5 abr. 2012

Whisper her Name in the Wind

Spring Eucalypts-Templestowe, by Douglas Baulch, 1959.


Last year I entered this fairly long poem into a Bush Poetry competition. The guidelines provided this explanation about Australian Bush Poetry: “Australian Bush Poetry is … poetry with a good rhyme and metre, written about Australia, Australians and/or the Australian way of life.”
There are of course many poets whose main aim when writing is just to win prizes. There are those who write poetry and only as an afterthought, they might enter a competition.
The other day I was (yet again!) awake at 4 in the morning. I saw my 13-year-old niece was on Skype and sent her a ‘Hello!’ via the chat facility. She asked me what I was doing. ‘I’m writing’, I replied, ‘at least when I’m writing I don’t cry’. Some might think it’s a pretty crude reply to a 13-year-old: I don’t think so.
There is something mysteriously therapeutic about writing your grief out. Somehow it keeps you going, it can help you face the new day. At least, it works for me. It may not work for everyone, of course.
Anyhow, I hope you like ‘Whisper her Name in the Wind’, even if it was deemed to be undeserving of a Bush Poetry Prize.

El año pasado presenté este poema, bastante largo, a una competición de poesía del bush australiano. Las directrices proporcionaban la siguiente explicación acerca del sub-género, Australian Bush Poetry: “La poesía del bush australiano es … poesía con una buena rima y buen metro, que trata de Australia, australianos y/o el modo de vida australiano.”
Son por supuesto muchos los poetas cuyo principal objetivo al escribir es simplemente la obtención de premios. Hay también quien escribe poesía y, solamente como una ocurrencia ulterior, puede que presenten el poema a un concurso.
El otro día estaba (¡otra vez!) despierto a las cuatro de la madrugada. Vi que mi sobrina de 13 años de edad estaba en Skype, y le envié un ‘Hello!’ a través del chat. Ella me preguntó qué estaba haciendo. ‘Estoy escribiendo’, respondí, ‘al menos, cuando estoy escribiendo no lloro’. Habrá quien piense que es una respuesta un poco cruda para una chica de 13 años: no es esa mi opinión.
Hay algo misteriosamente terapéutico en escribir el dolor. De alguna manera te mantiene en marcha, puede ayudarte a encarar el nuevo día. Al menos, en mi caso, funciona. Por supuesto, puede que no funcione para todo el mundo.
En cualquier caso, espero que te guste ‘Whisper her Name in the Wind’ (Susurrar su nombre al viento’), incluso aunque no lo consideraran merecedor de un Premio a la Poesía del Bush.
(Por cierto, lamento no poder ofrecer una traducción al castellano y/o al catalán. Si alguien se anima a hacerlo, por mí, encantado.)

Whisper her Name in the Wind


Although born in a big city, she had always loved the farm.
She trod softly in the old house, ever filled with dust and charm.
Even as a baby she felt the distinctive warmth was there:
her own mum’s family’s place, all people who loved her and cared.

We used to walk across the green paddocks and go near the creek,
hand in hand, father and daughter, we would have a sticky beak.
We’d count Pa’s lambs and ewes, and wonder at Foxy the old horse,
whose many years she couldn’t count – they were too many, of course.

In clear but freezing winter days, when the sky was at its bluest,
we would walk out in the fresh breeze and set foot towards the west.
Seeing a skipping roo would give her a thrill and make her excited,
yet she was so scared of dogs she could grab my hand and bite it!

At lamb marking time, she’d be curious but kept her distance,
she still didn’t know farming is a tough means of existence.
Safely perched on a fence, she did not flinch at the bloody mess;
but then the dogs whirled into a frenzy: there’d be some distress.

As a toddler she’d always sit with many toys by the fire;
she loved being spoilt by Granma and Pa, who were by then retired;
many nights during school holidays she would stay at the farm,
for fresh clean air and country tucker never did any harm.

They were times of grand excitement, driving around in the ute,
yet she’d stay inside the cabin, and grin at Pa and salute;
three times per week the mail came, and it had to be collected,
she’d walk uphill with Granma, and they never felt dejected.


Of the three dogs on the farm, she thought Murphy was most gentle.
Good old sheep dog, Murphy knew his place and stayed in his kennel.
One day Pa asked Uncle Claydon to bring with him his rifle.
Murphy ended in a bag: in the bush this is but trifle.

She loved the bush, she loved the farm, the very place where her mum
had lived and grown up, and had fun as a child. A place, in sum,
where she felt she belonged, despite its many unseen dangers:
snakes, bushfires, spiders galore, perils to which we aren’t strangers.

Of all the incidents that happened to her the magpie swoop
was the most frightful. One arvo, she was leading their small group.
With her young twin brothers, she was playing near the old hay shed,
when a black and white feathered splotch swooped and pecked her in the head.

They all thought it hilarious, but she really had a big scare.
But there was worse: the bird had cut her. Blood was smudging her hair!
Her cries bawled across the valley, her tears flowed, her pain was clear;
once at home she’d tell us her story, and we’d just say, “Oh dear”.

These ancient Wirrimbi paddocks now seem sadder than ever:
the little girl who walked on them had her life cruelly severed.
Pa seems to have lost the plot (yet Foxy keeps trotting around!):
it makes no sense to him that his grandchild should be in the ground.

How can anyone understand that my six-year-old would die?
We were on a beach holiday when the sea covered the sky;
the waters wiped out everything, not a single house was left;
many people were injured, and more than one hundred were dead.


I am her father, a migrant, and have learned to love this land.
In the still mornings and evenings, when the gum trees I command
to whisper her name in the wind, my heart cries and I despair.
No one should go through such a loss. It is far too much to bear.

This land now wears a deep wound: no words can describe our sorrow.
Paddocks long for her giggle, the creek weeps, there’s no tomorrow.
She was as pretty as bush flowers, she could dazzle like snow.
We planted her own tree, a native; she’ll never see it grow.

There can be no greater sadness; there can be no harsher pain.
My girl won’t become a woman; she won’t tread these hills and plains.
There will be no more lazy days spent by the snug winter fire;
no more strolls down to the creek or getting stuck in old fence wire.

And so I pay her tribute, born and bred in this proud country:
Some lines of poetry one day you might read under a gum tree.

(c) Jorge Salavert, 2012.

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Ngunnawal land, Australia