Herberto Helder: from The Seals

Does God really not grasp the language of craftsmen?
Neither music nor masonry.
He looked in the book. From a certain point of view, namely
terror beauty meaning,
it was always the same story—the seals are broken then come
the portents
the scarlet whore amid the horns of the beast,
lethal machines, abysses, multiplied moons:
hell! Someone said, “Take innocence away from me,
I speak the devil’s tongue.”
Some images are intelligible: that of the lion drinking cold water
in the dark, the image of a man with his glorious hand in the fire
screaming without let-up yet not removing his hand from the fire—
does that make sense? So much sense!
It’s a kind of absolute power. A painter paints shining horsemen
riding blue horses. They’re off to war, to kill,
pillage, rape, while God looks on.
Blood. What are the problems? Red and blue, distribution of forms, beauty
and its secrets—numbers, their ratio, their rationale,
so that all will be perfect in coral and cobalt.
Chaos, far from hindering anything, was always an inebriating fodder.
Man isn’t a creature caught between evil and good: he talked with God
because God was power. God was rhythmic unity.
Man’s hand over things with their own life, his hand reuniting and remaking
things—each thing with its aura, each animal
with its aura, and all the auras herded around!
in a trance: I am the thing. Period.
I sit down and talk with God, about words, music, hammers—
an equation: I speak and he answers.
Then there are those who talk to themselves, then fear, then delirium.
Listen to the song inside you. What does it say?
It doesn’t move things and their auras; you and your song don’t belong to this teeming world, this panting soul.
Nothing’s interconnected, God doesn’t lurk in the song; the daemon
shreds the
cadence. We no longer see steps rise
one out of another on the patient marble staircases down below.
The song has deserted its continuous space.
What to do? Is there just an ensemble of objects, one step here another
there and still another where nobody places one foot
then another—where nobody ascends to watch the arm that twists
so as to tie the whole body into a glowing navel, where nobody
ascends to sit at the organ
and musically discuss proportions? The guy who said,
“I have God’s temperature” was a meteorological lunatic.
But if in the end we understand that an answer
hides a question about the world, but
if in the end the substance
of the man who puts his hand in the fire equals the substance of the fire
while he screams, the substance of a man and a star being the same…
The power to create a song—yes, that’s it!
I strike the rose-window with the hammer
and the face where the rose-window is struck looks up, spinning—

—translated from Portugese by Richard Zenith