Poems from São Paulo

Rafaella shares with us a couple of poems from her collection Prelúdio in Blue.

3 min read

[Note: These poems have been translated from Portuguese to English by the author, Rafaella Britto. Scroll down to read them in Portuguese.]

Silent cinema

Pale hands I loved beside the Shalimar

Adela Florence Nicolson


Light and shadow on the screen:
mystery, adventure and passion
follow the steps of the Latin Lover
in the nocturne libertango
of this erotic flame.
Pale hands I loved
in the garden of mystical loves –
hands that wave goodbye
leaving me
with the warmth of this infernal touch.
Hidden in the blood flower, the vamp casts
her last spell – silent magic of the Eternal Feminine,
androgynous desert snake,
from the ashes of the celluloid reborn.
What is the enigma of the faces,
which, without words,
tell all the wild desires?
– tales of tears, dreamy narratives,
censored cries and appetites.


Light and shadow on the screen:
a silent spell guides me
through the desert of secret loves,
and in extasis I contemplate
the silver seduction,
forever recorded on film.

Marlene at the ear

Song for Marlene Dietrich

Marlene at the ear
whispered me the secrets of the underworld:
second-hand illusions – used, almost new –,
vanity sandals,
luxury incenses,
Viena lingeries,
golden rings,
broken dreams.
Ambitions! Con-victions!
– all in her top hat,
a watch, a corset, a submarine, a pianola,
a hot voodoo, a trombone, a Morocco cigarette,

and a basket
of original sins
– the sins
of the fearless women.


Cinema mudo

Pale hands I loved beside the Shalimar

Adela Florence Nicolson


Luz e sombra no ecrã:
mistério, aventura e paixão
perseguem os passos do Latin Lover
no libertango noturno
desta flâmula erótica.
Pálidas mãos que amei
nos jardins de amores místicos –
mãos que acenam adeus,
deixando, em mim, o calor
deste toque infernal.
Oculta na flor de sangue, a vamp lança
seu derradeiro encantamento –
silenciosa magia do Eterno Feminino,
andrógina serpente do deserto,

das cinzas do celulóide renascida.
Que enigma têm os rostos
que, dispensando palavras,
trazem em si todo o sentir? –
contos de lágrimas, narrativas do sonho,
clamores e apetites censurados.


Luz e sombra no ecrã:
mudo feitiço transporta-me
ao deserto de amores interditos,
e em êxtase contemplo a prateada sedução
para sempre gravada na película.

Marlene ao pé do ouvido

Cançoneta para Marlene Dietrich

Marlene ao pé do ouvido
segredou-me os presentes do submundo:
ilusões de segunda mão – levemente usadas, quase novas –
sandálias de vaidade,
incensos de luxúria,
lingeries de Viena,
anéis dourados,
ideais partidos.
Ambitions! Con-victions!
– tudo trouxe na cartola,
relógio, corpete, submarino, pianola,
hot voodoo, trombone, cigarro marroquino

e uma cesta
de pecados originais
– os pecados
das mulheres sem medo.

About the author

Rafaella Britto is a writer, poet, translator and teacher, based in São Paulo. She is the co-founder and editor of Cine Suffragette, a multilingual digital magazine dedicated to women and minorities in film. She was also the editor of Império Retrô, a blog about fashion history. Her work has appeared in publications all over the world. She is the co-author and organizer of the e-book The Ida Lupino Files, which brings together essays on the legacy of the pioneering American filmmaker. As a poet, she has won regional prizes; her work has been featured in zines and anthologies. Her first poetry collection, Prelúdio in Blue (Penalux, 2020) is an ode to jazz, cinema and the roots of the black culture.

About the artist

Clara Assis is a 25 year-old Brazilian illustrator. She holds a BA in Social Communication and is currently pursuing a degree in Visual Arts. Clara’s influences include pop culture, cinema, art history. She brings it all to her art, using a variety of techniques and media such as watercolor, nankin and colored pencil, working both traditionally and digitally.

Illustration from Prelúdio in Blue reprinted with permission.

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