Published on Academy of American Poets (


Without commas in her gaze,
the little girl dribbles colons with each breath
and swears an exclamation mark
is a lollipop:

“Is growing up for real or make-believe?”
Dot dot dot, I gasped.
A question mark is a fisherman’s hook.

I’d taken the bait of uncertainty, 
when she offered me as consolation,
wrapped in quotation marks, a single Smartie.


Originally published in the April 2019 issue of Words Without Borders. "Pontuação" © Helder Faife. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2019 by Sandra Tamele and Eric M. B. Becker. All rights reserved.


Hélder Faife

Hélder Faife was born in Maputo, Mozambique, in 1974. He is the author of several poetry collections, incuding Desdenhos (Cavalo do Mar, 2017), Contos de fuga (A2 Design, 2010),  and Poemas em sacos vazios que ficam de pé (A2 Design, 2010)—both winners of the Concurso Literário da empresa Telecominicações de Moçambique. A member of the Mozambique Writers Association, he lives in Maputo.

Date Published: 2019-06-24

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