a um moçoilo (a point of personal curiosity)

I first came across this poem while reading Formação da literatura brasileira for the nth time. This time around, I was struck by the brief section on Junqueira Freire, and something about the tortured sensuality of the Bahian monk’s poetry led me to Google “Junqueira Freire homossexual.” A few thousand hits were unanimous in declaring him, if not gay, then at least not straight – a statement made with some degree of certainty, given his authorship of “what is likely the only Brazilian Romantic poem dedicated to openly homosexual desire.”

The poem’s title was “A um moçoilo” (To a Lad, roughly), and the first line was “Eu que te amo tão deveras” (I who love you so truly). That was all that furious Googling could turn up. The poem had been reproduced in an anthology from 1969 by Gasparino Damata dedicated to gay Brazilian poetry – Poemas do amor maldito – which was, in turn, elusive and out of print.

In the age of Project Gutenberg and Google Books, it seemed ridiculous not to be able to turn up a few lines written no fewer than 150 years ago and published within the last 100. I tried the library at PUC in Rio (no dice), solicited the book in vain at the new Brasiliana library at USP (the book didn’t have a locator number yet), and finally, several months later, Inter-Library Loan delivered the slim volume to the library counter at Brown.

The poem, happily, is surprising – not least, as one friend pointed out, for the absolute lack of guilt in the poetic voice’s desire for the young lad. This love is cheeky and persevering, even in the face of what might be a devastating slight; and it is expressed with a brazen physicality, from the affectionate reference to the lad’s “queixinho” to the explicitly declared desire for a kiss and carnal passion.

(It’s worth remembering that Junqueira Freire died short of his 23rd birthday, in 1855.)

I’ve transcribed the poem and leave it here for the next person who searches for the phrase “A um moçoilo.” Read it in good health.

A UM MOÇOILO

Eu que te amo tão deveras,
A quem tu, louro moçoilo,
Me fazes chiar e amolas,
Qual canivete em rebolo;
Eu que, qual anjo, te adoro,
Então, menino, eu sou tolo?

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“B-Side,” my ass. (pun intended)

Less radicalism and a bit more good humor — that’s what Zuenir Ventura had to recommend in the wake of feminist criticisms of his column of February 4th. [Some context for those who are lost: an actress appeared in revealing underwear on the soap opera that’s currently running. That’s pretty much all you need to know.]
Whence the radicalism and lack of humor? Objecting to this drooling bullshit:

The B-Side is a Hit

It was an incredible viral hit on social media, wound up in Ancelmo’s column [in O Globo] and inspired a paean from Joaquim Ferreira dos Santos the day before yesterday. I’m referring, of course, to the butt of Paolla Oliveira, the actress from the soap Felizes para sempre? [Happy Ever After?] How can we explain the nation’s fixation, given that, it being a national taste, there is such an, shall we say, excess of product? I’m not criticizing, on the contrary, but why hers? The beaches have never been fuller of nearly-bare bodies laid belly-down, revealing themselves in any number of forms: watermelon, pumpkin, melon, apple, pear. To say nothing of the muses of Carnaval who are already showing themselves off in the samba school rehearsals. A butt a time like these, in the middle of a crisis? Maybe that’s precisely why, escapism, getting away from all the bad news coming out of the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. Or yet another scandal from Petrobrás. Or yet another stray bullet. What should we really be admiring, Paolla’s tush or the faces of the new presidents of the Congress?

In search of explanations, I went to talk with someone who knows what he’s talking about: Ziraldo, who once headed up a magazine entitled Bundas [Butts], and recently organized an exhibition of 16 large-scale canvases by famous and anonymous artists alike, with a number of examples displaying the part of the female body he considers himself a specialist in. “I’ve always loved pretty women and their butts,” he says. An American documentary filmmaker even came to Brazil just to interview him on that object of desire, Brazil’s “chief export and national glory.” As he says in tones of gleeful pride, “I’m a pioneer. I always knew that butts would win out.”

But, in the end, what’s the mystique behind Paolla’s tush? Maybe because it’s a butt with an identity and a brand. If it were anonymous, it would never have gotten so much attention. Joaquim describes it in transcendent terms, believing that it has taken on an emblematic dimension in the heat of the political situation […] Ziraldo, meanwhile, believes that the secret of Paolla as a phenomenon lies in the whole: “The beauty of her face, her smile, her empathy, all that adds to the appeal of her butt.”

Maybe. In the soap Amor à vida [Loving Life], I was struck when I saw Paolla’s face for the first time. Unlike the Angelina Jolie-model mouth, with its sensual and sizable lips, she had one of the most delicate and well-shaped mouths on the scene today, with a barely-evident smile that recalled – to an extent – the Mona Lisa’s. I couldn’t understand why people weren’t talking about it. Now I know. Inside, she must have been saying: “You ain’t seen nothing yet. Wait ’til you see my B-side.”

So where, you ask, having wiped tears of hilarity from your eyes, was the lack of good humor? In pointing out, as Branca Vianna did in a letter to the columnist, that a) domestic violence and violence against women in Brazil is a massive problem; and that:

All of us, specialists or otherwise, can do one thing: treat women like people. Paolla Oliveira, Zuenir, is not a butt who came to the world to let you, Joaquim Ferreira dos Santos, or Ziraldo blow off steam. She is a person. Nor is she a “delicate and well-shaped mouth.” Paolla Oliveira is more than the sum of her enticing parts. I can’t imagine that giving men pleasure at a time of national crisis is her aim in life, or that of any woman, for that matter. I expect that she wants something more for her career. I hope that she wants something more for her career.

While it seems normal to speak of women like you did in your column – and, moreover, while that can still be considered a compliment – there will remain the idea that women are things without rights, to be used, handled, and enjoyed. And that only serves to fuel the fire of violence against women.

I don’t have much to add to such a common-sense, admirably calm takedown. In his answer, Zuenir — you guessed it — drooled some more and suggested that Branca see the funny side in all this.

I struggle with these rude shocks that come from time to time, as a feminist who studies, occasionally lives in, and loves Brazil. After the anger and disbelief, there comes fatigue. Is it really worth it to write back, when the answers reveal even deeper degrees of ignorance? The festive tones of Carnaval — which, in all honesty, and despite all my reservations, I’m missing terribly — will likely drown out any protests. Those who raise objections are either carried along by the crowd or run straight over.

Despite the temptation to shrug and sigh, it is unfailingly important not to let the recommendation — less radicalism and a bit more good humor — pass us by. I would turn it around, as a matter of fact. The fact that the author of Cidade partida would find it “radical” to criticize the sort of unabashed objectification that even a late-stage Don Draper might blush at is radical — radically backwards — in and of itself. And the columnists giggling and ogling in equal parts need to update their sense of humor. Bundas has gone out of print for a reason.

As I was translating Zuenir’s column (stopping periodically to gag), something else occurred to me. The convergence of the person and the body part in the feminine pronoun “ela” makes the objectification even more insidious in Portuguese. “She” and “it” (her ass) are literally indistinguishable. Paolla becomes even less human, linguistically drawn and quartered as she is by the ela that simultaneously subsumes her personhood. Nor is a possessive pronoun necessarily used in Portuguese — it’s not her mouth, it’s the mouth. A pair of lips, an ass framed against an open window, sans owner or context: she is gone. The fact that that elision is even syntactically possible is deeply disturbing.

Meanwhile, O Globo, feeling emboldened and festive, has just profiled three incoming female federal representatives as if they were the new picks for the cheerleading squad. It would be funny if it weren’t frightening. But hey, Zuenir, there’s a pun in my title. Feminists can have fun, too.

um abraçaço

IMG_3596

It was the only night that a party of mine managed to make enough noise for the apartment upstairs to threaten to call the police. I had been more or less begging for the karaoke to stop, first out of personal disdain – when Avril Lavigne supplanted MPB – and then out of pure exhaustion. It was no use; even dressed for bed and lying down on the living room floor in protest, I was dragged up to learn salsa steps.

Around four o’clock, a friend knocked on the window with a bottle of cachaça and his guitar. Everyone left was so tired that the cachaça would have been redundant, but the guitar was welcome. He propped it on one knee and began.

Within a month I was going back to the United States; Carlos and José to Mexico; Luís to Switzerland; Gabi to Uruguay; and Marília to São Paulo, which is less forbidding in terms of commute times but about equivalent in terms of culture shock. Everyone else would probably stay in Rio, to try their luck with the riot police or the job market. But for a while we were all there, albeit with an air of an epilogue. I want to say it was raining outside, but I think it had just stopped raining.

 

Ciro struck a soulful pose.

A tristeza é senhora
Desde que o samba é samba é assim
A lágrima clara sobre a pele escura
A noite, a chuva que cai lá fora Continue reading

brazil x chile: it comes in waves

A little late, I know, but during the dying moments of the Group of 16 matchup I took my little radio up to the top of the building and sprawled out on the terrace. Television transmits with a delay, and HD is even worse. I wanted to be the first to know what was happening. Radio antenna pointed up towards Cristo for maximum signal.

First the little radio bellows. Then the neighbors throw open their windows. Then the valley from Santa Teresa to Corcovado goes absolutely nuts. The hills sprout fireworks. The shirtless dudes on top of a nearby penthouse jump dripping from their pool and rattle the railings with glee. It ripples out and grows and grows.

0:40 – Neymar’s GOL on the radio

0:41 – 0:55 – flurries of honks and steadily rising bellows

1:30 – NA TRAVE! Jara’s ball bounces off the post

1:32 – the ball bounces off the post on my neighbors’ TVs

1:35 – my neighbors’ neighbors’ neighbors start to scream

1:36-on – insanity, shots being fired, possibly joyful fatalities

It took a while to get to sleep that night. Every far-off sound seemed as if another corner of the city had just gotten wind of the news and was setting off fireworks of its own, belated but ecstatic.

on instant replay and fairness

image: Mídia NINJA

image: Rio na Rua

The Copa, like everything else in the world, is experienced through screens — the blue wavy screen of my cell phone, the pixelated stream of the live feed from the protests, the high-definition FIFA-standard transmission that lags behind all of them. The endless replays from different angles still haven’t decided whether the penalty call on Fred in the game against Croatia last week was legitimate. Meanwhile, in Cinelândia right now the image is chaotic but the situation is clear: protesters trying to catch a bus down to Copacabana are arbitrarily detained, more than a dozen taken off to multiple police stations spread across the city. While Fred falls again and again in slow motion, calm lanky Cristiano is swarmed just once — that’s enough — and led away by the police. In both cases there is talk of justice.

wallflower

image

Apparently this is the Best World Cup Ever. Van Persie’s header, upsets, avalanche wins. On my part, updates have not been frequent, and my work has been stuttering, due to an episode of back pain that left me alternately prostrate and hobbling, walking either like Quasimodo or like Christina Hendricks on Mad Men — hunched or mincing — and watching plenty of the matches from a prone position. Now that I’m more or less recovered, I find myself paralyzed in another sense.

Brazil has taught me to love football. This, while being wonderfully enriching for my life in many respects, means that it is very difficult to simply ignore the Copa that #tátendo on my TV, in the bars, and in the stadiums around me. I would love to disdain this Cup, but I can’t. But neither can I love it.

The bonds of nationalism have never been less appealing. I can’t disassociate the chants of “U.S.A.! U.S.A.!” from the floor of the RNC, and the flag-draped bros on the beach remind me of nothing less than the flurry of patriotism after September 11th, and then the war. It’s almost Pavlovian: a sea of stars and stripes fills me with dread.

And what of Brazil? This is where the anguish comes in. Apparently it would be a “sociological error” not to root for Brazil, to let my political objections to the event, the evictions, the violence that made me fear for my friends’ lives and Brazil’s democracy, mingle with the nation’s passion for the sport and for its team. I can recognize this, but I can’t bring myself to feel it. I love my club’s shield; when I see fans wrapped in the green-and-yellow, I think of the protesters who this did not protect.

And while I discovered football here, what brought me to Brazil in the first place was something else entirely. Tied in with my political objections is the raw indignation when the city’s popular culture is packaged and Disneyfied in the merchandising wave of the megaevents, and the fear that the turn-of-the-century port neighborhoods, silent witnesses to the time I fell in love with, will be summarily knocked down. These are more selfish protest cries, but they are mine. I would love to love the Seleção and the Cup at this moment, in this place. Instead I am sitting here with the lonely star on my breast, feeling similarly.