• Meg Gaertner

Found in Translation, part 2

Here are six poems and short stories in their original language, followed by my translation.

Ko-ter ha-p’tza-tza

(Yehuda Amichai, Hebrew)

The Bomb’s Reach (translated by me)

The diameter of the bomb: thirty centimeters.

The diameter of its effective range: around seven meters.

Effective—it killed four and wounded eleven.

Around these, in a wider circle

Of pain and time, were scattered two hospitals

And one cemetery. But the young woman,

Buried in the place she’d come from,

A distance of over one hundred kilometers away,

Widens the circle again, again,

And the lonely man who cries over her death

On the distant shore of a nation across the sea

Includes in the circle the entire world.

And I will not remain silent about the cries of orphans

Which reach unto the throne of God

And from there, and beyond, and make

A circle with no end and no God.


Spalone mapy

(Tomasz Różycki, Polish)

Pojechałem na Ukrainę, to był czerwiec i szedłem po kolana w trawach, zioła i pyłki krążyły w powietrzu. Szukałem, lecz bliscy schowali się pod ziemią, zamieszkali głębiej niż pokolenia mrówek. Pytałem się wszędzie

o ślady po nich, ale rosły trawy, liście, i pszczoły wirowały. Kładłem się więc blisko, twarzą do ziemi i mówiłem to zaklęcie –

możecie wyjść, już jest po wszystkim. I ruszała się ziemia, a w niej krety i dżdżownice, i drżała ziemia i państwa mrówek roiły się, pszczoły latały ponad wszystkim, mówiłem wychodźcie,

mówiłem tak do ziemi i czułem, jak rośnie trawa ogromna, dzika wokół mojej głowy.

Burnt Maps (translated by me)

I went to the Ukraine, this was in June,

and I walked in grasses and herbs up to my knees, pollen

hovering in the air. I searched, but my dear ones

had hidden themselves under the earth, living deeper

than generations of ants. I asked for them everywhere,

for traces of them, but fields had grown, and leaves;

bees swarmed. I lay down close by,

pressed my face into the earth and spoke this entreaty—

You can come out, everything is behind us now. And deep underground,

moles and earthworms moved, the earth trembling

as nations of ants crawled; bees

flew over everything. I said come out

I said this into the earth and I felt the grass growing

so vast, so wild, around my head.


Zan Tontemiquico

(Tochihuitzin Coyolchiuhqui, Nahuatl)

Zan tocochitlehuaco,

zan tontemiquico,

ah nelli, ah nelli

tinemico in tlalticpac.

Xoxopan xihuitl ipan


hual cehceliya,

hual itzmolini in toyollo

xochitl in tonacayo.

Cequi cueponi,

on cuetlahuia.

We Only Come to Dream (translated by me)

We only come to sleep,

We only come to dream,

That’s not true, not true.

We come to be of the earth.

Our souls are like springtime grass.

Here they put forth roots,

Here they ripen with our passions,

Blossoms incarnate.

Some burst open with life

Then wither.


Diidxa’ Bisiaanda’

(Victor de la Cruz, Zapotec)

Ti diidxa’

ti diidxa’ si,

ti diidxa’ si ñapa’

lu bata naya’,

ndaani’ xquendabianne’

ndaani’ ladxidua’ya’.

Ti diidxa’ si

ñabe lii lu gueela’,

ra nibáninu siadó’ guie’ru’,

ne riuunda’ sti’ guira’ mani huiini’,

lu ca yaga nuu Lahuoyaga.

Ti diidxa’ si,

ti diidxa’ ma’ biaanda’ naa.

A Forgotten Word (translated by me)

A word,

No more than a word,

Only a word did I keep

In my cupped hand,

In my mind,

In my heart.

Only a word

to say to you at nightfall,

and at dawn when we wake

to the singing of the birds

in the trees of Lahuoyaga.

Only a word,

A word that has already escaped me.


Rayuela, Ch. 7

(Julio Cortazar, Spanish)

Toco tu boca, con un dedo toco el borde de tu boca, voy dibujándola como si saliera de mi mano, como si por primera vez tu boca se entreabriera, y me basta cerrar los ojos para deshacerlo todo y recomenzar, hago nacer cada vez la boca que deseo, la boca que mi mano elige y te dibuja en la cara, una boca elegida entre todas, con soberana libertad elegida por mí para dibujarla con mi mano en tu cara, y que por un azar que no busco comprender coincide exactamente con tu boca que sonríe por debajo de la que mi mano te dibuja.

Me miras, de cerca me miras, cada vez más de cerca y entonces jugamos al cíclope, nos miramos cada vez más de cerca y nuestros ojos se agrandan, se acercan entre sí, se superponen y los cíclopes se miran, respirando confundidos, las bocas se encuentran y luchan tibiamente, mordiéndose con los labios, apoyando apenas la lengua en los dientes, jugando en sus recintos donde un aire pesado va y viene con un perfume viejo y un silencio. Entonces mis manos buscan hundirse en tu pelo, acariciar lentamente la profundidad de tu pelo mientras nos besamos como si tuviéramos la boca llena de flores o de peces, de movimientos vivos, de fragancia oscura. Y si nos mordemos el dolor es dulce, y si nos ahogamos en un breve y terrible absorber simultáneo del aliento, esa instantánea muerte es bella. Y hay una sola saliva y un solo sabor a fruta madura, y yo te siento temblar contra mí como una luna en el agua.

Hopscotch, Chapter 7 (translated by me)

I touch your mouth, with a finger I touch the corner of your mouth, tracing it as though it flows from my hand, as if your mouth parts slightly for the very first time, and it is enough for me to close my eyes, erase it completely and begin anew, each time bringing to life the mouth that I desire, the mouth that my hand chooses and traces on your face, one mouth chosen among all others, with supreme freedom chosen by me to trace with my hand on your face, and that by some chance that I cannot hope to understand coincides exactly with your mouth which smiles from underneath the mouth that my hand traces.

You look at me, from up close you look at me, coming closer constantly and then we play Cyclops, looking at each other each time more closely and our eyes grow larger, draw nearer, superimpose and the Cyclops sees itself, our breath mixed together, our mouths meeting and struggling with little resistance. We bite each other’s lips, tongues lightly leaning into teeth, playing in a cavern where a heavy air comes and goes with a stale perfume and a silence. Then my hands try to bury themselves in your hair, slowly caress the thickness of your hair, while we kiss as if we had mouths filled with flowers of nostalgic fragrance, with fish of lively movements. And if we bite each other the pain is sweet, and if we drown in a brief and terrible submersion coming simultaneous with the breath, this sudden death is beautiful. And there is a single saliva and a single flavor of ripe fruit, and I feel you tremble against me like a moon in a lake.

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