Gaza and the Poetry of Vinícius de Moraes

The birthday of the poet Vinícius de Moraes (October 19, 1913) is now linked to the massacre at the hospital in Gaza. Although our lyric poet was not aware of it, I associate his poetry with the shattered bodies of children, of civilians, in the horror between yet another war crime and the expression of the language of the most dignified men and women.

There was always a time when poetry seemed like a luxury, an alienation, a useless piece of junk, a dishonorable occupation that would bring shame to the poet, who found himself cowering in the middle of the world. But in Gaza today, with genocide, war and contempt for the human person, everything has changed.

In 2003, I wrote “The Rose of Palestine”, and at the time I hoped that poetry would be a defense against barbarism. Here’s the text, which linked the atomic bomb to the massacre in Gaza.

The Rose of Palestine

A poem by Vinícius orders, pleads, “Think of the telepathic mute children. Think of the inexact blind girls. Think of the altered torn women. Think of wounds like warm roses…” It is this poem, “The Rose of Hiroshima”, this carving in verse that commands, that resists and insists on our memory.

It would be nice to have a platitude to help us, to come to our aid. To say, for example, that this is war, cruel like all the others, that there are no saints or devils in it, that war turns us all into dark angels. That said, it would be better to say that the terror waged by the State of Israel is merely a response to the terror suffered by its people before. That said, we can say that evil and the bad must be destroyed, so that only then can peace return. But when we get to this step, we ask: what evil and bad are you talking about, pale faces? Has nobody realized that our face has the face and blood of the Palestinian people on it? That they, the Palestinians, are our own face? Has nobody realized that the despair of the Palestinian people is our own despair in other lands and other circumstances? The same despair that affects us in extreme situations? Their bodies are mixed with the same atomic rose that fell on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

So let’s go back, more serene. But, alas!, we discover: serene, we no longer have hands. We just have a great lethargy. So let’s break the stupor, let’s go back to the beginning. To the verses of Vinícius de Moraes: “The hereditary rose, the radioactive, stupid and invalid rose. The rose with cirrhosis, the atomic anti-rose” was translated in the hospital in the Gaza Strip. It opens up into other roses that are shattering in Gaza. Roses that instead of petals throw meat, liver, heart and intestines.

But this time with an update, infamy of infamies. Biden and his servant, Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu, report that the attack came from Islamic Jihad. This is what we’ve come to. It’s not enough to kill, you have to spread lies and slander afterward. Make a war crime the perfect crime. This genocide is reminiscent of the words of Jeremiah:

“Their tongue is a deadly arrow. The words of their mouth are deceitful. Every man speaks words of peace to his neighbor, but in his heart, he lays a snare for him” (Jeremiah 9:8).

And the beautiful poem by Vinícius de Moraes:

The Rose of Hiroshima

Think of the children
Telepathic mutes
Think of the girls
Blind and inexact
Think of the women
Torn apart
Think of the wounds
Like warm roses
But oh don’t Forget
From the rose of the rose
From the rose of Hiroshima
The hereditary rose
The radioactive rose
Stupid and invalid
The rose with cirrhosis
The atomic anti-rose
No color, no perfume
No rose, no nothing.

Uriarano Moto is author of the novel “Never-Ending Youth.”