Page 1 of 1

My Country in Translation

Posted: Sat Mar 25, 2006 1:13 pm
by admin
My Country in Translation

last sunday
i sat through a series of slides
one after another one after another
of haitian women children and men
in a hospital in limbe
slides one after another
one after the other
some of them i couldn't look at
without turning away
or covering my eyes
open gashes, tumors, abscesses
i heard a lot of medical terms
that i would forget an hour
after i sat through the slides
one after another one after another

meanwhile
my mind traveled
to lansing to miami
back to the slides
and back again
to lansing and miami
to when i first began
to translate for the refugges

the first time i translated
i'd laugh
when i couldn't understand when I couldn't explain
when I couldn't find english words for this man's words
i couldn't find the words
because even in kreyol or in french
they weren't part of my vocabulary
these words never were part of my vocabulary
because his life has never been mine
because the haiti i grew up in
the haiti i know didn't consist of these words
the haiti i knew didn't consist of these words

i continued to laugh
nervously
because i have never been to this haiti
but i was going back there
i was going back there with them
i was going back there with their words
as i translated
i even mimicked
pauses
hesitations
uneasy smiles
the quickness to say words
that once translated
would determine lives.
Words determined young lives
i did that with all of them
in lansing and in miami
once while translating
my laughter got on the verge of
hysterics
when translating
i always asked them
if they understood me
then i would apologize
for not being able to translate properly
quickly enough
for not being familiar with some words
for not having understood everything.
Politely they'd say:
kreyol ou bon gina
pa gen problem se lang ou.
ou pale kreyol tankou ayisien. ou ayisien
everytime i think about lansing
about miami
i wonder if they know
that i remember those words
that i couldn't translate
those words that i didn't know
i wonder if they know
that these words give me
a little of the country that i didn't know
i wonder if they know
that these words give me
a little of the country thati i used to know
a little of the country that i never knew

© Gina Ulysse