Affonso Romano de Sant'Anna: Biography and Poems | Brazilian Poetry

Affonso Romano de Sant'Anna Brazilian Poet


Affonso Romano de Sant'Anna (born March 27, 1937), is a Brazilian poet, essay writer, and professor. He was a professor of Brazilian Literature at UCLA and the University of Texas at El Paso, and a writer for the O Globo newspaper. In 1971 he married Marina Colasanti, a Brazilian journalist and writer. In 1984, he began writing for Jornal do Brasil.

Letter to the dead

Friends, nothing has changed
in essence.

Wages don't cover expenses,
wars persist without end
and there are new and terrible viruses,
beyond the advances of medicine.
From time to time, a neighbor
falls dead over questions of love.
There are interesting films, it is true,
and as always, voluptuous women
seducing us with their mouth and legs,
but in matters of love

we haven't invented a single position that's new.

Some astronauts stay in space
six months or more, testing equipment
and solitude.

In each Olympics new records are predicted
and in the countries social advances and setbacks.
But not a single bird has changed its song
with the times.

We put on the same Greek tragedies,
reread Don Quixote, and spring
arrives on time each year.

Some habits, rivers, and forests
are lost.

Nobody sits in front of their houses anymore
or takes in the breezes of afternoon,
but we have amazing computers
that keep us from thinking.

On the disappearance of the dinosaurs
and the formation of galaxies
we have no new knowledge.
Clothes come and go with the fashions.

Strong governments fall, others rise,
countries are divided
and the ants and the bees continue
faithful to their work.

Nothing has changed in essence.
We sing congratulations at parties,
argue football on streetcorners,
die in senseless disasters
and from time to time
one of us looks at the star-filled sky
with the same amazement we once looked at caves
And each generation, full of itself,
continues to think
that it lives at the summit of history.

Translated by Mark Strand

The body-object and other exam

The object is this body
that involves and subjugates,
common noun
carrying allegories.

The body is this object,
a necessary adjective,
strange and less our own
than the least of our dreams.

This body-object
is not mine, nor yours.
nor death's, nor belongs
to the other possessive pronouns.

The earth's. It's hers. The earth
which receives us warm,
open, and willing.
The earth's and its components.

This object is the earth's,
the earth's that eats you,
body and life: ambivalence.
Fruit and life-they're both seeds.

Translated by Mark Strand

A Man And His Shadow


He was a rnan with a canine shadow
which fancied a horse for its shadow
but the man with the doggie shadow
was worried and couldn't say why.

So he shut it up in a kennel and,
once very late at night
while the shadow was barking at him
its naked soul came galloping by.


He was a man with a shadow so white
so white indeed
it couldn't be seen.
It followed him even so
and engaged him in dialogue.
It gave the impression
that something not present
was keeping him company.

He was truly the shadow
of his own shadow
— the part of the shadow you'd see.


A man stopped feeding
the shadow he was leading.
Economic reasons were alleged.
After all, why should he trouble
transporting this excess
that actually was his double?

Without shadow, he thought:
it was better to carry
what he carried inside himself.

He was wrong: He wasted away.
That was when he found his shadow
fed him in the most vital way.

Translated by Fred Ellison