Stories from ‘The Jungle’

Here’s another poem I translated for the Journeys in Translation project. In this one, Emma Lee retells the stories of six people from the Calais camp and their families. It was a challenge to render the already long lines in Polish, a language that tends to stretch sentences even more, but I was determined to translate this one. “Stories from ‘The Jungle'”, each one very personal and moving, really stuck with me.

Oh, and I forgot to mention in my previous post: by buying the original collection of poems, you support the foundations Doctors Without Borders, Leicester City of Sanctuary and Nottingham Refugee Forum.

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The poem in English:

Stories from ‘The Jungle’

Everything Abdel sees is smeared, despite his glasses.
With the sleeve of a dusty shirt, he pushes grime
From the middle to the edges of his lenses.
They’ve witnessed family fall victim to war crimes.
He could shower for a fortnight and never feel clean.
English is an official language in Sudan.
At sixteen he wants to join relatives already in england.

To dodge military conscription, Sayid, 20, fled from Syria.
Inspired by the story of one of his heroes, William Gibson,
Sayid got to Egypt, then packed on a small boat to Lampedusa,
Through Italy to France, from where he can only move on.
On a borrowed laptop he listens to Syrian pop music.
He’d love to cook. He still has to pay a trafficker
weekly for the right to chase lorries to his brother in England.

With a bandaged hand Abdul, 21, tells of imprisonment
And gestures to describe the electric shocks he received
After his arrest by the Sudanese government.
His tribe also harassed by rebel militia. He feels deceived
By traffickers. Despite his razor-wire injury,
he’ll try again. Sudan was an English colony.
He wants to stop looking over his shoulder.

When a tiger stalks, play dead. But it’s hard not to run.
When his friends were arrested in Eritrea, Hayat fled
and moved from Ethiopia to Libya and across the Mediterranean.
He became tiger, his prey an England-bound train. His hunt failed.
His broken arm cast, he hunkers in a makeshift, tented cave.
A tiger fails nine of ten hunts. He’s five down, four more to brave.
English is the only European language he speaks.

At Baath University in Homs, his English Literature studies
were interrupted by conscription. Firas drew and followed an isopleth.
Three family members were killed by Syrian government forces,
he couldn’t bear to see or be responsible for any more death.
Skin torn by razor-wire, he still dreams of Oxford spires.
Relatives live in several English towns, all with universities.
He wants to use the language he’s immersed himself in.

Ziad was a respected lawyer in Daara. Now he fidgets,
grubby and injured from climbing fences, dodging
security and avoiding dogs. The pack of cigarettes
crinkles as he weaves it in his fingers, emptying
a last curl of tobacco. He didn’t smoke them but can’t finish
with the packet. He translates legal arguments into English.
He wants to join relatives and practice law again.

These stories are based on newspaper reports. Names have been changed.

***

The poem in Polish:

Historie z „dżungli”

Przed oczami Abdela wszystko zamazane, mimo że ma okulary.
Rękawem brudnawej koszuli rozciera sadzę
Na szkłach – ze środka na brzegi.
Widzieli, jak cała rodzina pada ofiarą zbrodni wojennych.
Mógłby myć się co chwilę i ciągle czuć się brudny.
Angielski jest jednym z języków urzędowych Sudanu.
Szesnastoletni Abdel chce dołączyć do krewnych, który są już w Anglii.

Aby uniknąć poboru, dwudziestoletni Sayid uciekł z Syrii.
Zainspirowany historią jednego ze swych idoli, Williama Gibsona,
Sayid dostał się do Egiptu, wsiadł do łodzi w kierunku Lampeduzy,
Przez Włochy dotarł do Francji – stamtąd może tylko ruszyć dalej.
Na pożyczonym laptopie słucha syryjskiego popu.
Chciałby być kucharzem. Na razie co tydzień musi płacić przemytnikowi,
By gonić za ciężarówkami do Anglii, do swojego brata.

Dwudziestojednoletni Abdul opowiada o swoim uwięzieniu
I gestem – jedna dłoń w bandażu – pokazuje elektrowstrząsy,
Które dostał po aresztowaniu przez rząd Sudanu.
Rebelianci również nie dają spokoju jego plemieniu. Czuje się oszukany
Przez przemytników. Pomimo rany od drutu kolczastego
Spróbuje jeszcze raz. Sudan był kiedyś kolonią brytyjską.
Abdul chce przestać oglądać się za siebie.

Kiedy tygrys się skrada, stój w miejscu. Ale instynkt każe uciekać.
Gdy aresztowano jego przyjaciół w Erytrei, Hayat uciekł z kraju,
Przebył Etiopię i Libię, a potem Morze Śródziemne.
Stał się tygrysem, a celem – pociąg do Anglii. Polowanie się nie udało.
Z ręką w gipsie przykucnął w prowizorycznym namiocie-jaskini.
Tygrys wraca głodny dziewięć na dziesięć razy. Stawił czoło pięciu,
Zostało więc cztery. Angielski to jedyny europejski język, jaki Hayat zna.

Jego studia z literatury angielskiej na uniwersytecie Al-Baath w Homs
Przerwał pobór do wojska. Firas narysował na mapie linię i podążył za nią.
Troje z jego rodziny zostało zabitych przez wojsko rządu syryjskiego.
Czuł, że nie mógł być świadkiem lub sprawcą ani jednej śmierci więcej.
Ze skórą zszarpaną drutem wciąż marzy o studiach w Oksfordzie.
Jego krewni mieszkają w różnych miastach w Anglii, w każdym – uniwersytet.
Firas chce mówić językiem, który tak go zafascynował.

Ziad był w Darze uznanym prawnikiem. Teraz kręci się,
Brudny, pokaleczony od wchodzenia na siatki, ukrywając się
przed strażą i unikając psów. Paczka papierosów
Szemrze, kiedy skręca ją w palcach, wyciągając ostatni
Zwitek tytoniu. Wcześniej nie palił, ale teraz
Jedna paczka nie wystarcza. Tłumaczy teksty prawne na angielski.
Chce dołączyć do krewnych i znowu być prawnikiem.

Powyższe historie zostały oparte na wiadomościach prasowych. Imiona bohaterów zostały zmienione.

But One Country

Here’s a poem by Rod Duncan that I translated as part of the Journeys in Translation project, a project that calls upon translators around the world to translate poems from Over Land Over Sea: Poems for those seeking refuge from English into other languages. You can still take part! More information: Journeys in Translation

The poem in English:

but one country

our home
is but one country
truly, the whole earth
is there for them to settle
tell us if you can, where else
shall we go when they have come?
they do not belong in our homeland
you should blush when you say to us
we must turn our vision up-side down

 we must turn our vision up-side down
you should blush when you say to us
they do not belong in our homeland
shall we go when they have come?
tell us if you can, where else
is there for them to settle
truly, the whole earth
is but one country
our home

The poem in Polish:

Tylko jeden kraj

Nasz dom
— Jeden kraj
Na całym świecie
Jest dla nich dość miejsca
Mówcie, jeśli wiecie, gdzie
Mamy pójść, gdy się tu zjawią?
W tym kraju nie ma dla nich miejsca
Powinno wam być wstyd mówić nam, że
Czas wywrócić swój świat do góry nogami

Czas wywrócić swój świat do góry nogami
Powinno wam być wstyd mówić nam, że
W tym kraju nie ma dla nich miejsca
Mamy pójść, gdy się tu zjawią?
Mówcie, jeśli wiecie, gdzie
Jest dla nich dość miejsca
Na całym świecie
— Jeden kraj
Nasz dom

The Doubtful Art of Self-Doubt

Or what I write when I think I can’t write:

***

Sometimes I get overwhelmed
by such doubt

Perhaps it’s for the better that
I’m not a ballet dancer

Striving for others
to like my dance
would be the death of me

As it is, I can dance for myself
often, in the dark

Hasty Thoughts

Caught in a small loop of time
with people around to reach out for
I think hasty thoughts that hurt me
my black fingernails scratch
impatiently

But after a moment it becomes plain:
I should ask

Could you give me,
could you give me,
could you give me some time of yours?


I admit: I wrote this on a bus. Going to work; from work to a lecture; then home to try and do something to make my thesis exist. That’s what my days look like lately, and that’s the reason why I’ve been posting rarely these last few months.

I’m busy, and I wish the week was at least one day longer!

In this little poem — it’s not even a poem! — I wanted to compress my recent thoughts about haste. Because haste has become an important part of my life, and it has been getting on my nerves on and off in the past few months. And the day before I wrote it I reflected that when I’m in a hurry, I revert to my (bad) old thinking habits like they’re the default setting.

And I lapse into doubt and think of how they’re gonna say good bye to me after my trial period, how I’ll do something and disappoint someone I care for, or how I’ll fail a class at the uni.

Then I start feeling all discouraged from trying to keep, nourish, and enjoy the awesome things that I have in life, and pessimistic about their future at my side.

An example of it: a few days ago I was thinking of quitting my job just because I didn’t pass an on-line course in the basics of LTE technology in one try. It didn’t make any sense because the course was difficult, and I could give it as many tries as I needed.

But it seems like spontaneous self-harm comes in whenever I don’t watch myself. So I worried, and put myself down, and worried some more, although I don’t actually want to hurt myself.

It’s the haste… perhaps with a dash of perfectionism, too.

It was good to figure that out.

It was also good that that day I came across a post published by my friend katerzyna, where she wrote about patience. It was just just what I needed to hear: All we need is… just a little patience.

Breathe deeply in and out, even if you live in a smoggy city like I do. Be patient. It’s true that all kinds of things may happen, but constant worry probably won’t prevent the bad ones, or speed up the good ones.

Another good conclusion I reached that day was that when we’re in haste and/or trouble, it’s really worth reaching out to other people for support.

In my case, this means asking for hugs, bothering people with questions, or making the poor devils listen when I want to tell a story e.g. about a rude woman on the bus.

And this is actually what I’m going to do now: promise you a story. Not the one about the rude lady on the bus — this one isn’t worth a blog post. Another one. Wait. Patiently. Till tomorrow.

Regards,
Mulan

Find Me Attached

A short poem about attachment, and maybe about some other things, too.

You can laugh: there was time
whenever someone wanted
to take a photo of me
I’d dodge and say
‘don’t shoot me’

Photos have their way of staying –
just what I didn’t want

But here you are
here we are
here I am
to stay

Come rain

Here is a little poem about a thing that comes with autumn and whose charm is as unclear to you as that of an autumn morning, with its coldness, and with its sunshine, and with its haziness, and with its tendency to make you wish it doesn’t go away so quickly.

Well, here I am describing and even (damn…) naming things I haven’t a clue about.

Or maybe I have. It’s the haziest clue possible, though.



she is like rain

when you hear her talk,
you could be lying on grass,
and letting her words soak you,
ground you in your field of autumns’
infatuations

almost forgotten
with autumn comes rain


Have a good day,
Mulan