CATTLE OF THE LORD, BY ROSA ALICE BRANCO, TRANSLATED BY ALEXIS LEVITIN
In Cattle of the Lord, Rosa Alice Branco turns snuffling cows, the flight of birds, and the darkening fields into striking psalms. Branco’s poems, expertly translated by Alexis Levitin, take the quotidian and hold a magnifying glass to it: ruminating on breakfast, a “soft-boiled egg, spotless porcelain, spoon / in its place;” on a snail, advancing “with tenacity / so time may raise its kingdom with the slime.” Through these reveries, examinations and moments of dark humor, Branco explores a complex relationship with God. A speaker asks, “Lord how much compassion will it take for you / to be godfather at the Sunday barbecue?” Yet elsewhere, the speaker is comforted after the death of her pet bird, saved “with that very love with which Thou died us.”
Thus it is with a deft lyricism and eye for the contradictions inherent in our daily rituals that Branco exalts and questions her religion.