On the apparent suicide of my grandfather

When I was born my grandfather was swaying calmly by the neck from the branch of an infertile, naked figtree that he as a child had planted. On that day the north wind was throwing the sea onto the land pushing it always always within the tacitly established limits. The fishes invaded the houses nearest the coast the ships fled to the hills the gulls smashed up against the windows and even a whale came to die at the door of an abandoned shack. On that day I was born. Perhaps because of all this no one paid much attention to my grandfather’s death; they mourned him and buried him with the rapidity the circumstances called for.

Years later, however, somebody again brought up my grandfather’s strange finish. On this, opinion was divided. Some of the neighbors said that he had committed suicide out of passion. Imagine! At seventy, my grandfather, an old bird who had known the hardships and solitude of Newfoundland and Greenland, who had measured the winter nights of a still undiscovered island by walking the Voltas do Norte at a time when roads were a dream yet to be realized: my grandfather, who spent hours and hours crouching in holes along the coast waiting for the ships smuggling tobacco! Others testified that he was already half-crazy, the fruition of an adventurer’s limitlessly errant life, and could not stand the joy of seeing his first grandson.

As for me, seeing things from this distance, I think otherwise, that my grandfather hanged himself from the figtree merely to keep the sea from reaching his boots.

Translation  by George Monteiro 

(in ALMEIDA, Onésimo T. , The sea within. A selection of Azorean Poems. Providence, Rhode Island, Gávea Brown, 1983. A partir de Marinheiro com residência fixa. Lisboa, 1980)


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