Poetry Translations

with Vera Ignatowitsch

The Burned House

 

I close my eyes and conjure up the house. It glides in under my eyelids.

 

It has rained, and outside the room where I’m waking up, the sough of the aspens intensifies in the aftermath of the refreshing shower.

 

The barn’s wooden roof shingles snap and strain as they begin to dry in the tepid breeze this recaptured Sunday morning, light steals through a gap between the windowsill and a roller blind decorated with a Mediterranean panorama, a landscape with a castle, later consumed by the conflagration; the light glides across the broad floorboards where my uncle pointed out the marks left by the Russian officers’ sabers, a testimony also consumed by the fire, those broad planks hewn by broadaxes in the Swedish forest and bearing the gashes of the foreign gentlemen's weaponry. Light gropes its way under my eyelids where I lie in the parlor with my father who turns heavily in the other bed; I hear strangers walking through the room with measured steps; they step up out of the past, their baldrics glitter.

 

In the kitchen: a stove, a washstand, a chair that conceals a drawer for shoe straw to thwart winter’s cold. There stands the cream separator, near a window filled with pale geraniums. In the newly washed light, aspens hum while their roots drink; I listen to the song of the separator, how it croons gently as it begins to whirl, then rises rapidly to the highest speed, a vague syllabic song that becomes an incantation.

 

For a brief moment, the house is with me, with all its sounds, one Sunday morning of a distant past, in the mild light that perished in the fire.

The Woman Who Fell

 

Again and yet again I watch her fall. She comes running one chilly day in Madrid, 1937 or 1938. Holding something under her arm, a coat, a blanket for the air raid shelter, if there is an air raid shelter. She runs with the others across the open plaza as the rumble of Italian, or German, planes comes closer, a sound like millstones that can grind everything to dust, as the explosions draw ever nearer.

 

Running in panic on the film strip. Dark figures against a flickering white which might be a pale winter sun or history’s blank page, feeble vibrations in the updrafts of the coming destruction.

 

A woman in black from the worker district, now she falls. This sequence reappears in various edits of documentary material from those days. It resurfaces in my consciousness, like something I dreamed and can’t shake off, it holds a significance which seems impenetrable, in the way that her fate after that fall will never be known to me, she seems to be telling me something, pleading, as though I should be able to step down into the ongoing event and take her by the hand, help her up, brush away the dust and send her running toward a rescue.

 

This is a woman who rushes forward among other shadowy figures from a lost era, from the losers’ era, not unlike ants that scatter under the heat of a burning glass. They run ever faster, the whip of panic whines, sirens pump blood to their hearts, and they stream across the square faster than a heart beating in fear and hope, and then she falls headlong.

 

She falls again and yet again. She comes running across the open plaza over and over, as if she could force her way through the brick wall of time.

Det nedbrunnen huset

 

Jag sluter ögonen och återkallar huset. Det glider in under ögonlocket. 

 

Det har regnat, och asparna utanför rummet där jag håller på att vakna susar starkare efter den uppfriskande skuren.

 

Det spänner och knäpper i ladugårdens takspån, när de börjar torka i den ljumma brisen, denna söndagsförmiddag i minnet då ljuset listar sig in genom en springa mellan fönsterkarmen och rullgardinen med det sydländska motivet, någon slags borglandskap, förtärt i elden, och glider över de breda tiljorna på vilka min farbror pekat ut ristningarna av de ryska officerarnas sablar, vittnesbörd som förtärdes av elden, de breda plankorna som bilats i den svenska skogen  och märkena av de främmande herrarnas vapen. Ljuset trevar under mina ögonlock där jag ligger i finrummet med min far som vänder sig tungt i den andra sängen, och jag hör främlingarna gå med avmätta steg genom rummet, de stegar upp den förflutna tiden och det glittrar av deras gehäng.

 

I köket finns skohöstolen, spisen och kommoden. Där står separatören vid ett fönster med bleka pelargoner. I det nytvättade ljuset och asparnas gnolande, när rötterna drickar, kan jag höra separatörens sång, hur den nynnar i ett saktmodigt bottenläge men sedan, mycket snabbt, svingar sig upp i ett högre svängningstal, en mild stavelsesång som övergår i besvärjelse.

 

Ett ögonblick är huset här, med dessa ljud, denna söndagsmorgon i en förfluten tid, i det milda ljuset som förbrann i elden.

Kvinnan som föll

 

Åter och åter igen ser jag henne falla. Hon kommer springande denna kyliga dag i Madrid 1937 eller 1938. Håller någonting under armen, en kappa, en filt för skyddsrummet, i fall det finns ett skyddsrum. Hon springer med de andra över den öppna platsen, medan de italienska eller tyska planen närmar sig med sitt molande, ljudet av kvarnstenar som kan mala allt till damm, medan krevaderna rycker närmare.  Hon springer med kippande, andfådda steg, en sliten kvinna i medelåldern, och så snubblar hon här.

 

Springandet i panik på filmremsan. De svarta gestalterna mot ett flimrande vitt som kan vara en blek vintersol eller historiens oskrivna blad, svagt vibrerande i vinddraget från den kommande förstörelsen. 

 

En svartklädd kvinna från arbetarkvarteren , nu faller hon. Sekvensen återkommer i olika redigeringar av dokumentärt material från perioden. Den återkommer i mitt medvetande, som något jag har drömt och inte kan skaka av mig; den innesluter en innebörd som förefaller ogenomtränglig,  liksom hennes öde efter detta fall kommer att bli okänt för mig men ändå tycks meddela mig någonting, vädja. Som om jag skulle kunna stiga ned i det pågående skeendet och ta henne vid handen, hjälpa henne upp, borsta av henne dammet och få henne att springa vidare mot en räddning. 

 

Det är denna kvinna som stormar fram bland de andra skuggestalterna ur en förlorad tid, ur förlorarnas tid, inte olikt myror som strömmar åt olika håll under ett glödande brännglas. De springer allt snabbare, panikens piska viner, sirenerna pumpar blod till deras hjärtan, och de strömmar över torget snabbäre än hjärtats slag med sin rädsla och sina förhoppningar och så faller hon handlöst. 

 

Hon faller om och om igen. Hon kommer springande över den öppna platsen gång på gång,  som om hon trodde att hon skulle kunna tränga igenom tidens murverk.

Janice D. Soderling has published work in several hundred journals, most recently in New Verse News, The Red Door, Copenhagen, and La libélula vaga in Spanish translation by Alesia Ribalta Guzmán. Soderling's own translations from Swedish appear in Modern Poetry in Translation.

Folke Isaksson (1927-2013) was a Swedish poet, writer, essayist, translator, and literary critic who published 16 volumes of poetry and numerous other works. He received many literary awards and honors during his lifetime.

This Dog

loose translation by Michael R. Burch

 

Each morning this dog,

who has become quite attached to me,

sits silently at my feet

until, gently caressing his head,

I acknowledge his company.

 

This simple recognition gives my companion such joy

he shudders with sheer delight.

 

Among all languageless creatures

he alone has seen through man entire—

has seen beyond what is good or bad in him

to such a depth he can lay down his life

for the sake of love alone.

 

Now it is he who shows me the way

through this unfathomable world throbbing with life.

 

When I see his deep devotion,

his offer of his whole being,

I fail to comprehend . . .

 

How, through sheer instinct,

has he discovered whatever it is that he knows?

 

With his anxious piteous looks

he cannot communicate his understanding

and yet somehow has succeeded in conveying to me

out of the entire creation

the true loveworthiness of man.

Michael R. Burch’s poems and translations have appeared in hundreds of literary journals. He also edits www.thehypertexts.com and has served as guest editor of international poetry and translations for Better Than Starbucks.

“This Dog” appeared in the poetry collection Arogya by Rabindranath Tagore.

প্রত্যহ প্রভাতকালে ভক্ত এ কুকুর

স্তব্ধ হয়ে বসে থাকে আসনের কাছে

যতক্ষণে সঙ্গ তার না করি স্বীকার

করস্পর্শ দিয়ে ।

এটুকু স্বীকৃতি লাভ করি

সর্বাঙ্গে তরঙ্গি উঠে আনন্দপ্রবাহ ।

বাক্যহীন প্রাণীলোক-মাঝে

এই জীব শুধু

ভালো মন্দ সব ভেদ করি

দেখেছে সম্পূর্ণ মানুষেরে ;

দেখেছে আনন্দে যারে প্রাণ দেওয়া যায়

যারে ঢেলে দেওয়া যায় অহেতুক প্রেম ,

অসীম চৈতন্যলোকে

পথ দেখাইয়া দেয় যাহার চেতনা ।

দেখি যবে মূক হৃদয়ের

প্রাণপণ আত্মনিবেদন

আপনার দীনতা জানায়ে ,

ভাবিয়া না পাই ও যে কী মূল্য করেছে আবিষ্কার

আপন সহজ বোধে মানবস্বরূপে ;

ভাষাহীন দৃষ্টির করুণ ব্যাকুলতা

বোঝে যাহা বোঝাতে পারে না ,

আমারে বুঝায়ে দেয় সৃষ্টি-মাঝে মানবের সত্য পরিচয় ।

Rabindranath Tagore, Bengali Rabīndranāth Ṭhākur, (1861–1941) was a Bengali poet, short-story writer, song composer, playwright, essayist, and painter. He was highly influential in introducing Indian culture to the West and vice versa, and he is generally regarded as the outstanding creative artist of early 20th-century India. In 1913 he became the first non-European to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature.

water and tree scape

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