prompt: find a poem in a language you don’t know, and translate it into english based on the look of the words and their sounds.
i am writing a story about south africa right now so i let that guide my choices. i played off of the sound/words from an excerpt of “show me the mountain that packed up and left” by nontsizi mgqwetho, “the first and only female poet to produce a substantial body of work in Xhosa”. she came in and out of view quickly and dynamically, challenging traditional gender norms for who gets to create art and criticize leaders with her politicized poetry.
the actual translation of the excerpt from the poem is:
Where is this God that we worship?
The one we worship’s foreign:
we kindled a fire and sparks swirled up,
swirled up a European mountain.
This is the wisdom of their God:
“Black man, prepare for the treasures of heaven
while we prepare for the treasures of Africa!”
i wanted to capture this energy, to honor the roots and land of the writer.
i was also touched today by this horoscope from rob brezny which introduced me to the created word “trumspringa”: “the temptation to step off your career track and become a shepherd in the mountains, following your flock between pastures with a sheepdog and a rifle, watching storms at dusk from the doorway of a small cabin.” something around mountains and freedom…
i upend all yin and lo:
there it is, the soft tissue.
the asymptomatic daze of no longing
then symptoms (tears) days of
see? there is an ancestral wound
even when they love
the intense uneasy (ugly) undertow
swamps their hiding places
floods the root
europe never could understand
the love below this soil
what it is to be born in tune
what is beneath the (rich) quarries
in the dark below
beyond the zoo and even the wild,
out on the wind
here is how we trump spring
in this feeling free
forget tin, gold, steel
the sigel we carry
is in all the eyes of afrika