A Slow Death

A Slow Death
By Martha Medeiros

You start dying slowly
if you do not travel,
if you do not read,
If you do not listen to the sounds of life,
If you do not appreciate yourself.

You start dying slowly
When you kill your self-esteem,
When you do not let others help you.

You start dying slowly
If you become a slave of your habits, walking everyday on the same paths…
If you do not change your routine,
If you do not wear different colours,
If you do not speak to those you don’t know.

You start dying slowly
If you avoid to feel passion, and their turbulent emotions;
Those which make your eyes glisten,
And your heart beat fast.

You start dying slowly
If you do not change your life when you are not satisfied with your job, or with your love,
If you do not risk what is safe for the uncertain,
If you do not go after a dream,
If you do not allow yourself,
At least once in your lifetime,
To run away from sensible advice.

My friend Susan sent me this poem. It is called “A Slow Death” (“A Morte Devagar” 2000) and has been erroneously attributed to Pablo Neruda for some time on the Internet. A similar poem, “Muere Lentamente” (Dying Slowly), has also been mistakenly attributed to Pablo Neruda. The Pablo Neruda Foundation has confirmed that the Chilean poet never wrote it.

“Muere Lentamente” and “A Morte Devagar” are the works of Brazilian writer Martha Medeiros, author of numerous books and reporter for the Porto Alegre newspaper Zero Hora. Tired of people believing that Neruda wrote the poems, she got in touch with the Neruda Foundation to establish her own authorship, giving as evidence how largely the verses coincide with her work in Portuguese “A Morte Devagar” (To Death Slowly), published in the year 2000 on All Souls Day eve.

Born in Porto Alegre in 1961, Medeiros graduated from the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio Grande do Sul (PUCRS) in Porto Alegre in 1982 and became a journalist for the newspaper Zero Hora of Porto Alegre and O Globo of Rio de Janeiro. She moved for nine months in Chile, and she began to write poems. Coming back to Porto Alegre, she began writing as a journalist also continuing her literary way.

Medeiros has no idea how “Muere Lentamente” and “A Morte Devagar” began circulating on the Internet, although she’s said it does not surprise her since many of her verses are on the Web “as if they were by other authors. Unfortunately, nothing can be done about it,” she said. The 47-year-old Brazilian poet and novelist deeply admires Neruda and says she is a fan of his poems but prefers that “everybody’s work be recognized.” She loses no sleep over such matters, however, and said that she has “enough of a sense of humor to laugh at all this.”

There is sadness in “A Slow Death,” but it is thought-provoking and really lovely. 

By the way, I have an essay in a book coming out in publication today. One of the historical organizations I belong to has their triennial conference starting today, andthe book launch is part of the conference. I’ve never had anything published in a book before, so this is very exciting to me.

About Joe

I began my life in the South and for five years lived as a closeted teacher, but am now making a new life for myself as an oral historian in New England. I think my life will work out the way it was always meant to be. That doesn't mean there won't be ups and downs; that's all part of life. It means I just have to be patient. I feel like October 7, 2015 is my new birthday. It's a beginning filled with great hope. It's a second chance to live my life…not anyone else's. My profile picture is "David and Me," 2001 painting by artist Steve Walker. It happens to be one of my favorite modern gay art pieces. View all posts by Joe

One response to “A Slow Death

  • Dying slowly or a slow death? - Unpacking My Bottom Drawer

    […] I was getting ready to repost it when a reprimand I (rightly) received a few years back from the inimitable BA came to mind. There was no way I could post it in English without crediting the translator. So, I went looking.  And I also found the poem – same words but entitled A Slow Death – attributed to Martha Medeiros, with an explanation: […]

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