The Word


G.H. Cavalcanti





How much does each word carry

when spoken

and by how much does it grow

once heard?


How long does the word last

once received

though it erases itself

on leaving the mouth?


How much of the word

picked up and forgotten

engraves itself, faded,

upon the memory?





M.1         He who believes

in the word uses it

as something precise

of known dimensions


something that fits


the idea it clothes

in its geometry


twin symbol

of the hidden face,

their appearance

is identical


so much so that

in everyday usage

it stands for the idea

with equal value


M.2         And because it is so precise

when sent forth

it never loses

along the intended path


its own truth,

but rather recreates

the faithful scenery

wherever it is picked up


since, once received,

in others it finds enough room

to enlarge the borders

of the conveyed idea


and seeing how accurate

they are he cannot understand

the need for care

in delivering them


M.3         Truth doesn’t hurt

nor does that which one hears

he only suffers

who doesn’t want to be possessed


therefore, it has to be

implacably administered

solidly, constantly

with no abatement


The sentence pounds

as on a straight nail

verbs dryly hammering

upon verbs


he expects all

the smooth steel

will cleanly penetrate

the walls of reason


M.4         He does not seek

the cheap word,

the one that scratches the surface

or merely hints


but the one that bores deeper

with the bluntest edge

that which slashes and rapes

the soft brain


he hurls out so many of them

at so high a pitch

that the mind reels

under the maddening din


metal plates joined together

in a massive panel

pound like waves

on the shores of the ear



M.5         But if such hard words

so forcibly uttered

open gashes where

they should find shelter,


what remains of them

after they wither

doesn’t retain the form

they had at the beginning


and it’s difficult to see

in the wounded mind

if it was the harshness of the truth

that caused the hurt


or if there was

but a dislocation

as the excessive sentence

forced its way in.




C.1          Words are not facts,

Clarice tells me, there is a great danger

Of using them as darts

Solid tools


They should be fluid

incomplete on their own

or in the sentence,

its syntax amputated


They are but a planned itinerary

maps of unrepeatable objects

never the same

in their permanence


nor from the dried-up word

may one ever recover

the breath

of any living thing


C.2          All that is said is false

and it’s no use trying

to assemble in one sole image

what comes from several mouths


We speak of different things

when talking about the same thing.

No single light

illuminates us


We search out words

in order to deliver those

one doesn’t mind losing

even before they are proffered


What we want to give

is given through silence.

Silence alone

is whole



C.3          To know, one needs to be:

ergo, even if I become

all I want

to give you


it’ll never be possible

to convey to you, in its entirety,

my inner truth,

made opaque in the rendering


were I to achieve

so intimate an union

nothing would be left

for me to explain


and words, incapable

of fusing what is in essence discrete

would be still more useless

in this self-absorption



C.4          Words are flashes,

of the fleeting moment

they catch but a fragment

of its facet


to seize a fact

one needs to follow its flight

and photograph its face

all along the orbit


This is why

one has continually to change

to repeat and revise

each idea one hundred times


and of all words

that which reveals less

which seems the vaguest

is in effect the most precise



C.5          One can only possess something

from a cautious distance –

this is the condition

of everyday life


The direct link

that dispenses with words

has the terrible glare

of a sudden vision


One cannot resist the embrace

of the full object,

there’s no possible return

once one is made part of it


and we use words

perhaps as a prop

binding us  to the certainty

of the ephemeral image.




1. Attentively I seek, I search for

the liveliest word, full

but not fat, that which carries

within its uncountable folds

under its many garments

the right idea, which preserves

both the apparent form of the moment

and all that endures

the word that, exposing itself,

shows the fertile womb, opened mirror

pregnant with repeated images

though never the same, poised

for the immeasurable jump that once again

will fertilize and enlarge them


2. As a spark, sharp

and dry, it shines

solid, not opaque

rich, not fluid


But if lost, freed

from the original husk

no less clear, complete

no less firm


Alive, the tamed word

multiplies itself

and creates a new life

of its own


3. As true

as form

is the cutting edge

of the word,


what strikes

and remains forever

isn’t the truth,

but the word.


Translation: Jorio Dauster