“In all its breadth and ceaseless treasure”: the Contemporary Gaelic Poems of Lewis MacKinnon

 

Gaelic-language poems by Lewis MacKinnon:

 

 

Your Speech

 

 

Listening to your speech today;

 

A bag-of-wind speech,

A speech without ceasing,

A speech without shape,

A speech without feeling,

A speech without essence,

A speech without a path,

A speech as crazy as the birds,

A speech that was not heard,

A speech no one noticed,

A speech bawling out in the cold wind,

A speech alone, forgotten,

A speech misunderstood,

A speech calling out for aid,

 

A beautiful, meek, melodious, open speech, without blemish;

 

_____

 

 

A’  Chainnt Agad

 

 

Ag éisdeachd ris a’  chainnt agad

an diugh;

 

Cainnt ghuthmhor

Cainnt gun stad

Cainnt gun chruth

Cainnt gun fhaireachdainn

Cainnt gun bhrìgh

Cainnt gun rathad

Cainnt cho gòrach ri eòin nan speuran

Cainnt nach deach a chluinntinn

Cainnt air nach d’  thug neach-eiginn aire

Cainnt ag éibheachd  ‘san t-soirbheas fhuar

Cainnt  ‘na h-aonar, air a dìochuimhneachadh

Cainnt nach deach a tuigsinn

Cainnt ag gairm oirnn airson cuideachaidh,

 

Cainnt bhriagha, mhacanta, bhinn, fhosgarra, gun smal

 

____

 

 

Institutional Thoughts

 

 

Through the looking glass of faith

and the remains of empires,

and the institutions built by these,

a person arrives at this place in time and being;

 

Where the creed of his belief and the learning of colonizers

influences his every deed;

 

Even when he is sitting in some meeting or other

and struggling in his mind against ideas and words;

 

That someone else is putting forward;

 

Struggling for no real cause whatsoever;

 

But the fear of the loss of control;

 

That lurks under the surface of the legacy,

those institutions left from long ago;

 

_____

 

 

Smuaintean Air Stéidhichidhean

 

 

Troimh ghloine-seallaidh a’  chreideimh agus

fuigheall nan Ìmpireachdan,

is na stéidhichidhean a chaidh a thogail leotha,

ruigidh duin’  an t-àite seo ann an àm agus bith;

 

Far an toir creud a’  chreideis aig’  agus ionnsachadh

a’  luchd-ionnsaidh buaidh do gach

gnìomh a nì e;

 

Fìu  ‘s nuair a tha e  ‘na shuidhe ann an coinneimh air

choireigin

a’  dèanadh strì  ‘na inntinn an aghaidh bheachdan is fhaclan;

 

A tha cuideigin eile a’  cur air adhart;

 

A’  dèanadh strì gun fhìor adhbhar sam bith;

 

Ach eagal call a’  smachd a tha fo uachdar na dìleib,

a dh’  fhàg na stéidhichidhean seo bho chionn fhada;

 

_____

 

 

Facebook and Gaelic

 

 

Writing in an unknown language,

old, shaky, alone,

in order that people will have a mere knowledge of it;

 

I write in this loneliness,

and I often suppose that there isn’t one person

on the surface of the earth,

that is in the same situation as me;

 

But I paused and I thought about the whole thing;

 

And then, it struck me

that Facebook

is kind of like Gaelic;

 

And I decided

that I would offer

Facebook the Gaelic language,

to be a friend to it,

in all its breadth

and ceaseless treasure;

 

And instead of being afraid

of an intrusion in its personal life

I welcome

any and all scrutinizing

that can be done of it

 

And I’ll provide Facebook

its date of birth,

its religious persuasion,

its sexual orientation,

its life history,

its stories,

its music,

its customs,

its expressions,

its hobbies,

its hopes,

its fears,

its musical interests,

where it was raised,

and what it is up to at this very moment

 

_____

 

 

Làrach Nan Ceanglaichean Agus A’  Ghàidhlig

 

 

A’  sgrìobhadh ann an cànain neo-aithnichte

sean, cugallach, aonaranach,

airson  ‘s gum bi beagan eòlais aig daoin’  oirre

 

Is mar a sgrìobhas mi  ‘san aonaranachas seo

gu tric saoilidh mi nach eil aon duin’  eile

air uachdar an t-saoghail

‘san aon suidheachadh  ‘s a tha mise

 

Ach stad mi is smaointich mi

air a’  ghnothach

 

Is a’  sin, bhuail orm

gu bheil Làrach nan Ceanglaichean

car coltach ris a’  Ghàidhlig;

 

Agus chuir mi romham

gun tairginn-sa do Làrach nan Ceanglaichean

a’  Ghàidhlig,

a bhith  ‘na caraid dhi,

‘na farsaingeachd air fad

‘na stóras gun chrìch

 

Agus an àite a bhith fo eagal

air foirneachd a beatha phearsanta

cuiridh mi fàilte air

sgrùdadh sam bith a théid a dhèanadh oirre

 

Agus bheir mi

ceann-là a breith,

a creideamh gneitheach,

a gné,

eachdraidh a beatha,

a sgeulachdan,

a h-òrain,

a ceòl,

a cleachdaidhean,

a gnàthsan-chainnt,

na cur-seachadan aice,

a dòchasan,

a h-eagail,

a sùim ciùil,

far an deach a togail,

is gu dé tha i ris an dràsda-fhéin

 

_____

 

 

A Fart

 

 

Now drawing the last gasp

and dying;

 

Free, unfettered, finally;

 

From the beliefs of people

who think that you died,

long ago;

 

But surprisingly,

you are still kicking in the hidden coffin,

with very little of your ancient little-known breath remaining;

 

And similar to a fart that is made someplace,

that is too confining,

and the smell wafts about choking everyone that is there,

and making them uncomfortable with shame,

 

You keep unexpectedly appearing;

 

And there are still those,

that are going around,

with their hands

tightly gripped on their noses;

 

Afraid of these little wiffs

that disperse;

 

You know that attitude you get

and how it’s shouted out, “Who did that anyway?”

 

And despite an immeasurable lack of attention,

you continue to fall out,

just like that fart,

that comes without welcome, without warning

 

_____

 

 

Braoim

 

 

A-nist a’  tarraing na h-uspaig mu dheireadh

is ag eugachdainn;

 

Saor, gun bhannan mu dheireadh thall;

 

O bheachdan dhaoine

a tha  ‘smaoineachadh gun do dh’  eug thu,

o chionn iomadach bliadhna;

 

Ach gu h-iongantach,

tha thu fhathast air crith  ‘sa’  chistidh fhalaichte seo,

le glé bheag dhen anail aosda neo-aithnicht’ agad air fhàgail,

 

Is mar bhraoim a chaidh a dhèanadh an àiteigin

a bha tuilleadh  ‘s seasgair,

is a’  fàileadh a’  flodradh mun cuairt

a’  tachdadh a h-uile duin’  ann,

is  ‘gan dèanadh mì-chomhfhurtail,

fo nàire;

 

Tha thu an còmhnaidh gun fhios a’  nochdadh;

 

Agus tha feadhainn ann,

a tha  ‘dol air adhart fhathast,

leis na làmhan aca,

le fìor ghréim air an sròin;

 

Fo eagal nan oiteagan beaga seo,

a théid an sgapadh;

 

Fhios agad a’  freagairt a gheobh thu,

“Có rinn sin co-dhiubh?”

 

Agus a dh’  aindeoin cion-aire gun mheud,

théid agad air tuiteam a-mach,

dìreach mar a thuiteas am braoim ud,

a thig gun fhàilte, gun rabhadh

 

_____

 

 

Limited Pieces

 

 

I would like to meet with you again

one day,

where there is nothing between us,

but the awareness of one another;

 

Far away from the field of memory,

where there aren’t,

 

Memories

Experiences

Beliefs

Judgements

Pre-meditations

Or feelings

 

And there we can meet again

 

Since I would like to give, the pieces of you,

that do not completely constitute any of those above,

that I have been keeping so close to me,

for so long,

back to you

 

_____

 

 

Criomagan Beaga

 

 

Bu mhath leam coinneachadh riut

là air choireigin,

far nach eil sion sam bith ann eadarainn,

ach an t-eòlas air ré an duin’  eile;

 

Fad air falbh o’  phàirc a’  chuimhne

far nach eil

 

Cuimhnichean

Féin-fhiosrachaidhean

Creideamhan

Breitheanais

Beachdan a bh’  ann roimhe

No faireachdainnean

 

Is a’  sin faodaidh sinn coinneachadh a-rithist

 

A chionn  ‘s bu mhath leam na criomagan dhìot

nach dèan suas gu h-iomlan gin dhen fheadhainn gu h-àrd,

a tha mi  ‘gléidheadh cho dlùth dhomh,

fad an t-saoghail,

a thoirt air ais dhut

 

_____

 

 

Innards

 

 

I dug you out from the shape of your human body

And I looked at you sincerely;

 

To see if I could find

Out what was bothering you;

 

You, lamenting the deeds that you committed

And all your passions

With the hope that you would have another chance

To go back

And put things right;

 

In order to get some relief

You permitted me to search your insides;

 

You never uttered a word

When I went in

At ease, peaceful

Somehow content

That you were finally

Getting some attention

For the painful burden you

Were carrying;

 

And in I went

And I started

And God all mighty If I am not still there

Lost in your complexity;

 

 

Mionach

 

 

Chladhaich mi thu a-mach á cruth daonna na bothaig agad

Agus choimhead mi ort gu fìrinneach

 

Fiach a gheobhainn a-mach

Gu dé bha  ‘cur ort

 

Thusa  ‘caoineadh nan gnìomhan a rinn thu

Is na mianntan uile agad

Leis an dòchas gum biodh seans’  eile agad

A dhol air ais

A chur rudan ceart

 

Gus faothachadh  ‘fhaighinn

Leig thu dhomh lorg  ‘nad bhroinn

 

Cha d’  thuirt thu guth

Nuair a chaidh mi a-staigh

Socair, ciùin,

Is leig thu dhomh do mhionach a bhuntainn

 

Dòigh air choireiginn

Toilichte

Gu robh thu mu dheireadh thall

A’  faighinn air’  air an uallach phianail

A bha thu air giùlain

 

Chaidh mi a-staigh

Is thòisich mi

Is a Dhia nan gràsan nach eil mi fhathast ann

Air chall  ‘san iom-fhillteachd agad

 

 

_____*_____*_____

 

 

Lewis MacKinnon (Lodaidh Macfhionghain) was born in 1970

in Inverness, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada.

Son of a Gaelic-speaking father and a French-Acadian mother, he is

an accomplished singer/songwriter as well as a poet.

His poems featured here were composed in Gaelic – using Nova Scotian

Gaelic’s spelling and punctuation, not Scottish Gaelic’s – then translated /

interpreted into English by the author himself.

Two of the poems, “Limited Pieces” and “Innards”, are exquisite in their

subtle intensity and candour – among the best love poems by any

Canadian poet.

MacKinnon’s 2008 book of poems, Giant and other Gaelic Poems /

Famhair agus dàin Ghàidhlig eile, includes 89 poems in Gaelic

with English versions.


Pat Lowther: “Escríbeme, cariño, del otro mundo. Y envíame aceitunas.”

 

Oscura

 

 

Te digo:  cae la oscuridad

como flechas y hambre

Ato en nudos mi cabello

para recordar otros imperios

Cae a través de mi cabeza el mundo

sin óbice – como la lluvia

Tengo que decirte:  no puedo

mover siempre con el decoro

Como meteores cae la oscuridad

pétalos de negro caliente

Me escapo, quemando, solamente porque

Yo soy la oscuridad.

 

*

 

Identificación

 

 

Quiero decir:

dime

quien eres,

y me das

una respuesta clara,

quien eres

pues, pienso en

la pregunta inversa

como un cuchillo

con hoja hacia mí

dime

quien eres

: soy una metedura

una boca, llorando

una figura corriendo

con las manos al ángulo derecho

de los brazos

Y pienso, después

de todo, que

no te preguntaré

quien eres.

 

_____

 

Dark

 

 

I tell you the darkness comes down

like arrows and hunger

I tie knots in my hair

to remember other empires

The world falls through my forehead

resistlessly as rain

I must tell you I can not

always move with decorum

The darkness comes down like meteors

petals of hot black

I escape burning only because

I am the darkness.

 

*

 

I.D.

 

 

i want to say

tell me

who you are,

and you give me

a clear answer,

who you are

then i think of

the question reversed

like a knife

bladed toward me

tell me

who you are

: i’m a blunder

a mouth, crying,

a figure running

with hands upright

at right angles

to the arms

and i think after all

i won’t

ask you

who you are.

 

_____

 

Carta a Pablo número 3

 

 

Honrando a los muertos

con grasa de carne

con pan bien crujiente

con miel y ajo,

Anciano lamendo el aceite

de tus pulgares – y eructando,

eres más lustroso que

las flores.

Claveles, amapolas,

caen su especia y su bravura

en un polvo de pétalos agitados;

pasas por la imagen

para honrar la barriga,

las manos      las fauces y los dientes,

el incienso de la comida

el sacramento del pan.

 

*

 

Letter to Pablo 3

 

 

Honouring your dead

with fat of meat

with well-crusted bread

with honey and garlic,

Old man licking the oil

off your thumbs – and belching,

you are more lustrous than

flowers.

Carnations, poppies,

their spice and bravura

fall in a dusting of

petals shaken;

you move past the image

to honour the belly,

the hands  —   the jaws and teeth,

the incense of cooking

the sacrament of bread.

 

_____

 

 

” Escríbeme, cariño,

del otro mundo.

Y envíame aceitunas. ”

 

*

 

” Write to me, darling,

from the other world.

And send me olives. ”

 

_____

 

Pat Lowther (1935-1975) nació en Vancouver, British Columbia, Canadá.

Su inspiración – con el poema y con la política – era el maestro-poeta chileno,

Pablo Neruda.

Estes poemas vienen de la colleción póstumo, Diario de Piedra (1977).

Traducción al español:  Alexander Best

*

Pat Lowther (1935-1975) was born in Vancouver, British Columbia.

She was inspired poetically / politically by Chilean master-poet

Pablo Neruda.

These poems appeared in A Stone Diary,

published posthumously in 1977.

Translation into Spanish:  Alexander Best


Juan de Dios Peza: “Al pie de la imagen de Santa Cecilia”

_____

“Al pie de la imagen de Santa Cecilia”

por Juan de Dios Peza  (México, 1852-1910)

 

 

Al pie de la imagen de Santa Cecilia,
un triste bohemio comenzó a tocar,
diciendo en voz baja:
No tengo familia, ni patria, ni rumbo, ni hogar.
Vengo en busca tuya, lloroso y hambriento,
para que te apiades de mi situación.
Con que tú lo ordenes en tu pensamiento,
se abrirán las puertas de cualquier mesón.
La música aquella seduce y encanta.
De pronto, un objeto cayó al violín,
y era que la imagen moviendo su planta,
al mísero artista le dio un escarpín.
Llorando de gozo se alejó en seguida.
Uno, al ver la joya, le llamó ladrón,
y lo condenaron a que con la vida
pagara su infame y sacrílega acción.
Por más que gritaba que él era inocente,
no pudo, no pudo convencer al juez.
Ante su protesta aullaba la gente:
Si se te calumnia prueba tu honradez.
Cuando de su llanto vio la ineficacia
y se preparaba, su vida a inmolar,
pidió le dejasen como última gracia,
al pie de la imagen volver a tocar.
Tocó como nunca, con la frente erguida,
mirando a la santa con mística unción,
diciendo en voz baja: defiende mi vida,
probando a tus fieles que no soy ladrón.
Cayó de rodillas la turba siniestra
cuando el sentenciado besó su violín,
y era que la imagen dejaba en su diestra,
con sus propias manos,
el otro escarpín.

 


Gedenktag der heilige Cäcilia: An die Musik !

_____

 

“An die Musik”

(Franz von Schober / Franz Schubert, 1817)

 

 

 

Du holde Kunst, in wieviel grauen Stunden,

wo mich des Lebens wilder Kreis umstrickt,

hast du mein Herz zu warmer Lieb’ entzunden,

hast mich in eine be§re Welt entrückt,

in eine be§re Welt entrückt.

 

Oft hat ein Seufzer deiner Harf’ entflossen,

ein sü§er heiliger Akkord von dir,

den Himmel be§rer Zeiten mir erschlossen,

du holde Kunst, ich danke dir dafür,

du holde Kunst, ich danke dir !

 

_____

 

November 22nd:   Saint Cecilia’s Day

“To Music”

(Franz von Schober / Franz Schubert, 1817)

 

 

 

Thou lovely Art, in many a gloomy hour,

When I have bow’d before the storms of life,

Hast thou revived my heart with glowing power

In better realms, unknown to earthly strife,

in realms unknown to earthly strife.

 

How oft the tones thy golden harp did bear me,

The holy, sweet accords that heav’nward soar,

The heav’n of better days has open’d o’er me:

Thou lovely Art, my thanks to thee therefore,

thou lovely Art, my thanks therefore !


Poem for the Man of Light: Abdul Wahhab Al-Bayati

_____

The man of light
Goes vagrant through my sleep at night
He stops in the abandoned corner
To extract words from my memory to write
And rewrite them aloud,
To blot lines out
He looks into the mirror
Of the house sunken deep in the darklight.
He recollects something
And slinks from my sleep.
I wake in dread
And try to recollect some thing
Of what he wrote, of what was said,
In vain. For the light
Has erased the papers and my memory
With daybreak’s deadman white.

*

We are grateful to A. Z.  Foreman for his translation from the Arabic into English.

Visit his site:  poemsintranslation.blogspot.com

Abdul Wahhab Al-Bayati (1926-1999) was an Iraqi poet who modernized Arabic poetry, introducing broader topics and breaking with the classical tradition of strict rhyme and metre.

The Arabic original of the poem follows:

قصيدة لرجل النور
عبد الوهاب البياتي

يتجول في نومي رجل النور
يتوقف في الركن المهجور
يُخرج من ذاكرتي كلماتٍ
يكتبها
ويعيد كتابتها في صوت مسموع
يمحو بعض سطور
ينظر في مرآة البيت الغارق بالظلمة والنور
يتذكر شيئاً
فيغادر نومي
استيقظ مذعوراً
وأحاول أن أتذكر شيئاً
مما قال ومما هو مكتوب
عبثاً ، فالنور
مسح الأوراق وذاكرتي
ببياض الفجر المقتول


Maltese Proverbs: Min jobżoq lejn is-sema jiġi f’wiċċu !

 

Old Maltese Proverbs:

 

 

La ddardarx l-għajn li trid tixrob minnha.

Don’t foul the spring from which you may want to drink.

*

Wieħed imut fis-sakra,  u l-ieħor imut għal qatra.

One man dies of drunkenness, another dies for want of a drop.

*

Min jobżoq lejn is-sema jiġi f ‘wiċċu.

Whoever spits toward the sky, it comes down on his own face.

*

Aħjar ħarba minn karba.

Better to run away than to groan.

*

L-ilma fil-bir ma jaqtax għatx.

Water still in the well doesn’t quench a thirst.

*

Min igħid li jrid,  ikollu jisma’  milli ma jridx.

Whoever says whatever he likes will have to hear what he doesn’t like.

*

Għajn ma tara(x) qalb ma tuġa'(x).

What the eye doesn’t see the heart doesn’t grieve over.

*

Min jiekol il-laħma jeħtieġ iġerrem l-għadma.

He who eats the meat must also gnaw the bone.

*

Il-flus jagħmlu l-flus,  u d-dud jagħmel id-dud.

Money breeds money, and worms breed worms.

*

Agħtini xortija u itfagħni ‘l-baħar.

Give me my luck  –  and throw me in the sea.

 

_____

 

 

Maltese Riddles:

 

 

Il-Halq

 

Sala b’ħafna siġġijiet,

Pulċinell jiżfen fin-nofs.

 

The Mouth

 

A drawing-room with many chairs,

In the middle a clown dancing.

*

In-Nifs

 

Ħaga moħġaġa:

Ma tistax iżżommha iktar minn minuta

Għalkemm ħafifa iktar minn rixa.

 

The Breath

 

Riddle-dee-dee:

You cannot hold it more than a minute

Though it is lighter than a feather.

*

Il-Qalb

 

Ħaġa moħġaġa:

Imsakkra ġo fik

U jistgħu jisirquhielek.

 

The Heart

 

Riddle-dee-dee:

Locked up inside you

And yet they can steal it from you.

 

_____

 

Proverbs and riddles compiled by Arthur John Arberry


11 / 11 / 11: Remembrance Day