Elegy by Leon Oranian

            porcelain plates    the best cutlery

                      black cast-iron pan

of farofa with dried shrimp                         I free the cuts of manioc

    from their pale starched water

                                fill maroonish feijoada

          into handmade persian bowls     burgundy candles

  light up crystal shot glasses

                      in them batida de limão

                                 my face long red with its liveliness

                                                          high noon

                       I’ve set the table for my aunt

           she greets me

   with all the elegance of a mãe-de-santo

           in her white clinic gown      her freshly 

                                 shorn white hair

          precise spectacles like

                      woodcut-lines around

                                  her eyes                      cowrie shells                                 

                                             generous and rich

                                                                    and full of futures


                                            the incandescence of her

             motherly smile is out of place

                    in my grimey kitchen                           no place

                                                                          for anything saintly

   we eat and drink and eat and drink

                      feed ourselves for multiple

            months of rain 

                                                                until she bursts open

                          kaleidoscope of greens and blues

           birthed from her arched back      sudden feathers

                                               strong filaments

                                  solid black beak

                                            bullet hole eyes

         the windows creak

                        as I open them         white lacquer flakes off

                  spring’s humid hot air invites

                                  like a familial embrace          

                  in absence of hesitation

                            this great macaw takes flight

                                       then is gone to meet tropical suns


                                                          I close the windows

                                       and start to clean up

      porcelain plates    the best cutlery

The above poem is part of a series called ‘Tropicalist Sequence’ and was written in
2021/2022. It describes my experiences as a mixed race person living between cultures
(namedly german and afro-brazilian) and it explores rituals, real and fictional, of brazilian
culture, drawing on things like Candomble (a religion developed by african enslaved
people) and Capoeira (the dance-fight-game). ‘Elegy’ was written for my late aunt, who
died of covid, which had a grave and rapid development in brazil in the early days of the
pandemic due to governmental neglect.

Leon Oranian (1999*) grew up in Berlin, Germany and is active there as Musician and
Writer. Child of a german mother and an afro-brazilian father his writing explores how
one’s roots influence identity and how collective trauma shapes individuals. 2022
Prizewinner of the ‘Treffen junger Autoren’, a nation-wide german competition for young
authors. Outside of writing he’s a guitarist and bassist in various bands.

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