Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Floundering - A Poem from Words Unknown

Here from this valueless life I have fled
And now, I find myself lost

There are places to go and pad around
Scary places but there is no room

With only my hands and feet,
And all of myself, I go, blown by the wind

There are several paths and tunnels to take
But nothing makes sense to me

The god or God, where are you?
You are like a wind, I cannot see

My only choice is to lie down in the grass
Pleading for you to find me, this one time I ask.

Precious Linda, c. 2013

The poetry prompt for Day 16 of the National Poetry Writing Month was to take an international poem, in a language not known to me, and use the words and shapes of the words to write my own poem, without looking at the translation. The above is my attempt at doing so. I knew the original poem was entitled, “Escape,” and I wrote without reading the translation.

The original poem and the translation, provided with credits to the author and translator, are listed below:


Uit hierdie Valkenburg het ek ontvlug
en dink my nou in Gordonsbaai terug:

Ek speel met paddavisse in 'n stroom
en kerf swastikas in 'n rooikransboom

Ek is die hond wat op die strande draf
en dom-allenig teen die aandwind blaf

Ek is die seevoël wat verhongerd daal
en dooie nagte opdis as 'n maal

Die god wat jou geskep het uit die wind
sodat my smart in jou volmaaktheid vind:

My lyk lê uitgespoel in wier en gras
op al die plekke waar ons eenmaal was.

© 1956, Ingrid Jonker Trust
Publisher: Culemborg, Cape Town, 1956


From this Valkenburg have I run away
and in my thoughts return to Gordon’s Bay:

I play with tadpoles swimming free
carve swastikas in a red-krantz tree

I am the dog that slinks from beach to beach
barks dumb-alone against the evening breeze

I am the gull that swoops in famished flights
to serve up meals of long-dead nights

The god who shaped you from the wind and dew
to find fulfilment of my pain in you:

Washed out my body lies in weed and grass
in all the places where we once did pass.

© Translation: 2007, Antjie Krog & André Brink
From: Black Butterflies
Publisher: Human & Rousseau, Cape Town, 2007, 9780798148924

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