Translations from Mon nom est aube (Naming the Dawn) by Nancy Naomi

note from author:

These are new translations from Abdourahman Waberi’s second collection of poems, Mon nom est aube (Naming the Dawn), under contract with Seagull Books (distributed by the U. of Chicago Press) for publication in Spring, 2018. I received an NEA literature translation fellowship to translate his first volume of poetry, Les Nomades, mes frères, vont boire à la grande ourse (The Nomads, My Brothers, Will Drink from the Big Dipper), which was published by Seagull Books last year, and was one of six finalists for the Best Translated Book Award (BTBA). I have been given the rights to publish these translations, as well as the original French.

Waberi is a prize-winning writer from Djibouti, a tiny country, as you probably know, in the Horn of Africa about the size of Massachusetts, squeezed between Somalia, Ethiopia, and Eritrea. Muslim by birth, Waberi’s themes include living a simple life based on meditation and spirituality, the nomadic life, Arabic language and culture, religious tolerance as opposed to extremism, and Djibouti’s harsh climate and civil wars. In recognition for his commitment to the values of multiculturalism and linguistic, ethnic, and religious diversity, he was awarded the 2016 Words to Change Prize. His language is playful, but also sparse and simple, which mirrors the desert landscape of his native country. The underlying humanism pervading these texts is heartfelt and deep.

In order to infuse these lyric texts with music, I used a “sound mapping” technique described in an article on translation in NEA Arts, where Waberi and I discuss our collaboration.  The link is as follows (see p. 17): NEA Arts Number 1.

Stone Lyre, my collection of René Char translations, was published by Tupelo Press, and  Hammer with No Master: Poems of René Char, was published last November by Tupelo Press, and was a finalist for the CLMP Firecracker Poetry Award. My translation of Calazaza’s Delicious Dereliction by Suzanne Dracius, from Martinique, was published by Tupelo Press last fall, and my co-translation of The Dancing Other, a novel by Suzanne Dracius, will be published by Seagull Books this November, 2017. My translations have appeared in such journals as The American Poetry Review, Boulevard, FIELD, Harvard Review Online, The Iowa Review, Kenyon Review Online, and New England Review. My non-translated work has appeared in such journals as The Georgia Review, Poetry, Prairie Schooner, and Shenandoah. My collection of poetry, Kings Highway, won the Washington Writers’ Publishing House competition, and Complications of the Heart won the Texas Review Press’ Robert Phillips Poetry Chapbook Prize. Imperfect Seal of Lips was selected for the Tennessee Chapbook Prize. Infusion of Violets will be published by Seagull Books in Fall 2018. I am an instructor at the Bethesda Writer’s Center and senior translation editor for Tupelo Quarterly. I hold a Master’s in French Language and Literature, as well as doctorates in Foreign Language Methodology and Counselor Education.                              

Take care,

Nancy Naomi

 


Language of Birds

iqra
in the name of the God on High, recite
psalmody now
the crucial syllables
creation sung at sight
rising again to the surface
your beating heart
supplies the rhythm
nothing you need to devise
everything’s come before
it’s all here
the seed, the bark, the crown and the thorns
the errant eros of time
life in death
death in life
the source and the sea
the dove perched on your grave

iqra
the elusive peace
in Mesopotamia
Syria’s consuming fire
the moment becoming eternity
the ball that whirls
the past won’t belie its present
it’s all here
already present
wholly alive

impermanent too
in days ahead
memory’s daze
the creation
the arrows and bow of his everlasting surprise

Translator’s Note:

Iqra is an Arabic word that means “recite!” or “read!” and is the first word of the Koran.


Langage des oiseaux
—Abdourahman Waberi

iqra
au nom du Très Haut récite
sur-le-champ psalmodie
les syllabes essentielles
le déchiffrement de la création
remontant à la surface
les battement de ton coeur
te donneront le rythme
rien à inventer
tout te précède
tout est là
la graine, l’écorce, la couronne et les épines
l’errance éros du temps
la vie dans la mort
la mort dans la vie
la source et l’océan
la colombe juchée sur ta tombe

iqra
la paix introuvable en/
Mésopotamie

le feu avalant la Syrie
l’instant fait éternité
la boule qui tournoie
le passé ne réfute pas son présent
tout est là
déjà présent
pleinement vivant

impermanent aussi
à venir
le souvenir
la création
les flèches et l’arc de son perpétuel étonnement


Asceticism

release what’s been repressed
scars of wounds, strokes of fate
soot of fears welling up in the bosom of Eve
we keep a scared or disgraced child
asleep deep down in our guts
weeping returns with evening despair
red-faced the newborn mewls as soon as mama’s scent
slips away from his grasp

baby is a big lake
the tears that fill it make no ripples
you will sense all the mud-covered dreams on the prowl
amassed in this life
and in lives of the women and men
whose projected shadows we remain
we endure as a speck of infinity
beings who’ve wandered in circles
around our pastures for such a long time

at the end of a lengthy season of patience
footprints and strife disappear like morning dew
the union’s lotus reveals its promise
on the ashes of the past
effect nuzzles cause in a loving embrace
and renewed
you beam at the sun of peace found again


Ascèse
—Abdourahman Waberi

laisser sortir ce qui a été réprimé
les traces de blessures, les coups du sort,
la suie des peurs qui sourd du giron d’Ève
nous avons un enfant apeuré ou humilié
qui sommeille au fond de nos tripes
les pleurs qui reviennent avec la mélancolie du soir
tout rouge le nourrisson vagit dès que l’odeur de maman
lui glisse d’un doigt

bébé est un grand lac
les larmes qui y coulent ne font pas une ride
tu sentiras marauder tous les rêves envasés
accumulés dans cette existence
et dans l’existence de ceux et celles dont
nous sommes encore l’ombre portée
nous restons un fragment de l’infini
des êtres qui errent depuis si longtemps
dans les cercles de nos pâturages

au terme d’un long temps de patience
empreintes et conflits s’évaporent comme la rosée du matin
le lotus de l’union inaugure sa promesse
sur les cendres du passé
l’effet dans une chaude étreinte embrasse la cause
et comme neuf
tu souris au soleil de la paix retrouvée


Not a Day Will Pass

baby wriggles and giggles by turns
philosophical, he ponders
what did I look like before my parents’ birth

his mouth contains the entire book
and in his chest an ember glows
waving its flame since yesterday’s wee hours

and in his little hands a sun of psalm
puts on a show for the overflowing cistern of his tears
which succumbs in the face-off

neither anchor nor helm
but the port if need be
and now baby takes off, at once autonomous
still sustained the following day by seraphic breath, he unveils
the clump of clay of the coming world

a hand pressed into ours
a flutter of wings
the shade of a tree with a good place to rest
an endless sprawling beach
an interior landscape—austere and concise—
a reading room’s worried hardwood floor
silence revealing such lofty designs to the Word


Pas un jour ne passera
—Abdourahman Waberi

bébé gigote et rit tour à tour
philosophe, il s’interroge
quel était mon visage avant la naissance de mes parents
il a toute la descente du livre dans la bouche

et dans la poitrine une braise ardente
ondulant sa flamme depuis le petit matin du jour d’hier
et dans ses petites mains un soleil de psaume

se donne en spectacle devant la citerne de son visage
conquis par le face-à-face
ni l’ancre ni la barre
mais le port au besoin
et voilà que bébé se bouge et s’autonomise sur-le-champ
le lendemain encore s’appuyant sur son souffle séraphique il déroule
la motte d’argile du monde qui vient

la pression d’une main dans la nôtre
un battement d’ailes
un arbre à l’ombre duquel on aimait se reposer
une plage s’étirant à l’infini
un territoire intérieur d’austérité et de concision
le parquet inquiet d’un cabinet de lecture
le silence confiant au Verbe de si hauts desseins

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *