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« Are you a serious scholar or merely a "clever-clogs?" | Main | The Villain and the Wannabes »

February 04, 2009


Being a coffee addict myself, whenever I get the urge for tea it is a special occasion. I looked at the 3Quarks article and was intrigued by a responder's partial translation of a poem. Don't know much about Poe et Tree, but the language drew me. I found the original on the Internet and ventured an amateur's translation. The poem evokes memories of my own rainy-afternoon teas in India.

Song of a Cup of Tea
(Fiama Hasse Pais Brandão)

We place our hands around the cup
Not knowing that pocelain and bone
Are close forms of the same substance.

My hand and the nacred cup,
If I might season lyricism with irony,
Are, moreover, kin to the pterosaurs.

Tranquil afternoon fills the windowpanes,
Rainwater runs noisily down the gutter,
Blackbirds spy on me from the withered vine.

And so it is that oftentimes tea evokes
My hand of stone, serene afternoons,
The stare of blackbirds, the soft sounds from the gutter.

Nature copies this picture
Of the end of the afternoon
That I painted for myself,
Rewarding me for poems I made for her,
Bringing my verses to life anew.
As if I should deserve this landscape,
Nature gives me what I gave her.

Nonetheless, somewhere, in a poem, I heard them
Turn the pulleys of a backdrop
In which words depict
The scene of a landscape
On a canvas I'm constantly changing.

Only tea brings me my afternoon,
With the cup and my hand that are
The same piece of calcite.

Today the gutter replenishes the water tank,
The blackbirds climb down the vine for tea,
And the windowpanes mist over slowly.

The words stir and replace
On their immobile axis of rotation
The space where this wicker table
Spins in the vast nebulas.

Now that you mention it, I do believe I've seen people drinking out of skulls. I can't remember exactly what movie, but it was an interesting addition to the story.

Thanks, Narayan. That is quite beautiful. Was it Portuguese again?

As I was principally a milk drinker for the first sixteen years of my life, I partook of hot adult beverages only occasionally. Actually as a child, I used to much prefer coffee - the stronger aroma was more appealing than the subtler one of tea. But coffee was hardly ever prepared in our household until Nescafe introduced the instant variety in India. Then too it was considered a "children's" drink - in the same league as the chocolate and malt flavored drinks, Bourne-Vita and Horlicks.

For "real" coffee, I had to wait until I accompanied my father or uncle to New Delhi's then famous Indian Coffee House or the Madras Coffee House, both in Cannaught Place. In my early childhood, a delicious milky variety of aromatic Madras coffee was an occasional treat at the house of our Tamil neighbors. To this day, I find the smell of Madras Coffee more alluring than the best Colombian brew.

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