100 Refutations: Day 51


Song of Silence

A carnival passes through me violently.
My ears barely digest what was heard
in the slow machine shop where words are chewed on.
My gums bleed mutely
colored thus from pure voraciousness—
it’s like death in the wastelands of immense spring.

Beyond the flower of your perfume,
there’s the wasp and its rough stinger.
My cry of pain and calm,
the same one that leaks thickly from my eyes,
imitates the voice of the crickets.

Friend, you should learn now
that the cricket doesn’t die singing.

Inside it lives a wound without remedy
that opens in your womb
a cut born from within
that rips to shreds the entrails.

In your womb live unfathomable fears.
And a cut that bleeds profusely.
Every cricket, like me,
dies screaming!


I am a tree with a thick trunk.
My root is strong,
knotty, originating,
tarry like the night.

Blood, the ejé animals
to be sacrificed who run warily,
the powerful womb of my orixás.

Each of them gives us to eat
a potent granule
of what I am
with a dark faith.

A blot in the writing of the god
whose eyes are sweetly blue.

My faith is black,
and my soul blackens the earth
in the orixá’s bray
that escapes from my mouth.

I am a black tree that escapes from the gnarled root.
I am a deep river, calm and silty.
I am the arrow and its reach before the scream.
And also the fire, the salt in the waters, the tempest
and the iron inside the arms.

And I still contend in hours of dull sun
at the crossroads.


Translator’s note: From the Yoruba word, axé or ase means vital power. As an interjection within the religion of candomblé, asé may mean “May the gods will it to be so.” Lastly, asé may refer to the house of worship in candomblé, populated by a pantheon of nature-based divinities, the orixás.


Lívia Natália

A poet and professor at the Universidade Federal da Bahia, Lívia Natália is the author of five poetry collections: Água Negra (2011), Correntezas e Outros Estudos Marinhos (2015), Água Negra e Outras Águas (2016), Sobejos Do Mar (2017), and Dia Bonito pra Chover (2017). In 2016, her poem “Quadrilha,” which describes the grief of a woman whose lover was killed by the Polícia Militar, was censored throughout the state of Bahia. All copies of the poem—which had been displayed publicly on billboards as part of the Poetry in the Streets project in Ilhéus—were ordered to be destroyed.

Tiffany Higgins

Tiffany Higgins is a writer and translator. Her books include The Apparition at Fort Bragg (2016), an Iron Horse Literary Review contest winner, and And Aeneas Stares into Her Helmet (2009), which won the Carolina Wren Poetry Prize. Her poems have appeared in Poetry, Kenyon Review, Ghost Fishing, and elsewhere. She translated Tail of the Whale (Toad Press, 2016) by Brazilian poet Alice Sant’Anna, and she’s currently translating the work of other Brazilian writers, including Itamar Vieira Junior and Lívia Natália. Her article “Brazil’s Munduruku Mark Out Their Territory When the Government Won’t” is forthcoming in Granta’s online magazine.

Copyright (c) Lívia Natália. English translation copyright (c) Tiffany Higgins, 2018.