is man. But all the same, I’m a black man to you. I’m what you imagine black men to be. I can spill onto your whiteness the blackness that defines a black man in the eyes of someone who is not black. The black man is the invention of the white man. It is believed that to the white man falls the burden of creating all that is good in the world, and that I am good, and that I was created by whites. That they fear me more than they fear other white people. That they fear me, but at the same time desire my forbidden body. That they would scalp me for the doomed love they bear for my blackness. I was not born black. I’m not black every moment of the day. I am black only when they want me to be black. Those times that I am not just black, I am as adrift as the most lost white person. I am not just what you think I am.
Night of Calunga in the Bairro Cabula
Translated from Portuguese by Dan Hanrahan I died how many times in the longest night? In the motionless night, heavy and long, I died how many times on the night of calunga? The night does not end and here I am dying again nameless and again dying with each hole opened in the musculature of the person I once was. I died how many times in the bleeding bruised night? In the night of calunga so long and so heavy, I died how many times on that terrible night? The night most death and there I was dying again voiceless and again dying with each bullet lodged in the deepest depths of what I remain (and with each silence of stone and mortar that sheds the white of your indifference onto the shadow of what I no longer am and never will be again). I died how many times in the night of calunga? In the brackish night, night without end, the oceanic night, all emptied of blood, I died how many times in the terrible night the night of calunga in the Bairro Cabula? I’ve died so many times but they never kill me once and for all. My blood is a seed that the wind roots in the belly of the earth and I am born again and again and my name is that which does not die before making the night no longer the silent partner of death but the mother that births children the color of night and watches over them as a panther who shows, in the light of her gaze and in the sharpness of her teeth, just what she will do if the hand of evil even imagines troubling the sleep of her cub. I’ve died so many times but I am always reborn stronger brave and beautiful— all I know is to be. I am many, I extend across the world and across time inside me and I am so many one day I will make life live.