This one took me almost ten years. I am struggling with its simplicity, it’s unusual rhythm, its ancient message … and always: its realization. A woman sent me the Russian original, I produced a German translation, which also transferred the ABBA rhyme. In English, my second language, I skipped the rhyme to make it my own. And I love repetition; practice needs repetition. I must have written seven times seven versions. I hope I am getting closer to the meaning.
If you have the time and energy to read more of these texts you find them in blog order on this website. Let me know what you associate with them, what you like, what you dislike, what you read in them, how they make you feel …
This is my translation of a Russian poem by Yuri Davidovich Levitansky (Ю́рий Дави́дович Левита́нский). For Russian readers, the original is below. I am still working on the English translation; the poems beautiful simplicity and my thinking about the lyrical sujet pose some challenges. So for the time being, here is the Google translation from the German:
Everyone determines for himself the consort, his god, wherever he goes. Serve the idol or follow the prophet Everyone’s determined for themselves.
Everyone makes a decision on their own initiative the rapier for the duel, the sword for the battle. Words of love and power of prayer everyone determines on their own initiative.
Everyone makes a decision on their own initiative Visor and armor, walking stick and patch. And in the end his time in happiness everyone determines on their own initiative.
Everyone determines for himself I also choose as best I can I’m not making a claim to anyone Everyone determines for themselves
Vote is a four-letter word, but I never took Latin. So, no voting for me.
Hey, Friend, Are you going to vote? I am sure there is an election coming soon. Have you cast your vote before? I have. A long time ago.
I grew up in East Germany before the Wall came down. Every couple of years, they had something one Sunday, which they called an election. You would walk to the polling station, show your ID, be given a ballot, take one step to the right, fold the ballot, and stick it in the ballot box. Done. You had just voted for one list of candidates. All of them. From different parties and associations. All on the one state-sanctioned list, which you approved towards the 99.9%. And if you did not, they would revisit you with the “flying” ballot box. Again. And again.
In the first election after demonstrations, civic movement, and round tables— remember 1989? — I registered my protest vote. I had done the math. After the counting and announcements, I revoked my right to vote for a couple of years, believing that only people who don’t mix up politics and math should vote. Protest voting is nonlinear.
The German word for vote is die Stimme. Most common backtranslation: the voice. When you have a voice, you vote — when you vote, you have a voice! I always thought the words vote and voice are related, and maybe they are. But I never took Latin.
In England, I voted in local elections. But neither John Major nor Tony Blair were my fault. They were not my success either. European immigrants only vote locally. And in Canada? Permanent residents can’t vote for anybody. I watched the news and kept quiet.
And now I am here. Southern California. Best climate I have ever been in. Geographically. I will keep quiet, hanging on to my Green Card.
How about your voice? Your Stimme. Your vote!
I had posted this first on Panta Rhei Enterprise in August. Since there are less than 100 hours until the election and I am transfering the series Just words to this blog, it was high time.
I actually do not read that much poetry. I wish I would. In 2012, I heard Dragica Rajčić read her poetry. She is Croatian and lives in Switzerland. This volume of poetry is in German; she also writes in Croatian, which I cannot read. I did not like the English translation, also presented at the reading, because it had eliminated all the idiosyncracies of the original. I believe it is the little nicks that make this poem.
And if you like the little texts — poems I wrote or translated — they are, in no particular order, under Just texts.