Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Translator (Poem)

Pablo Picasso, Buste de Femme, 1943
Oil on Canvas
100.5 cm x 81 cm.
Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven


What of your eye, the one displaced
yet ever open to the light?

Or your mouth, flipped up on its side,
a crescent pointedly caressing

which words spilled before being stilled?

That other eye, the left one fixed
in place, vigilant,

how has it taken in the undefined

of your every step back against the wall?

So much of the story to be

the question of facing the feeling for what
the ground gives up

in exhumations of Srebrenica,
what in their dust

stirred as you sifted the mangle of flak
and tufts

of hair, a priest's black habit,
the sole-less shoe

of the last and lone witness.

Tell me, do you not know
their names

and yours and every one on the list
checked off 

imagine what it is
to be

more than marks on this page?

You relish your job of taking

in a language we do not speak,
as foreign

as the calling card left you, by accident
so they said,

atop your baggage the day you arrived,
already a writer

who'd put pen to paper, healing.

No one's security's guaranteed,
you know,

yours least of all,
your mind turning over 

the pictures
drawn in the fitful reds of sleep:

the children taking candies
from Mladic's hand

even as the men are disappearing.

© 2011 Maureen E. Doallas

This poem is inspired not only by this image of Picasso's Buste de Femme, which, as this recent article relates, came to be the "first masterpiece to be exhibited in the Palestinian territories", but also by this moving Arts Fuse post, "Translating at the War-Crimes Tribunal in The Hague", by Ellen Elias-Bursac, visiting scholar at University of Massachusetts/Amherst.

Ellen Elias-Bursac at Amazon

* * *

I offer this poem for the One Shot Wednesday at One Stop Poetry, which each week invites poets to share, read, and comment on each other's work. Be sure to visit the site late Tuesday afternoon and every Wednesday for the many contributors' poems. 


Louise Gallagher said...

The juxtaposition of this poem with your Alive-est poem is stunning.

I read Ellen Elias-Bursac's column and I cried. I watched the video and my heart ached.

we have both written of war today -- though my piece has been resting, waiting to be posted for awhile.

Your poem is haunting.

moondustwriter said...

Mmm Picasso what an inspiration of thought and words
Your poem makes his work come alive Maureen as you wield in words

Thanks for you weekly support of One stop - so grateful for you dear lady

Unknown said...

Like the Picasso, war, its inherent crimes, and the subsequent responses to them create a disjointedness,a surrealistic scenario that is almost impossible to process within normal parameters. You lay this out.

Anonymous said...

Excellent poem, thoughtful and nuanced.

Anonymous said...

This is mastered. Accomplished. What a pleasure to read.

Glynn said...

What a fine poem this is, Maureen. The artist translates the subject; the poet translates the artist; and the reader translates the poet.

Jerry said...

What Glynn said.