editor's note

Dear readers,


Translation involves finding chaos within the chaos. Multitudes of letters pile up line after line, hoping to mean something. We designate squiggles to signify sound, which then string together to form words and then phrases and then poetry. Those of us who translate try to take one set of squiggles and turn it into another. We translate the squiggles themselves but our efforts lie in trying to preserve the meaning behind them.


Each of the twenty translations in this magazine was wrought out of its original language and crafted into something meaningful in English. Perhaps they are meaningful in ways different from their original counterparts, but each one has moved me in a way that I can only hope to share with you. I hope you feel the helpless loss of Nâzım Hikmet’s “Story of Separation” and the honey-laced tenderness of Dora Gabe’s “Silence.” I hope that Mahmoud Darwish’s “Identity Card” will remind you of all those who continue to be persecuted in our world.


Deliberately or not, meaning is constantly evading us as we chase after it. It’s not always visible, but it is there. Just because I can’t understand the first set of squiggles doesn’t mean it’s any less valid than the second. Just because I don’t understand doesn’t make it wrong.


I hope you find meaning in our magazine. This issue of DoubleSpeak attempts to bring together poets from every corner of the world and translators from beyond the scope of Penn. These translations are meant to transport you to another place. They are meant to be savored, devoured, digested. I am reminded of our senior editor and my dear friend Michaela Kotziers’ translation of “The Ruin” from Old English, as her speaker holds an ancient city in memory:


my mouth fills with the earth of that place, where

wine-flushed skin and floods that gleamed, where

those twin pearls might be slipped beneath

stony shadows shading over hot streams.


I hope these translations fill your mouths with earth. I hope they fulfill you and provide momentary relief from the chaos.

Shailly Pandey


our staff


Shailly Pandey

Senior Editor

Michaela Kotziers

Content Manager

Nadia Park

Staff Editors

Yehudith Dashevsky

Jasmine Phun

Mandy Wang

Sue Jia

Podcast Coordinator

Sue Jia

Copy Editors

Thomas Myers

Jamie Seah

Jeffrey Careyva


Copyright Coordinator

Jeffrey Careyva

Outreach Coordinator

Claris Park

Graphic Designer

Shilpa Saravanan

Faculty Advisor

Taije Silverman

A special thanks to Kelly Writers House for all their support.


table of contents

With a Newspaper

Nizar Qabbani | Michael Karam

Story of a Separation

Nâzım Hikmet | Keyla Cavdar



Elvira Sastre | Mira Revesz

Take Me into Your Black Eyes

Nurullah Genç | Nicolette Tan


Dora Gabe | Irena Natcheva

Oh, Reader

Charles Baudelaire | Trask Roberts

Musings: Belonging in Ambiguity 

an essay by Shailly Pandey

Identity Card

Mahmoud Darwish | Omar Khoury


Francesco Guccini | Stefano Pietrosanti


Rosario Castellanos | Margaret Lawlace

So that you might hear me

Pablo Neruda | Naomi Bernstein

You Shattered

Giuseppe Ungaretti | Carla Rossi


Fredrico García Lorca | Mira Revesz


Giuseppe Ungaretti | Margaret Lawlace

Sinking rising

Dahlia Ravikovitch | Yehudith Dashevsky

The Night I Count the Stars

Yun Dong-ju | Nadia Park


Unknown | Michaela Kotziers

Historical Museum

Xi Murong | Kejia Wang

Someone's Already Had a Sip of You

Sergei Yesenin | Malika Kadyrova

Hour of Stars

Federico García Lorca | Mira Revesz


مع جريدة

Nizar Qabbani


..أخرج من معطفه الجريده

وعلبة الثقاب

..ودون أن يلاحظ اضطرابي

ودونما اهتمام

..تناول السكر من أمامي

ذوّب في الفنجان قطعتين

ذوبني.. ذوّب قطعتين

وبعد لحظتين

ودون أن يراني

..ويعرف الشوق الذي اعتراني

تناول المعطف من أمامي

وغاب في الزحام

مخلفًا وراءه.. الجريده


مثلي أنا.. وحيده

With a Newspaper

translated by Michael Karam

He took the newspaper from his coat

and a box of matches

not noting my torment

And unconcerned,

he grabbed the sugar in front of me

He stirred two spoonfuls into his cup.

He stirred me… he stirred two…

After two moments

and without seeing me

and knowing the longing

that had taken hold of me,

he grabbed his coat in front of me

and disappeared into the crowd

leaving the newspaper behind him

by itself

like me, by myself.

translator's note​

The gendered nature of the Arabic language makes clear in the original that the

speaker is a woman. Qabbani exploits that nature in Arabic to draw parallels

between the newspaper (which is feminine) and the speaker herself. In translating

this poem, I make the conscious decision to not add any details in English that would

indicate the speaker’s gender.

about the poet

NIZAR QABBANI was an iconic Arab poet who wrote of romantic and political despair and advocated for Arab nationalism and social freedoms for women. Qabbani utilized the gendered nature of Arabic to write poetry in both female and male voices, subverting the problematic aspects of love poetry about women by writing love poetry as women. People, young and old, in Lebanon—he lived in Beirut for a while—and in Syria, his home country, all know the familiar tunes which have popularized his work. Poetry by Qabbani is also a reminder that the people suffering from the war in Syria are humans who have the right to live and love too.


about the translator

MICHAEL KARAM is a senior at the University of Pennsylvania studying economics and international relations, with a minor in mathematics. He is passionate about languages and bringing communities together. Michael loved memorizing and reciting Qabbani’s poetry when he was in elementary school in Lebanon.



Nâzım Hikmet

Erkek kadına dedi ki:

-Seni seviyorum,

ama nasıl,

avuçlarımda camdan bir şey gibi kalbimi sıkıp

parmaklarımı kanatarak



Erkek kadına dedi ki:

-Seni seviyorum,

ama nasıl,

kilometrelerle derin, kilometrelerle dümdüz,

yüzde yüz, yüzde bin beş yüz,

yüzde hudutsuz kere yüz...

Kadın erkeğe dedi ki:


dudağımla, yüreğimle, kafamla;

severek, korkarak, eğilerek,

dudağına, yüreğine, kafana.

Şimdi ne sçylüyorsam

karanlıkta bir fısıltı gibi sen çğrettin bana...

Ve ben artık


Toprağın -

yüzü güneşli bir ana gibi -

en son en güzel çocuğunu emzirdiğini...

Fakat neyleyim

saçlarım dolanmış

ölmekte olan parmaklarına

başımı kurtarmam kabil




yeni doğan çocuğun

gözlerine bakarak..



beni bırakarak...

Kadın sustu.


Bir kitap düştü yere...

Kapandı bir pencere...



translated by Keyla Cavdar

And man said to woman:

— I love you,

but how,

clutching my heart like something made of glass in

my palms

bleeding my fingers

as if to break


And man said to woman:

— I love you,

but how,

kilometers deep, kilometers straight,

one hundred of one hundred, one thousand five

hundred of one hundred,

inexhaustible times one hundred of one hundred…

And woman said to man:

— I looked

with my lip, my heart, my mind;

loving, fearing, kneeling,

to your lip, your heart, your mind.

Now whatever I’m saying

you taught me like a whisper in the dark…

And I now


Your soil —

like a mother with her sunlit face —

you nursed your most beautiful child

the last…

But what to do

it seems my hair is tangled

to your fingers which are dying

and saving my skin

is unimaginable!


must walk,

looking into the eyes

of the newborn child…


must walk,

leaving me…

She fell silent.


A book fell to the ground…

A window shut…


translator's note​

When translating Hikmet’s “Story of a Separation,” one of the things I had to

work around was the fragmentation of Hikmet’s language. In a sense, the visual

poetry he creates is reminiscent of William Carlos Williams, in that it guides the

reader into a specific way of reading. It was very important to me to keep his method

of writing and figure out a way to make it cohere in English; his lack of punctuation

creates a difficulty, as it’s not as possible in English to establish Hikmet’s poetic method

while also remaining coherent. In the spaces that we would expect punctuation,

Hikmet disregards grammatical conventions and moves according to sound. I hope I

was able to pass on his intention and the subtle changes in tone without moving too

far away from the original.

about the poet

NAZIM HIKMET was a Turkish poet, playwright, and revolutionary figure. He is considered Turkey's first modern poet and was influenced by the Russian Futurist movement. Hikmet was jailed in Turkey for long periods of time for writing what the government claimed was revolutionary poetry. In 1950, Hikmet started a hunger strike protesting the Turkish government's failure to include an amnesty law in its agenda. Later that year, Hikmet received the International Peace Prize. After his final release from prison, Hikmet moved to the Soviet Union. He continues to be revered by Turkish youth as the voice of revolution.


about the translator

KEYLA CAVDAR is a student at the University of Pennsylvania studying English and fine arts. She was born and raised in Istanbul, Turkey, and moved to Philadelphia in 2014. She was reintroduced to revolutionary Turkish poet Nazım Hikmet in a translation class last spring, and his work made it possible for her to understand not only the current political climate in Turkey, but also the implications of losing one’s country and language. Translation enabled her to dwell in the space between her mother tongue, Turkish, and her second language, English.



Elvira Sastre

Siempre que dormíamos era invierno,

y en el frío me enseñabas a volar

y yo te echaba de menos.

Entonces despertaba.

Y te echaba

de menos.


La primavera no quiere

que los amores de invierno terminen,

pero el verano ha llegado

y ha arrasado con todo.

Ahora tú solo sabes hablar del sol,

te haces un moño despeinado mientras bostezas,

te pintas las uñas de los pies,

te ríes mucho más que antes,

y, mientras,

me dejas de querer.

Ahora yo me vuelvo a refugiar en los poemas

y escribo sobre febrero,

echo de menos la lluvia

y el sabor de tu jersey,

y, mientras,

te quiero más que ayer.


translated by Mira Revesz

Each time that we were sleeping it was winter,

and in the cold you would teach me how to fly

and I would miss you.

Then I’d wake up.

and keep

missing you.


Spring doesn’t want

wintertime loving to end

but summer has arrived

and it’s swept everything away.

Now you only know how to talk about the sun,

you make a messy bun while you yawn,

you paint your toes,

you laugh much more than before,

and, meanwhile,

you stop loving me.

Now I return to the refuge of poems. I seek their shelter

and write about February,

I miss the rain

and the taste of your sweatshirt,

and, meanwhile,

I love you more than yesterday.

translator's note​

Translating Sastre’s informal, vibrant language in the body of the poem was a delight;

translating the dream description in the beginning was more difficult. The imperfect tense in Spanish evokes a timelessness that the imperfect in English doesn’t quite do. In my translation, I strove to preserve the juxtaposition of the unbounded time in the italics and the immediacy of the text in standard type.

about the poet

ELVIRA SASTRE, herself a translator, has been praised for bringing renewed life to the Spanish language and its poetry. “Hiberno” is from her second book of poetry, Baluarte, which was published when she was twenty-two. Among other dedications, she dedicates this work “to those who know that poetry is a path of thorns that ends in a rose.”


about the translator

MIRA REVESZ is a senior at Swarthmore College, pursuing an honors special major that combines English, education, and religious studies. After graduation, she will teach high school English literature and ESL. She looks forward to reading Lorca and Sastre with her students in both Spanish and English.


Siyah Gözlerine Beni De G.tür

Nurullah Genç

 Daha dokunmadan kurudu irem

..llere bir türlü yağamıyorum

yeni bir koşunun başlangıcında

biraz deprem sonrası

biraz şehir hülyası

bir kalp yangınından geriye kalan

siyah g.zlerine beni de g.tür

artık bu yerlere sığamıyorum.

Pembe u.urtmalar yolladığından beri

sarardı tiryaki menekşeleri

sonbaharın tozlu kafeslerinde

sevgi turnaları yakalıyorum

turnalar gidiyor; ben kalıyorum

avareyim, asudeyim, yorgunum

bilmiyorum neden sana vurgunum

Erzurum garında banklar üstünde

uyku tutmuyor karanlıkları

yitik düşlerimi kovalıyorum

g.lgeler gidiyor; ben kalıyorum.

Binbir türlü kokuyorsa yaylalar

siyah g.zlerine beni de g.tür

baharın koynundan koparıp sana

ipek bir mendile sardığım yüreğimle

şehzade gülleri g.nderiyorum

umutlar kalıyor; ben gidiyorum.

Bütün yelkenlileri,deniz fenerlerini

kaptanları sorgulayan

yanından ge.en küheylanların

korku tufanına yakalandığı

siyah g.zlerine beni de g.tür

güneş ülkesinden gelen yiğitler

benzeri olmayan bir dünya kursun

cellat,ayrılığın boynunu vursun.

Usul usul intizarı .ürüten

bu hercai diken,bu .ılgın arzu

sürüklüyor imkansız muştuların

eşiğine g.nül vadilerini

bir ağa.tan düşen yapraklar gibi

düşüyorum tanyerine

ya topla yaralı kırlangı.ları

ya da bu vefasız şarkıyı bitir

.zgürlüğe giden tutsaklar gibi

 siyah g.zlerine beni de g.tür.

Take Me Into Your Black Eyes

translated by Nicolette Tan

Before I touched the rain it dried out.

I could not bring life to the deserts

At the start of a new day

Some earthquake later

Some city daydream

Remains – a fire in my heart.

Take me into your black eyes.

I don’t belong here.

Since you sent pink kites

Addicted violets yellowed

In the dusty cage of fall

I catch the love cranes

Cranes go; I stay.

I am a wanderer; I am at peace; I am tired.

I do not know why I’m in love with you.

On the benches of the Erzurum station

Darkness doesn’t bring sleep

Chasing my lost dreams.

Shadows go; I stay.

If the land smells in a thousand ways,

Take me into your black eyes.

I will tear away from the bosom of spring

My heart covered in silk

Sending you the prince’s roses

Hopes stay; I go.

The questioners on the sea

Lighthouses, captains, the passing steed

Captured by a flood of fear

Take me into your black eyes.

Brave souls from the sun’s land

Shall found a country like none other

The executioner shall cut the neck of separation.

Gently I wait.

This rebellious thorn

This crazy desire drives me to

The brink of the valleys of my soul

Like leaves from a tree

I’m falling

Collect the wounded swallows or

End this unfaithful song

Like a prisoner marching to freedom

Take me into your black eyes.

translator's note​

The first thing to know about Turkish poetry is that is meant to be spoken. That is important because of the many things not visible in print due to line breaks or punctuation, like emotion and emphases. The emotions of this poem, with the complement of music and tempo, set the base for my interpretation of this poem. With my rudimentary Turkish I am thankful for knowing Turkish pronunciation and basic sentence structure, which is essential to being sensitive to the internal rhymes and rhythm. I also translated this poem into my mother tongue, Mandarin, to see if I could gain more insight. For example, “biraz şehir hülyası” translated into 小镇遐想, which literally translates to “small town reverie,” I chose to translate it as “some city daydream” instead, for the repetition of “some”, as intended in Turkish. Verbs end very similarly in Turkish, resulting in more opportunity for rhyme and gravitas in the original, which I tried to replicate by playing with word lengths. In this poem, there are also literary choices like the dual meaning of “remains,” in the aftermath of an earthquake, that are my own, but are inserted in place of my failure to retain the double meanings in other stanzas. Special thanks to Deniz Uğur Kemahlı for his advice.

about the poet

NURULLAH GENÇ is not a career poet. He represents those of us with day jobs who find time to connect with the written word for pleasure. He is currently a faculty member at Istanbul Commerce University teaching Business Management and Organization. He is also an award-winning Turkish poet, having won the 1999 Writers’ Union of Turkey Poetry Prize of the Year.


about the translator

NICOLETTE TAN is a recent graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, and is currently pursuing her Master's degree at the University of Hong Kong. She is constantly fascinated by the interplay of Eastern and Western cultures and has been obsessed with Turkey since 2012. That year, she studied Turkish for four months and represented Singapore at the International Turkish Olympiad. This poem is one Nicolette memorized and performed without fully understanding, and she dedicates this translation effort to her öğretmenim, Ms. Neslihan.




Не помня думите ти -

помня твоето мълчание и

стаята, запълнена

със наши мисли.

Не помня образа ти -

губят се чертите

в паметта ми,

но помня как усещах, че

си тук,

в широкото кресло,

зад теб прозореца,

веригата на Стара планина,

високото небе

и облаче, което плува...

Ти пръв попита:

Що мълчиш?

Отвърнах ти:

Аз не мълча!

Погледна ме, усмихна се и

заревото от стъклата

обля лицата ни със светлина!


Препълнено мълчание

с любов и нежност и доверие!

Да бяхме цял живот един до друг

мълчали заедно,

не биха думите посмяли да

ни разделят...


translated by Irina Natcheva

I do not recall your words — I

remember your silence and

this room, filled

with our thoughts.

I do not recall your image —

your lines are lost

inside my memory,

but I remember how I felt

that you were here

in the big armchair

with the window behind you,

the ridges of the mountain, the

tall sky,

and the single cloud, swimming.

You were first to ask:

—Why are you silent?

And I replied:

—I am not silent.

You looked at me, you smiled, and

the glow of sun through glass bathed

our faces in light.


Overflowing silence

with love and tenderness and trust!

If we had spent this life


in silence

words could not have dared to

tear us apart.

translator's note​

This poem is deceptively simple. The gravity of the sadness embedded within is difficult to express. This is in part because Bulgarian has a particularly rich vocabulary for denoting silence. In the last stanza, Gabe uses a direct verb signifying an explicit volition of being silent. Translating this into English seemed like an insurmountable challenge. Gabe further refers to a specific mountain, Stara Planina. I decided not to name this, because it would not carry the same situational meaning for an English reader as it would for a native reader. Another challenge in this text was translating the word “заревото ,” which is a word borrowed from Macedonian that means “glow” or “light,” but has now come to shape the Bulgarian word for fireworks, “заря .”

about the poet

DORA GABE is one of the most celebrated female Bulgarian poets. She published poetry for adults and children, as well as travel books, short stories and essays. In her later years, she worked as a translator. In her will, she donated her house to the “youth of Bulgaria,” and her residence now operates as a museum and meeting place for young writers.


about the translator

IRINA NATCHEVA is a first-year PhD student of anthropology at the St. Cyril and St. Methodius University of Veliko Turnovo in Bulgaria. Her primary research interest is in examining how textiles and embroidery function as carriers of Balkan culture and history.


Au lecteur

Charles Baudelaire

La sottise, l'erreur, le p.ch., la l.sine,

Occupent nos esprits et travaillent nos corps,

Et nous alimentons nos aimables remords,

Comme les mendiants nourrissent leur vermine.

Nos p.ch.s sont t.tus, nos repentirs sont l.ches;

Nous nous faisons payer grassement nos aveux,

Et nous rentrons gaiement dans le chemin bourbeux,

Croyant par de vils pleurs laver toutes nos taches.

Sur l'oreiller du mal c'est Satan Trism.giste

Qui berce longuement notre esprit enchant.,

Et le riche m.tal de notre volont.

Est tout vaporis. par ce savant chimiste.

C'est le Diable qui tient les fils qui nous remuent!

Aux objets r.pugnants nous trouvons des appas;

Chaque jour vers l'Enfer nous descendons d'un pas,

Sans horreur, . travers des t.n.bres qui puent.

Ainsi qu'un d.bauch. pauvre qui baise et mange

Le sein martyris. d'une antique catin,

Nous volons au passage un plaisir clandestin

Que nous pressons bien fort comme une vieille orange.

Serr., fourmillant, comme un million d'helminthes,

Dans nos cerveaux ribote un peuple de D.mons,

Et, quand nous respirons, la Mort dans nos poumons

Descend, fleuve invisible, avec de sourdes plaintes.

Si le viol, le poison, le poignard, l'incendie,

N'ont pas encor brod. de leurs plaisants dessins

Le canevas banal de nos piteux destins,

C'est que notre .me, h.las! n'est pas assez hardie.

Mais parmi les chacals, les panth.res, les lices,

Les singes, les scorpions, les vautours, les serpents,

Les monstres glapissants, hurlants, grognants, rampants,

Dans la ménagerie infâme de nos vices,

II en est un plus laid, plus méchant, plus immonde!

Quoiqu'il ne pousse ni grands gestes ni grands cris,

Il ferait volontiers de la terre un débris

Et dans un b.illement avalerait le monde;

C'est l'Ennui! L'oeil charg. d'un pleur involontaire,

II rêve d'échafauds en fumant son houka.

Tu le connais, lecteur, ce monstre délicat,

— Hypocrite lecteur, — mon semblable, — mon frère!


Oh, Reader!

translated by Trask Roberts

Foolishness, error, sin, and greed find homes in our minds as they wear down our bodies. And from ourselves we nourish these lovable regrets, like lice feed on the beggar’s filthy form. Our sins are stubborn and our confessions false. But we pay dearly for them before once again taking the low road, believing that vile tears might wash away our stains. 


On evil’s pillow lounges the pagan prophet, cradling our enchanted souls as he turns to steam what was once our icy resolve. And the Devil plays puppet master, dangling forbidden fruit in front of our noses as we coolly descend, step by step, through foul shadows into Hell.


Like that dusty tramp sucking at the martyred breast of an aged harlot, we hold tight to a pleasure that has long since run dry. In our brains, demons run wild as death tethers itself to our melancholy breath—each one a whisper closer to the last. 


On the threadbare fabric of our destiny we should embroider something pleasing: poison, rape, knives, fire! No… we’re too weak for that. But among the monkeys, the panthers, the jackals and the scorpions, amid the vultures and snakes, and the screeching, slithering, whimpering savages in the zoo of our own perversion, one surpasses them all in its depravity. Though subdued in appearance, it would gladly crush the world and then consume it whole with a yawn. 


Yes, you, Boredom! A tear sits on your eye, like a glass filled too full, as you dream of gallows while a cigarette smolders between your lips. And you, reader, you know this fragile monster. Admit it, my hypocrite reader. My reflection… My likeness… My brother!

translator's note​

Whichever requirements for fidelity one has, the above translation does not meet them. This is immediately evident from my translation of the title, “Au Lecteur,” which any good French 110 student would point out, means “To the Reader.” Where possible, through both my word choice and prosification of the poem, which renders it more letter-like, I highlight the poet’s complicity with the reader. The poem, as evidenced by its title, engages whichever reader happens upon it. “Au Lecteur” does not exclude the bourgeois reader, the uneducated reader, the unsympathetic reader, as certain earlier French writers are wont to do. Baudelaire chooses rather to begin in a manner that could be taken as a lament — au lecteur orally is the same as Ô lecteur  (Oh, reader) — creating an immediate sense of intimacy and empathy between author and reader that the final stanza will cement.

about the poet

CHARLES BAUDELAIRE born in Paris, was a poète maudit. He was a drinker, a revolutionary, a reluctant traveler, a translator, an opium addict, and an inspiration to countless poets who came after him, both in France and the world over. He hoped for his poetry to be one whose beauty would transcend whatever theme or content it provided. His prosody is traditional while his content is revolutionary. By incorporating vampires and corpses into strict meter and rhyme, Baudelaire plays on the tension between attractive form and repulsive content. He creates an important bridge from romanticism to modernism, but, like many artists, was held in great contempt for the risks he took. His most famous collection of poems, The Flowers of Evilwas published in June 1857 and, by August of that year, Baudelaire found himself in a courtroom on charges of obscenity. The result was the exclusion of six poems from the work as well as a fine.


about the translator

TRASK ROBERTS is a PhD candidate in French studies at the University of Pennsylvania. He focuses on 20th-century French fiction and theories of translation.



Belonging in Ambiguity

Shailly Pandey

My tongue is split in half.

From one side flows the easy jabber of English. The large words and intricate sentences that I have acquired through the last twenty-one years fall from my mouth, tumbling over each other like blocks knocked over by a clumsy child. Occasionally, one may find me pausing, thinking before speaking. The blocks tumble slower, the sentences land gracefully (maybe) instead of in a heap at my conversational partner’s feet. But more often than not, my brain runs faster than my lips can form words. 


From the other side springs a Hindi melody. Just as familiar as English, and arguably a much less confusing language, it swirls around in my mouth before being drawn out towards my mother, father, sister, grandparents. But this melody is not easy: it doesn’t tumble out of my mouth effortlessly like the jabber. With Hindi, I stop and think. I grasp the correct word from my memory, place it into the template in my mind, and then I speak. I am nearly fluent: I’ve been told that if I didn’t say anything in English, I could pass as a local in my parents’ hometown. Nearly. Could. Those words irritate me. Because I can speak like a local. Because I am Indian. I pride myself on this language because it is the only thing that allows me to claim my heritage.


An Interlude: The Past

I am born and my ears are alight with Hinglish: that colloquial mix of Hindi

and English all too familiar to non-residential Indians. I learn both at once at the age of six months, attuned to the mix of the English news channel and the old Hindi tunes of my parents’ childhood. As I grow my tongue and my mouth forget the muscle memory that would allow me to create the sounds of my mother’s tongue. English permeates everything outside of my home: school, friends, books, television, and thus it permeates my Hindi too. I can speak it but it sounds wrong, it doesn’t sound like my mother’s or my father’s. I decide I do not need to speak it. My parents speak in Hindi, I understand and respond in English. Simple.


I move to India when I am ten years old, and now I must remind my tongue, my

mouth, my brain of that muscle memory. My Hindi is marred with the dull sounding  “r”s and the hard, guttural “t”s of English. The delicacy and grace of Hindi is missing, my mouth will not contort itself to mimic it. But speaking without grace is embarrassing. As a ten-year-old child, embarassment is a strong motivator.

I learn and relearn, teach and reteach my mouth and my tongue the language of my people. I practice, murmuring quietly to myself in spare moments, pushing the boundaries with my family. Hindi is my life-line and I cling to it. I am in a country where I feel that my heritage is just as Indian as the person next to me, and yet I am called white girl. I talk back to a boy in my sixth-grade class in my easy English and he calls me “saali angrez” – “stupid white girl.” I am crying in the kitchen, sniffling to my mother, she says “That is what you are to them: American.” My mother is neither condemning me nor comforting me. She is simply stating a fact, not knowing the cracks it creates in my identity. My relatives remark that my sister and I speak English so fast and confidently that they can barely catch a word we are saying. “It’s because they’re American. Even their Hindi sounds like English!” exclaims my uncle, something he meant as a compliment — I got the chance to grow up in the most advanced nation in the world, of course it is a compliment — but burns me to my core.

Hindi becomes my shield and my sword. I wield it carefully, precisely, using it to cut down anyone who doubts the brownness of my skin and the orange of my blood. It is my defense, the way I claim the culture that I know is rightfully mine.

In seventh grade, I talk back to another boy. He retorts with, “Why are you screeching” in Hindi, snickering to the boys next to him. I know that his response to me has more to do with the fact that I spoke to him in English and little to do with my volume. I look him in the eye and respond, “I will screech” in Hindi as lyrical as his. He looks at me, bewildered.


The blood of my family runs red, white and blue for the country that has birthed and housed us, but our hearts and souls are painted kesari orange for the Indian flag. Ask me what I am and I will say “Indian. Woman.” Indian first, always first, because I am nothing if not the soil that my ancestors farmed for those who colonized them, nothing without the love of math of my nana-ji and the spirituality of my babaWhen I look down, I see brown hands, brown legs. Indian. Woman second because when I look down I do not necessarily see a woman but everyone else does. Being a brown woman informs my life twofold. My identity as a woman is constantly threatened by those who share my skin color (as well as those who do not). Respect for women in my country waxes and wanes, so I cannot be brown foremost without woman following closely behind.

But I am betrayed by the ambiguity of my existence. My skin, my hair, my eyes are ambiguous. I have encountered almost every nationality as an explanation for my appearance. “Are you…Latina? Brazilian? Italian? Polynesian?” My cheeks burn red when I hear the inevitable “But you don’t look Indian.” I see my brown fingers, my brown toes, but when they look at me, they see a face that is not brown enough, hair that is not black enough, eyes that are not dark enough. When I speak Hindi, or reference a Bollywood movie, when I say that I have lived where they have lived, suddenly, I have credibility. But on most days, my cultural identity is decided by color. I am not brown enough to be Indian, I am not white enough to be American. I am an object of confusion.


Ambiguous comes from the Latin roots ambi that means “both ways” and agere which is “to drive,” giving the word ambigere meaning “waver, to go around.” This eventually became ambiguus: “doubtful.” Ambi. Both ways. I went both ways and somehow that left me back at square one. My Indianness is lost in the set of genes that gave me brown hair and hazel eyes and in the fact that I grew up in in the Western hemisphere. Ambiguous is defined as “unclear or inexact because a choice between alternatives has not been made.” There is no choice for me. I went both ways. I grew up here, American, English pouring from my mouth like concrete, giving me the words and the means to say the things I needed to say. But my roots are there, India, planted in the soil that is as brown as I feel I am. I did both. There is no choice. I lie in the middle. I float in the oceans that occupy the space between two places I know to be home.

I’ve been ricocheting between the confines of the two sides of my tongue for as long as I can remember. I’ve lived in a space that encompasses seven thousand miles, a space that holds within it at least two continents and millions of people. I’ve gotten lost in that space over time. At first, I resisted. I wanted desperately to be one or the other. I was tired of bouncing back and forth, I was tired of the uncertainty of my being. But living in a state of vagueness is not frightening if you understand that the source of your vagueness is not yourself but rather everyone else. The uncertainty of my being did not come from me: I was never uncertain about what I was. It just  seemed that everyone else was.

It is in my language that I find refuge from this onslaught of accusations. It is a sword and  a shield. When I want to be discreet, speak privately to my family in a public setting, I effortlessly shift into my mother’s tongue, my mother tongue. English consumes my life in every other setting, but Hindi is for family matters, for inside jokes. Hindi is how I tie myself to the millions that came before me, the invisible tether that connects me to those from whom I was born. I feel unreasonably validated when someone comments on my Hindi, saying that it is just like my mother’s. I come from somewhere. I am someone’s daughter and someone else’s granddaughter.

When I am thirsty, I ask for pani: water. The first thing I say to my mother when I call her is “Mama, kya haal hai?”  (“Mom, how are you?”) She answers back, fluid Hindi hitting me from hundreds of miles away. It sinks into me, I don’t need to think, I know what she is saying and I respond. If I have had a bad day, I speak in English. If I have had a good day, I’ll say “I’m good!” and then tell her what happened in whichever language is more convenient. If I  ave some salacious gossip, I’ll launch into my story in Hindi. When I want to make her laugh, I’ll say something silly in Hindi. If I have a choice, more often than not, my mind will pick one language for me. It will speak the language that will communicate best with my mother and my father in that moment.

The politics of belonging are a dangerous thing. They can make you feel welcome. When I speak to the cook at the Indian store in Hindi, she brings me extra pickle and smiles at me a little brighter. They can also make you feel incredibly alone. On the days when I am told that I am not Indian enough, I am trapped in a solitary bubble. The need to belong has played too large a role in my life. English has given me the ability to write, critique, think critically. It is the language of my academic world; an immeasurable gift. Hindi has given me the words to claim my country as my own, to tie myself to all those who came before me. I know that I belong when I shout laughter at my mother’s jokes or when I feel comfort from my father’s advice, all of it in not-English. I am ensconced within this language, cocooned from the view of others, and suddenly my pale skin, my brown hair, my hazel eyes stop mattering.

I call my mother, three thousand miles away from her smile. She picks up the

phone, I say “Mama, kya haal hai?” and I belong once more.



Mahmoud Darwish

ورقمُ بطاقتي خمسونَ ألفْ 
وأطفالي ثمانيةٌ 
وتاسعهُم.. سيأتي بعدَ صيفْ! 
فهلْ تغضبْ؟ 
أنا عربي 
وأعملُ مع رفاقِ الكدحِ في محجرْ 
وأطفالي ثمانيةٌ 
أسلُّ لهمْ رغيفَ الخبزِ، 
والأثوابَ والدفترْ 
من الصخرِ 
ولا أتوسَّلُ الصدقاتِ من بابِكْ 
ولا أصغرْ 
أمامَ بلاطِ أعتابكْ 
فهل تغضب؟ 
أنا عربي 
أنا اسم بلا لقبِ 
صبورٌ في بلادٍ كلُّ ما فيها 
يعيشُ بفورةِ الغضبِ 
قبلَ ميلادِ الزمانِ رستْ 
وقبلَ تفتّحِ الحقبِ 
وقبلَ السّروِ والزيتونِ 
.. وقبلَ ترعرعِ العشبِ 
أبي.. من أسرةِ المحراثِ 
لا من سادةٍ نجبِ 
وجدّي كانَ فلاحاً 
بلا حسبٍ.. ولا نسبِ! 
يعلّمني شموخَ الشمسِ قبلَ قراءةِ الكتبِ 
وبيتي كوخُ ناطورٍ 
منَ الأعوادِ والقصبِ 
فهل ترضيكَ منزلتي؟ 
أنا اسم بلا لقبِ 
أنا عربي 
ولونُ الشعرِ.. فحميٌّ 
ولونُ العينِ.. بنيٌّ 
على رأسي عقالٌ فوقَ كوفيّه 
وكفّي صلبةٌ كالصخرِ 
تخمشُ من يلامسَها 
أنا من قريةٍ عزلاءَ منسيّهْ 
شوارعُها بلا أسماء 
وكلُّ رجالها في الحقلِ والمحجرْ 
فهل تغضبْ؟ 
أنا عربي 
سلبتَ كرومَ أجدادي 
وأرضاً كنتُ أفلحُها 
أنا وجميعُ أولادي 
ولم تتركْ لنا.. ولكلِّ أحفادي 
سوى هذي الصخورِ.. 
فهل ستأخذُها 
حكومتكمْ.. كما قيلا؟
سجِّل.. برأسِ الصفحةِ الأولى 
أنا لا أكرهُ الناسَ 
ولا أسطو على أحدٍ 
ولكنّي.. إذا ما جعتُ 
آكلُ لحمَ مغتصبي 
حذارِ.. حذارِ.. من جوعي 
ومن غضب

Identity Card

translated by Omar Khoury, brother to Karmah Khoury


I am an Arab.

And the number of my identity card is 50,000.

And my children number 8,

and the ninth will come after the summer.

Are you not angry?


I am an Arab.

And I work with comrades

In the quarry of stone,

and my children, they number 8.

And I carve for them their loaves of bread,

their notebooks, and their clothes

from this stone.

But never shall I kneel

or beg for alms before your door,

and so I ask: are you not angry?


I am the Arab

who is called by no name,

who awaits the country that will come

from the eruption of anger.

My roots became roots

long before my time of birth,

long before the ages blooming,

long before the season of cypress and olive

when the grass prayed for nourishment.

My father comes from humble fields,

and not from noble sirs.

His father before him was a country-dweller,

with a history but not a memoir.

My house is made from sticks and branches,

nothing but a shed to the warden.

Does the life in which I am called by no name

comfort you?


I am an Arab!

And the color of my hair

is the coal from the quarry

and the color of my eyes

is the brown of the fields.

That which defines me:

the kuffiyeh, the checkered cloth

and clasping cords on my head.

My address:

I come from the village, Unknown to you.

And from its streets, Nameless to you.

And its men? They work in the quarry of stone.

But still I ask: are you not angry?


I am an Arab!

And you imprisoned Karmah’s ancestors.

And you stole the homeland we once tilled,

I and all of my children.

And you left us nothing but pebbles,

for me and all of their children.

Or shall your leaders take them, too?

As they had before threatened.

What has happened has happened.

But be it recorded in the first of the pages:

Hate has no place for my people,

And to thieve is the same.

But if I were to starve,

I shall feast on the flesh of my oppressor.



Of my hunger.

And of my rage.

translator's note​

I have translated this poem all while sobbing tears that aren’t mine. The process of translation is as painful as it is beautiful, and I only hope to have given these words of suffering and defiance the justice to be heard that they so solemnly deserve, and I am sorry if they have not done as such. 


The pain of exile in the original—and in this version to an extent—is palpable, but the resilience of the human spirit, in all of its passivity, is inspiring. In this poem, I choose to focus not on regret, but on resistance, not on sorrow, but on struggle. I chose to do this because of the first time these words were spoken: boldly in front of a thunderous audience in a Nazareth movie house in May 1965. This declaration served as an historic extolment of the Arab world and reverberated a pride in Arabism.

But I also chose to personalize the poem in a way that, though it betrays the original, allows for a dimension exposing my own identity. Towards the end of the poem, I translate a line as:

“And you imprisoned Karmah’s ancestors.”

The original, however, would read “and you stole the ancestor’s vineyards.” In Arabic, the word for “vineyard” is spoken as “karmah,” which also happens to be the name of my sister.


In bringing my own lineage to this line, I hope to pay homage to the grief associated with the tragic theft of sacred human life that occurred in my family and in the millions of others suffering as a result of displacement and dehumanization. I hope to codify not just the courage of the Arab in the poem, but the resilience of the human spirit with which we are all blessed.

Because to me, Darwish’s words are powerful not in that they are Darwish’s alone, but in that they are also those my father poetically recites as he drinks his morning coffee and those my mother beautifully sung as she nursed us to health that reveal the foundation of my pride in being a Palestinian living in America.

about the poet

MAHMOUD DARWISH was a Palestinian poet and author, widely regarded as the Palestinian national poet and “the man of action whose action was poetry.” In his widely recognized and celebrated works, Darwish uses the notion of Palestine and the suffering of the Palestinians as metaphors for the themes of expulsion from the Garden of Eden, the beauty of birth and resurrection, and the anguish of dispossession and exile. Darwish was born in the village of al Birwa in Galilee in 1941 to a landed family who had been there for countless generations. In 1948, he and his family fled their homes following the establishment of the State of Israel when Israeli forces assaulted the region, and, in the process, razed and destroyed the town to prevent its previous inhabitants from returning.

After learning how to read from his grandfather, Darwish began to write poetry, publishing his first book, Wingless Birds, at the young age of 19. While also writing poetry, Darwish became more involved in political organizations, and he was ultimately banned from entering Israel in 1973 due to his affiliations. Thus, he wrote most of his poems and novels in exile, focusing on the painfully unfulfilled desire to return and the overwhelming feelings of nostalgia and resilience. He published more than 30 volumes of poetry and eight books of prose throughout his life.

But even in death, Darwish could not return to his home. Immediately before he passed away in Houston, TX in 2008, he had requested to be buried in the village of his birth, al-Birwa. Such a request could not be granted due to the politics of the time, and he was nevertheless laid to rest in Ramallah, Palestine. His poems serve as a testament to the immense capacity for human suffering and the captivating beauty in resilience.

about the translator

OMAR KHOURY is a student at the University of Pennsylvania lost between the worlds of Middle Eastern history and English. Born to descendants of Palestinian refugees, Omar finds solace in the words of Darwish and comfort in the recognition that his painful desires for a long overdue return are shared by millions of people in all regions of the world. He has grown up listening to the words of Darwish in the hope that he, too, may one day see the image of the village overlooking the sea that his parents enchanted him with in longing stories and begging prayers.



Francesco Guccini

Probabilmente uscì chiudendo dietro a se la porta verde,

qualcuno si era alzato a preparargli in fretta un caffè d’ orzo.

Non so se si girò, non era il tipo d' uomo che si perde

in nostalgie da ricchi, e andò per la sua strada senza sforzo.

Quand' io l' ho conosciuto, o inizio a ricordarlo, era già vecchio

o così a me sembrava, ma allora non andavo ancora a scuola.

Colpiva il cranio raso e un misterioso e strano suo apparecchio,

un cinto d' ernia che sembrava una fondina per la pistola.

Ma quel mattino aveva il viso dei vent' anni senza rughe

e rabbia ed avventura e ancora vaghe idee di socialismo,

parole dure al padre e dietro tradizione di fame e fughe

E per il suo lavoro, quello che schianta e uccide: "il fatalismo".

Ma quel mattino aveva quel sentimento nuovo per casa e madre

e per scacciarlo aveva in corpo il primo vino di una cantina

e già sentiva in faccia l' odore d' olio e mare che fa Le Havre,

e già sentiva in bocca l' odore della polvere della mina.

L'America era allora, per me i G.I. di Roosvelt, la quinta armata,

l'America era Atlantide, l' America era il cuore, era il destino,

l'America era Life, sorrisi e denti bianchi su patinata,

l'America era il mondo sognante e misterioso di Paperino.

L' America era allora per me provincia dolce, mondo di pace,

perduto paradiso, malinconia sottile, nevrosi lenta,

e Gunga-Din e Ringo, gli eroi di Casablanca e di Fort Apache,

un sogno lungo il suono continuo ed ossessivo che fa il Limentra.

Non so come la vide quando la nave offrì New York vicino,

dei grattacieli il bosco, città di feci e strade, urla, castello

e Pàvana un ricordo lasciato tra i castagni dell' Appennino,

l' inglese un suono strano che lo feriva al cuore come un coltello.

E fu lavoro e sangue e fu fatica uguale mattina e sera,

per anni da prigione, di birra e di puttane, di giorni duri,

di negri ed irlandesi, polacchi ed italiani nella miniera,

sudore d' antracite in Pennsylvania, Arkansas, Texas, Missouri.

Tornò come fan molti, due soldi e giovinezza ormai finita,

l'America era un angolo, l'America era un' ombra, nebbia sottile,

l'America era un' ernia, un gioco di quei tanti che fa la vita,

e dire boss per capo e ton per tonnellata, "raif" per fucile.

Quand' io l' ho conosciuto o inizio a ricordarlo era già vecchio,

sprezzante come i giovani, gli scivolavo accanto senza afferrarlo

e non capivo che quell' uomo era il mio volto, era il mio specchio

finché non verrà il tempo in faccia a tutto il mondo per rincontrarlo,

finché non verrà il tempo in faccia a tutto il mondo per rincontrarlo,

finché non verrà il tempo in faccia a tutto il mondo per rincontrarlo.


translated by Stefano Pietrosanti

Did somebody wake up to rush him an orzo when

he walked out and closed the green door behind him?

Did he turn back? He was not a man to get lost

in rich men’s nostalgia, he smoothly walked away.

An old man when I met him — in my

memory so he appeared — I was not even in school.

That bald head, that weird, strange thing of

his, a holster-like truss, struck me.

Yet that morning he wore an unwrinkled, twentyish

face, with anger, wanderlust, vague socialist ideals.

Hard words for his father, a wealth of hunger and

escapes on his back, and fatalism for his job, which knocks and kills.

Still, that morning brought new warmth for home and

mother, to numb it and forget he drank the cellar’s first wine,

on his face he already felt Le Havre’s smell, of oil and

sea, in his mouth he already tasted black powder and the mine

America, to me, was then Roosvelt’s G.I.s, his fifth

army. America was Atlantis, America was my heart,

my destiny. America was Life, smiles so white on matte paper.

America was the mysterious, dreamy world of Paperino.

America was then sweet province to me, a paradise

lost of peace, of subtle blues, of slow neurosis,

of Gunga-Din and Ringo, of Casablanca’s heroes and Fort

Apache’s, a dream along Limentra’s pour, obsessive and incessant.

What was New York to him, as the liner sailed by? Did he see

the skyscrapers’ forest, the city of shit and streets, loud,

castle-like? And Pàvana just an image, amidst Apennines and chestnuts,

while English stabbed his heart with knives of sound.

It was labor and blood, equal strain morning and evening,

years down a prison of beer and whores, of hard days,

of Negroes and Irish, Poles and Italians in the mine,

sweating anthracite in Pennsylvania, Arkansas, Tex’, Missouri.

He crawled back as many, little money, his youth already spent.

America just a corner, America the shadow, the fog, faint,

America the hernia, a joke like many others that life plays,

the sound of boss for capo, of ton for tonnellata, of “raif ” for fucile

An old man when I met him - old in my memory -

I scornfully slipped beside him, young, without

grasping how his face was my own, how he was my mirror,

how time would blow us back, the spiral ends rejoined

how time would blow us back, the spiral ends rejoined

how time would blow us back, the spiral ends rejoined.

translator's note​

In this piece, Francesco Guccini wrote about destiny and afterthought. The song focuses on the figure of Enrico — Guccini’s great-uncle — who left the village of Pàvana in the early twentieth century to work as a miner in the United States. I decided to translate a piece by Guccini because I see the organic evolution of the "classical" tradition of Italian poetry in his work. Due to my personal hobby of searching for conservative poetry — which is poetry infused with a certain sad love for small facts, for the imperfect life of men, for memory and roots, and for the careful crafting of phrases — in unexpected places, I cannot but pay homage.

I chose this particular song because I see a moving celebration of how personal lives repeat, of how we actually share experiences that we perceive as solitary struggles with others - before and after us — in it. Second, it is an interesting instance of how much of recent European culture developed in constant dialogue with and about the United States. In translating, I sacrificed literal meaning to favor the flow of phrases, in order to recreate the smooth rhythm of the song. Moreover, I often used direct questions where the original text does not; I decided not to translate Paperino as Donald Duck, and I stuck to Guccini’s pronunciation of the name “Texas” in the song, the truncation “Tex.”

about the author

FRANCESCO GUCCINI was born in Modena, Italy. He is known for being one of the foremost Italian cantautori (singer-songwriters). His first record, Folk Beat no.1, was produced in 1967, and Guccini released around 20 records in his 40-year-long career. He is a teacher of Italian language at the Bologna, the off-campus school of Dickinson College. Guccini’s lyrics can be considered a bridge between Italian poetry and the singer-songwriter's production of the seventies/eighties.

about the translator

STEFANO PIETROSANTI is an Italian PhD student in economics. He has studied in Rome and Turin, and is now at the University of Pennsylvania. His work mostly focuses on how the real and banking/financial sectors interact. Having always been convinced that excessive specialization is boring, he tries his best to also put some effort into literature and political thought. In these fields, he is a happy amateur and an avid reader.



Rosario Castellanos

Desde el sillón del mando mi madre dijo: “Ha muerto”.

Y se dejó caer, como abatida,

en los brazos del otro, usurpador, padrastro

que la sostuvo no con el respeto

que el siervo da a la majestad de reina

sino con ese abajamiento mutuo

en que se humillan ambos, los amantes, los cómplices.

Desde la Plaza de los Intercambios

mi madre anunció: “Ha muerto”.

La balanza

se sostuvo un instante sin moverse

y el grano de cacao quedó quieto en el arca

y el sol permanecía en la mitad del cielo

como aguardando un signo

que fue, cuando partió como una flecha,

el ay agudo de las plañideras.

“Se deshojó la flor de muchos pétalos,

se evaporó el perfume,

se consumió la llama de la antorcha.

Una niña regresa, escarbando, al lugar

en el que la partera depositó su ombligo.

Regresa al Sitio de los que Vivieron.

Reconoce a su padre asesinado,

ay, ay, ay, con veneno, con puñal,

con trampa ante sus pies, con lazo de horca.

Se toman de la mano y caminan, caminan

perdiéndose en la niebla.”

Tal era el llanto y las lamentaciones

sobre algún cuerpo anónimo; un cadáver

que no era el mío porque yo, vendida

a mercaderes, iba como esclava,

como nadie, al destierro.

Arrojada, expulsada

del reino, del palacio y de la entraña tibia

de la que me dio a luz en tálamo legítimo

y que me aborreció porque yo era su igual

en figura y rango

y se contempló en mí y odió su imagen

y destrozó el espejo contra el suelo.

Yo avanzo hacia el destino entre cadenas

y dejo atrás lo que todavía escuchó:

los fúnebres rumores con los que se me entierra.

Y la voz de mi madre con lágrimas ¡con lágrimas!

que decreta mi muerte.


translated by Margaret Lawlace

From the armchair of command my mother declared: “Dead.”

And she let herself fall, as if taken down,

into the arms of that other, the usurper, the stepfather

who held her not with the respect

a servant bestows on a queen

but with that mutual abasement

which humiliates them both, lovers and accomplices.

From the Trading Plaza

my mother proclaimed: “Dead.”

The scales

stayed an instant

and the cacao stilled in its case

and the sun hung in the middle of the sky,

as if waiting for a sign

that was, when shot like an arrow,

the sharp “ay!” of the weeping women:

“The petals fell from the flower,

the perfume evaporated,

the flame of the torch consumed itself.

A girl returns, digging, to the place

where the midwife buried her umbilical cord.

She returns to the Place of Those Who Lived.

She recognizes her father, assassinated —

ay, no! — with poison, with a dagger,

with a trap at his feet, with a gallows rope.

They clasp hands and walk, walk

losing themselves in the fog.”

Such was the weeping, the wailing

over an anonymous body; a cadaver

that was not mine because I, sold

to slavers, went, a slave,

a no one, into exile.

Thrown out, expelled

from the kingdom, from the palace and the warm womb

of she who birthed me in legitimate marriage bed

and who despised me because I was her equal

in body and rank

and who saw herself in me and hated the image,

smashing the mirror against the ground.

I move towards my destiny bound in chains,

leaving behind everything I can still hear:

the deathly rumors which bury me.

And the voice of my mother weeping — weeping! — 

she who decrees my death.

translator's note​

Malinche was an indigenous woman who served as translator to Hernán Cortés during the conquista. After her father, a ruler of an Aztec village, died, Malinche (born Malinalli) was sold by her mother to Mayan slavers. As a result, she spoke both Náhuatl (the language of the Aztecs) and Mayan. She was then given to the Spaniards as a gift, where she proved useful in helping them communicate with native people. She learned Spanish as well and rose in Cortés’s esteem, developing an intimate relationship with him and bearing him a child.


Malinche continues to be an important and controversial figure in Mexican culture. Historically, she has been viewed as a traitor to her people for assisting the Spaniards; however, some believe she has been unfairly scapegoated, her image mixed with that of Eve as treacherous woman, and that history has ignored the context of her life — particularly her enslavement — which influenced how she acted. Because she is such a significant cultural touchstone in Mexico, I wanted to retain a sense of her place by choosing to leave some understandable words in the original Spanish: “plaza, cacao, ay.” I also wanted to retain a sense of time, since she was an actual historical figure, by utilizing some more antiquated words and phrases, such as “gallows, in legitimate marriage bed, usurper.”

about the poet

ROSARIO CASTELLANOS was a Mexican poet, novelist, playwright, and intellectual. In addition to her academic and literary work, she dedicated much of her life to advocating for and educating the indigenous Tzotzil people who she grew up alongside in Chiapas, the southernmost state in Mexico. She served as the Mexican ambassador to Israel from 1971 until her death by accidental electrocution in Tel Aviv.

about the translator

MARGARET LAWLACE is a post-baccalaureate student at the University of Pennsylvania.


Para que tú me oigas

Pablo Neruda

Para que tú me oigas

mis palabras

se adelgazan a veces

como las huellas de las gaviotas en las playas.

Collar, cascabel ebrio

para tus manos suaves como las uvas.

Y las miro lejanas mis palabras.

Más que mías son tuyas.

Van trepando en mi viejo dolor como las yedras.

Ellas trepan así por las paredes húmedas.

Eres tú la culpable de este juego sangriento.

Ellas están huyendo de mi guarida oscura.

Todo lo llenas tú, todo lo llenas.

Antes que tú poblaron la soledad que ocupas,

y están acostumbradas más que tú a mi tristeza.

Ahora quiero que digan lo que quiero decirte

para que tú las oigas como quiero que me oigas.

El viento de la angustia aún las suele arrastrar.

Huracanes de sueños aún a veces las tumban.

Escuchas otras voces en mi voz dolorida.

Llanto de viejas bocas, sangre de viejas súplicas.

Ámame, compañera. No me abandones. Sígueme.

Sígueme, compañera, en esa ola de angustia.

Pero se van tiñendo con tu amor mis palabras.

Todo lo ocupas tú, todo lo ocupas.

Voy haciendo de todas un collar infinito

para tus blancas manos, suaves como las uvas.

So that you might hear me

translated by Naomi Bernstein

So that you might hear me

my words

grow thin sometimes

like the tracks of the gulls on the beaches.

Necklace, a drunken bell,

for your hands, smooth as grapes.

From far away I watch my words.

More than mine, they’re yours.

They climb up my dull pain like ivy.

They climb like this on the damp walls.

You wear the guilt in this bloody game.

They are fleeing my dark den.

Everything filled by you, you fill everything.

Before you, they lived in the solitude you inhabit,

and they are accustomed, more than you, to my sadness.

Now I wish they would say what I want to say to you,

so that you might hear me the way I want you to.

But the grieving wind often drags them away.

And hurricane dreams sometimes knock them down.

You hear the other voices behind the ache in mine.

Mourning ancient mouths, blood of ancient begging.

Love me, my friend, don’t leave me. Follow me.

Follow me, my friend, beneath this wave of anguish.

You have gone and stained my words with your love.

Everything occupied by you, you occupy everything.

I go making, from everything, an infinite necklace

for your white hands, smooth as grapes.

translator's note​

This poem is about a man trying to reach a distant woman through words. This subject is reflective of Neruda’s work and the work of all poets: he is engaged in a constant practice of reaching to make contact. It is a never-ending process, an infinite necklace. In my translation, I sought to maintain the languid, sleepy mood that I feel when I read the poem in Spanish. When translating to English from Spanish, however, there will always be times when the words sound rougher than they do in their original Romance language. When I found myself struggling with that, I tried to mold the roughness to be a part of the process that the poem is meditating on, part of the reaching and the growing, part of the infinite necklace.

about the poet

PABLO NERUDA, born in Chile, is perhaps one of the Spanish language’s most well-known poets. Though he often dealt with the themes of love and longing, he also penned politically-inflected works and served in high-level positions for the communist party of Chile. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971.

Alda do Espírito Santo’s poetry, which so lauded the islands’ women, celebrated and nourished a culture that relied on the power and strength of women. It points to the many ways in which women poets in Africa have played—and still play—an important role as agents for change in the liberated Portuguese colonies. Despite her influence in São Tomé, her poetry, like that of most Lusophone African (and especially women) writers, has been relegated to the periphery of post-colonial studies.

about the translator

NAOMI BERNSTEIN graduated from Penn with a degree in English and creative writing. She now lives in California with her parents where the average age of her friends is fifty-three and she spends her days brainstorming how she can translate poetry for a living.


Tu ti spezzasti

Giuseppe Ungaretti


I molti, immani, sparsi, grigi sassi

Frementi ancora alle segrete fionde

Di originarie fiamme soffocate

Od ai terrori di fiumane vergini

Ruinanti in implacabili carezze,

- Sopra l'abbaglio della sabbia rigidi

In un vuoto orizzonte, non rammenti?

E la recline, che s'apriva all'unico

Raccogliersi dell'ombra nella valle,

Araucaria, anelando ingigantita,

Volta nell'ardua selce d'erme fibre

Più delle altre dannate refrattaria,

Fresca la bocca di farfalle e d'erbe

Dove le radici si tagliava,

- Non la rammenti delirante muta

Sopra tre palmi d'un rotondo ciottolo

In un perfetto bilico

Magicamente apparsa?

Di ramo in ramo fiorrancino lieve,

Ebbri di meraviglia gli avidi occhi

Ne conquistavi la screziata cima,

Temerario, musico bimbo,

Solo per rivedere all'ilmo lucido

D'un fondo e quieto baratro di mare

Favolose testuggini

Ridestarsi fra le alghe.

Della natura estrema la tensione

E le subacquee pompe,

Funebri moniti.

Alzavi le braccia come ali

E ridavi nascita al vento

Correndo nel peso dell'aria immota.

Nessuno mai vide posare

Il tuo lieve piede di danza.

Grazia, felice,

Non avresti potuto non spezzarti

In una cecità tanto indurita

Tu semplice soffio e cristallo.

Troppo umano lampo per l'empio,

Selvoso, accanito, ronzante

Ruggito d'un sole d'ignudo.

You Shattered

translated by Carla Rossi

The unnumbered, enormous, scattered, gray stones

still throbbing against secret slings

of suffocated primal flames

or to the terror of the relentless caresses

of Amazon rushing waters,

rigid above the dazzling sand

along an empty horizon, don’t you remember?

And the leaning Araucaria, huge in its longing,

that opened toward

the only gathering of shade in the valley

twisting its lonely fibers into hard flint,

more resistant than the other cursed trees,

its mouth fresh with butterflies and grass

where it parted from its roots

don’t you remember? Raving, silent,

above a three-span rounded pebble,

magically appeared

in a perfect, precarious balance?

From branch to branch, gold-crested wren,

your greedy eyes drunk with awe,

you conquered the mottled summit,

bold, musical child

only to see again in the shining bed

of a deep and still ocean abyss

mythical tortoises

reawakening among seaweed.

The untempered tension of nature

with the undersea pomp,

deathly omens.

You used to raise your arms as wings

giving birth back to the wind

running in the weight of still air.

Nobody ever saw your light

dancing foot touch the ground.

You, graceful joy,

how could you not have shattered

in such an inflexible blindness,

you, innocent breath, pure crystal.

A flash of light too human for the heartless,

savage, relentless, stubborn

roar of a glaring sun.

translator's note​


It should be noted that the original text in Italian is pretty difficult to understand. My general approach toward translation was trying to render the meanings and the ideas conveyed by Ungaretti and choosing the words as carefully as possible. The original title is “Tu ti spezzasti,” which is extremely challenging to translate while trying to keep the effect it has on the reader. Spezzare is a verb generally used to refer to a long object that breaks or is broken, like an arm or a branch. Moreover in Italian it is used for an idiomatic expression, vita spezzata — “shattered life.” It means a life that ended too soon. As for the grammatical form of the verb itself, spezzarsi is a reflexive verb, but Ungaretti decided to make it even stronger by adding tu at the beginning. I had to compromise with it, because in English I wasn’t able to find any solution that would fit while saving the purity of the English language.

I love the last line of the second stanza because of the image of the perfect precarious balance. In Italian the word bilico, used in this line, is slightly different from balance or equilibrium. It has embedded in it the nuance of precariousness. There is balance, but the Italian word focuses more on the lack of stability. That’s why I believe that perfect precarious balance exceptionally renders this idea conveyed by the original. Also the sounds here are quite pleasant, due to the repetition of the letter “p”: Magically appeared / In a perfect, precarious balance.

As for the last stanza, I enjoyed trying to render the list of adjectives. The original said empio, selvoso, accanito, ronzante, which in my version became heartless, savage, ruthless, stubborn. There is a sort of correspondence between these four adjectives. I think that overall they produce pleasant sounds, and give rhythm to the whole stanza. They pave the way to the glaring sun of the last line. In the original the sun was naked (ignudo), but I decided to render it as glaring. I know that in this way I probably went against my own leading principle, namely trying to produce in the translation the same effect that the original had on the reader. Nevertheless I believe it was a necessary compromise with myself. The idea of a glaring sun is much more powerful, and it concludes the poem with a marvelous and melancholic image.

about the poet

GIUSEPPE UNGARETTI is probably best remembered for his experiences during World War I. In Italy he is also known as “Il Poeta Soldato,” “the soldier poet.” In 1915, when Italy joined World War I, he decided to volunteer. World War I left a mark on his life. He got to know both the suffering of war as well as the true meaning of brotherhood. During the war he also wrote his most famous poem, the two line poem “Mattina”, which reads “M’illumino / d’immenso” (literally, “I

illuminate myself of immensity”).

After marrying a French woman and having two children, Ungaretti and his family moved to Brazil, where he taught Italian literature. In Brazil, his beloved son Antonietto passed away. To mourn the death of his child, Ungaretti wrote the poem “Tu ti spezzasti.” It is not one of the most well-known of Ungaretti’s poems, but it is worth reading to experience the pathos it bears.

Giuseppe Ungaretti is certainly one of the most appreciated Italian poets of the twentieth century. What makes him great is firstly his experience of war, which gave his poetry such an introspective edge. He is also remembered for writing very incisive poems, short and concise, in which the true essence of his poetry is embedded.

about the translator

CARLA ROSSI is an exchange student from Italy studying at the University of Pennsylvania this spring. In Italy, Carla studies at the University of Bologna, with majors in English and Spanish. She has always loved the English language with its immense vocabulary and thousands of ways to express nuances, and she loves the idea of transposing feelings and emotions from one language to another. It makes her very proud to see Italian poets being studied abroad.



Federico García Lorca

Sobre la verde bruma

se cae un sol sin rayos

La ribera sombría

Sueña al par que la barca

y la esquila inevitable

traba la melancolia

En mi alma de ayer

suena un tamborcillo

de plata.


translated by Mira Revesz

Above the sea-green mist

a rayless sun spills down.

Along the shore, shade

dreams to the rhythm of the boat

and a bell that’s always there

weaves with what’s bittersweet.

In my soul of days past

a silver timbrel


translator's note​

Translating Lorca always involves a degree of surrender that I’m not normally comfortable with. My translation will not make sense because his poem does not make sense; he paints scenes of emotion rather than scenes of visual realism. As I translate, I read the Spanish over and over out loud until I find what feels right in English. I cannot explain why what feels right feels that way; for me that’s part of the joy of surrender.

about the poet

FEDERICO GARCÍA LORCA (1888–1936). Federico García Lorca’s poetry is, in my opinion, some of the most beautiful in the world. In Spanish, his poetry has an extraordinary musicality to it. Indeed, much of his poetry was inspired by gypsy music and other lyric forms. I normally find reading Lorca in translation to be deeply dissatisfying because his musicality is difficult to convey given the diverse and primarily Germanic roots of English. In my translation, I tried my best to honor his sounds, and occasionally shifted some images from more direct translations so that they might better evoke the emotions that I feel they do in the original Spanish.

about the translator

MIRA REVESZ is a senior at Swarthmore College, pursuing a special honors major that combines English, education, and religion. After graduation, she will teach high school English literature and ESL, and looks forward to reading Lorca and Sastre with her students in both Spanish and English.



Giuseppe Ungaretti


Un’intera nottata

buttato vicino

a un compagno


con la sua bocca


volta al plenilunio

con la congestioni

delle sue mani


nel mio silenzio

ho scritto

lettere piene d’amore


Non sono mai stato


attaccato alla vita


Translated by Margaret Lawlace


One entire night

flung beside

a familiar face


teeth twisted toward

the full moon

the gnarling

of his hands


my silence

I wrote

letters filled with love


I have never latched

so fast

to life

translator's note​

I have tried to approximate Ungaretti’s pared-down style while maintaining some of the repetition of sounds and a certain ambiguity as to how the narrator describes the person they are beside.

about the poet

GIUSEPPE UNGARETTI (1888–1970) was an Italian poet, critic, and journalist. The father of the Hermetic style, Ungaretti wrote poetry characterized by short lines, ambiguous syntax, and a lack of punctuation. As evident in this poem, he was deeply affected by his time as a soldier in World War I.

about the translator

 MARGARET LAWLACE is a Penn employee and post-baccalaureate student.


גורע וזורח

 דליה רביקוביץ

עכשיו הירח
פוחת וגורע
,נחר ושוקע
.נפסד ונובל
,ועם זאת
,אולי ענני הגשם מצְבִּים את בטנו
.דומה שהוא גדל

הינומה דקה פרושה על פני

הירח פוחת ושוקע
,כאילו נתקטע
כאילו הוא נופל.
אלה העננים הרכים
.שִלחוּ בו רקבון
,אבל, חכה רגע
,עולה עגול חִוֵּר
יְרֵחַ מחצית החודש
,שעבר בשמים לפניו
,קל כגרגר בין קורי השמים
.עבה כדלעת הבשלה
זה הירח הגורע
,זה הירח הנושר
,בוא והבט בו יקירי
.תמיד הוא חוזר

Sinking rising

Translated by Yehudith Dashevsky


Now the moon

sinks itself

into the sunlight


the rainclouds might

fill up its belly

and it will seem larger

A veil sails across the sky

The moon sinks

into the light

Clouds sent it to rot



Behind it rises

a blinding ring

a half-month moon



Light as a seed

in the seams of the sky

Round as a gourd and as ripe

This is the moon that sinks

this is the moon that withers

Come gaze at it, my dear,

it always reappears.

translator's note​

Translating Dahlia Ravikovitch’s “Sinking rising,” or, as it is more commonly called “Waxing, Waning,” posed several complications. The first was the lack of inflection in English. In inflecting languages such as Hebrew, the subject and tense is implied in each verb, so more is said in fewer words. Here, the inflecting property lends a sort of minimalist quality to the poem, with most lines having two words, and at the same time allows it a density, both words being verbs. Because the minimalism is tied to the content of the poem, I chose to emphasize that quality over the density in the translation, leaving out near-synonym verbs when the lines became too long.

The second challenge was presenting that minimalism as being tied to the content of the poem, which is a simple observation of how the physical waxing and waning of the moon looks to us. The waxing and waning moon is an eons-old and content-laden metaphor in the Hebrew consciousness, and yet here it is presented with a bare simplicity, the matter-of-fact tone reverberating in each of the images. Ravikovitch’s gaze at the moon, while hinting at its rich metaphoric roots in language (the word for middle of the month is Biblical) and theme (an ever-returning moon), is mostly observational, seeing the moon as an intriguing, disappearing object in the sky, instead of as a metaphor. That simplicity is expressed in the original in the small number of words used as well as in the rising and falling sound of the vowels chosen (many of them have an ey-ah sound). As previously noted, I tried to mimic that minimalist tendency by keeping the lines short, but also by removing much of the punctuation. I did capitalize some letters despite the fact that Hebrew does not have capitalization to preserve the ebb and flow of the cadence. With regard to the rising and falling sounds that reflect the waxing and waning of the moon, I tried to transmit the way the poem physically reflects the focus on the moon’s physical shape with the shape of the poem (in its rounded lines and curving shape as a whole) instead of sound.

One last note is about the title: I chose “Sinking, rising” as opposed to “Waxing, waning” because the latter is too closely associated with moon allusions and metaphors. Because the words sinking and rising are not usually associated with the moon, they seemed a better fit for describing a layperson’s observation of the physical phenomenon. 

about the poet

DAHLIA RAVIKOVITCH was born in Ramat Gan, Israel, in 1936 and died in Tel Aviv in 2005. She is one of the most well-known contemporary Israeli poets, peace activists and translators, her primary language being Hebrew. Having lost her father at an early age, she spent time in a kibbutz and then at several foster homes. She published her first book of poetry, The Love of an Orange, in 1959. Throughout her lifetime, she published ten volumes of poetry, which were translated into twenty-three languages. She has also translated the works of W.B. Yeats, T.S. Eliot, and Edgar Allen Poe into Hebrew. Many of her poems have been set to song and are well-known radio favorites in Israel.

about the translator

 YEHUDITH DASHEVSKY is a sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania studying English literature and various foreign languages. 


별 헤는 밤


계절이 지나가는 하늘에는

가을로 가득 차 있습니다.


나는 아무 걱정도 없이

가을 속의 별들을 다 헤일 듯합니다.


가슴속에 하나 둘 새겨지는 별을

이제 다 못 헤는 것은

쉬이 아침이 오는 까닭이요,

내일 밤이 남은 까닭이요,

아직 나의 청춘이 다하지 않은 까닭입니다.


별 하나에 추억과

별 하나에 사랑과

별 하나에 쓸쓸함과

별 하나에 동경과

별 하나에 시와

별 하나에 어머니, 어머니,


어머님, 나는 별 하나에 아름다운 말 한 마디씩 불러 봅니다. 소학교 때 책상을 같이 했던 아이들의 이름과, 패, 경, 옥, 이런 이국 소녀들의 이름과 벌써 아기 어머니 된 계집애들의 이름과, 가난한 이웃 사람들의 이름과, 비둘기, 강아지, 토끼, 노새, 노루, 프랜시스 잼, 라이너 마리아 릴케, 이런 시인의 이름을 불러 봅니다.


이네들은 너무나 멀리 있습니다.

별이 아슬히 멀듯이.



그리고 당신은 멀리 북간도에 계십니다.


나는 무엇인지 그리워

이 많은 별빛이 내린 언덕 위에

내 이름자를 써 보고

흙으로 덮어 버리었습니다.


딴은 밤을 새워 우는 벌레는

부끄러운 이름을 슬퍼하는 까닭입니다 .


그러나 겨울이 지나고 나의 별에도 봄이 오면

무덤 위에 파란 잔디가 피어나듯이

내 이름자 묻힌 언덕 위에도
자랑처럼 풀이 무성할 게외다.

The Night I Count the Stars

Translated by Nadia Park


In the sky where seasons pass,

autumn fills the air.


Without any hesitation,

I will count the stars deep in autumn.


All the stars engraved in my chest,

I cannot count them all

because morning comes too soon,

because tomorrow’s evening still remains,

because my youth is still incomplete.


One star for memory

One star for love

One star for loneliness

One star for longing

One star for poem

One star for mother, mother.


Mother, I attempt to call out to each star its beautiful name.

Names of the children I shared a desk with in primary school, names of foreign girls such as Pae, Kyung, Ok, names of girls who have already become mothers, names of penniless neighbors, names of animals like pigeon, dog, rabbit, mule, deer, and names of poets such as Francis Jammes, Rainer Maria Rilke,

               I attempt to call them.

They are too far

in the way stars are infinitely distant.


And Mother,

you are far off in North Kando.

I grieve for some unknown

on top the hill where a fountain of starlights falls.

I write my name

and cover it up with soil.


And the cicadas cry through the night

over my shameful name.


But when winter passes and spring arrives, even to my star,

in the way green grass blooms on graves,

on top of the hill where my name is buried,

like pride, grass will lusciously overflow.

translator's note​

Like many translations, the decisions on word choice and how to structure the sentences and phrases throughout were incredibly difficult. Inherently, Korean and English have grammar structures that are completely the opposite of one another, which makes forming a literal translation more difficult. In terms of word choice, in some areas I decided to take more liberties, while in others, I stayed true to the original, more so than other translations I had read. There were a few phrases in which I decided to add an extra word because I felt that in order to convey the meanings that are packed into the original word. I had to include “attempt to” or “some unknown,” rather than “call” or “something” respectively on their own to bring out the full impact that I received from reading the original and put it in my translation. The second “I attempt to call them” is also an emphasis that does not maintain as much power and impact in the original as in my translation. But to underline the idea that the narrator tries to call upon these stars, he is unable to fully do so because they are so far away. Further, in the original the word “cicada” is not present. Rather, it is a general term for “insect” or “bug,” but the specific insect present not only some alliteration but also a warmer feeling and allows for a more intense auditory experience.

With the structure of the poem, I wanted to maintain it as much as possible, and not exclude anything major that exists in the original in my translation. The fifth stanza seems more like prose stuck between a series of poems before and after it, but upon actually reading it, it flows relatively quickly, so I decided to keep it in the format, but by having the “names of…” be on a separate line, so that it wouldn’t be too much of a mouthful. However, the rest of the poem remains faithful to the original, as to maintain the same flow and pauses. Throughout the translation, enhancing the myriad of emotions and bringing to life the visuals of each sentence, phrase, or word, were the aspects I worked to pay attention to the most while translating this poem.

about the poet

YUN DONGJU is a Korean poet who was born in 1917 In Myeongdong Village of Jilin in China and died in 1945 at the age of 27 in Fukuoka, Japan. From 1910 to 1945, Korea was colonized by Japan and underwent “cultural cleansing,” which was enacted through a series of unfair and often violent methods. Korea was prohibited to speak Korean, write in Korean, own Korean books, teach and learn in Korean, and hold their Korean names. It soon became dangerous for Yun to write in Korean, as it was interpreted by the Japanese to be a rebellion. Yun’s older cousin, Song Mongyu was a huge influence in his life as well. As a talented prose writer and an activist in the Korean independence movement, Song himself worked with Yun and a few other college friends to create literary magazines back in Yeonhi University, which is now Yeonsae University. Song potentially instills in Yun the desire to refuse complete submission from the Japanese rule by continuing to write the Korean poetry he loved so much. Upon completing his education there, he moved to Rikkyo University in Tokyo and then transferred six months later to Doshisha University in Kyoto, where he was soon taken captive by the Japanese police to Fukushima prison, where he died, most likely as a victim of medical experiments. Yun never was able to publish his collection of poems, Star, Sky, Wind, and Poetry, because he was arrested as a revolutionary activist, but because he had given them to a close friend in Korea, Chong Pyong-uk, to hide until it was able to be published, Yun’s poems exist today for many to read.

about the translator

 NADIA PARK is a student at the University of Pennsylvania majoring in communications and minoring in consumer psychology and French. As a Korean American, she was exposed to various cultures and languages the moment she was born and developed a passion for learning other languages, including Japanese and French. She loves to spend her free time doing pour overs, practicing yoga, and baking sweets.


The Ruin


Wrætlic is þes wealstan, wyrde gebræcon;

burgstede burston, brosnað enta geweorc.

Hrofas sind gehrorene, hreorge torras,

hrungeat berofen, hrim on lime,


scearde scurbeorge scorene, gedrorene,

ældo undereotone. Eorðgrap hafað

waldend wyrhtan forweorone, geleorene,

heardgripe hrusan, oþ hund cnea

werþeoda gewitan. Oft þæs wag gebad


ræghar ond readfah rice æfter oþrum,

ofstonden under stormum; steap geap gedreas.

Wonað giet se ...num geheapen,

fel on

grimme gegrunden


scan heo...

...g orþonc ærsceaft

...g lamrindum beag

mod mo... ...yne swiftne gebrægd

hwætred in hringas, hygerof gebond


weallwalan wirum wundrum togædre.

Beorht wæron burgræced, burnsele monige,

heah horngestreon, heresweg micel,

meodoheall monig dreama full,

oþþæt þæt onwende wyrd seo swiþe.


Crungon walo wide, cwoman woldagas,

swylt eall fornom secgrofra wera;

wurdon hyra wigsteal westen staþolas,

brosnade burgsteall. Betend crungon

hergas to hrusan. Forþon þas hofu dreorgiað,


ond þæs teaforgeapa tigelum sceadeð

hrostbeages hrof. Hryre wong gecrong

gebrocen to beorgum, þær iu beorn monig

glædmod ond goldbeorht gleoma gefrætwed,

wlonc ond wingal wighyrstum scan;


seah on sinc, on sylfor, on searogimmas,

on ead, on æht, on eorcanstan,

on þas beorhtan burg bradan rices.

Stanhofu stodan, stream hate wearp

widan wylme; weal eall befeng


beorhtan bosme, þær þa baþu wæron,

hat on hreþre. þæt wæs hyðelic.

Leton þonne geotan

ofer harne stan hate streamas



...þþæt hringmere hate

þær þa baþu wæron.

þonne is

...re; þæt is cynelic þing,

huse ...... burg....


translated by Michaela Kotziers

Press your cheek to scalloped stone and see how

giants fastened these walls, these gaping gashes

now plastered with moss once plastered by hands:


how knuckles leveled ruby tiles, shoulders carried

slabs for miles, palms moonscooped marbled arches,

inhuman fingers shaped this walstead.


Trace the crooked gables and try to see these gates

unbroken, kneedeep in nightfog rusted red and

blanketing enemies laid to bed.


Rub the crumbling grains and try, try to see these walls

untouched—thriving, soaking, growing in battle’s blood

before fate’s arm turned iron to mud.


Lie on your back, spine to stone and feel the echo

of a ceiling crashed. In that lit city, slaughter probed

the foundations laid by those who by then too

had fallen in earth.


The builders have been buried, people passed

through a grave dampened by baths now

gripped in gray and gurgling ash, swallowed

in wells of the past—one hundred generations

and counting.


But when that goldbright hall is called, its vaulted

ceilings curved in gems, drawing prisms of sun, its

warriors wrapped in victory songs of that first joy,

its wise courts rimmed in newgreen,


my mouth fills with the earth of that place, where

wine-flushed skin and floods that gleamed, where

those twin pearls might be slipped beneath

stony shadows shading over hot streams.

translator's note​

"The Ruin" is a fragmentary poem found in Exeter, Cathedral Chapter Library, MS 3501, the Exeter Book. The ellipses printed here in the original Old English represent words that are now missing from the manuscript, after it was scorched in a fire. The author of "The Ruin" is unknown.


"The Ruin" is rich in physically descriptive imagery of a ruined city. The exact location of the city alluded to, and whether it is in fact an actual city and not a spiritual metaphor constructed by the poet, is still debated by scholars. The belief that "The Ruin"’s author was inspired by Bath or another Roman scene guides us to imagine the author as someone in awe of the accomplishments of the master builders of ancient Rome; it is from this perspective that I wrote my own translation. Rather than viewing the city as a metaphor for the human body (which is not uncommon among medieval Christian texts) and exploring the poem as one with a moralizing, religious theme, I chose to wade through the emotions of reimagining a site that has been lost. The speaker of my poem asks what it means to yearn for a time that was never her own, to stand at the site of a sunken past.

With the liberties that I’ve taken in writing "Ruin," although I have attempted to echo the speaker’s meditative mood, my poem is more aptly called an adaptation than a translation, in terms of both content and form. An individual line of Old English poetry consists of two half-lines, where each half-line has two accented syllables, and the two half lines are bound together by alliteration of the accented syllables. While I did not consistently employ half-lines, alliteration and its coincidence with accented syllables was important in crafting the sound of this poem. One thing that I find most wonderful about Old English is its creation of new words through kennings and compounds, and in response I created original compounds in my translation.

about the translator

MICHAELA KOTZIERS is a senior at the University of Pennsylvania studying English, with concentrations in creative writing and medieval studies.



Xi Murong


最起初 只有那一轮山月



在清凉的早上 浮云散开




并且把爱与信仰 都烧进


那时侯 所有的故事


涉江而过 芙蓉千朵

诗也简单 心也简单

雁鸟急飞 季节变异



也曾细雕着 一座


迸飞的碎粹之后 逐渐呈现




生生世世 反复描摹

可是 究竟在哪里有了差错

为什么 在千世的轮回里


风沙来前 我为你


风沙过后 为什么


归路难求 且在月明的夜里


然后再急拔琵琶 催你上马

那时候 曾经水草丰美的世界

早已进入神话 只剩下

枯萎的红柳和白杨 万里黄沙

去又往返 仿佛




越离越远 云层越积越厚




你在柜外 我已在柜中



在错谔间 你似乎听到一些声音


这所有的绢 所有的帛



都是我给你的爱 都是


在暮色里你漠然转身 渐行渐远

长廊寂寂 诸神静默

我终于成木成石 一如前世

廊外 仍有千朵芙蓉


浅紫 柔粉



在时光里慢慢点染 慢慢湮开

Historical Museum

translated by Kejia Wang

—Can a human life resemble a museum?


At the very beginning only the band of a rocky moon

the cavern in an infinitely dark and cold memory

You were walking towards me with a smile

on that cool and clear morning the floating clouds parting

If I should trace that path to welcome you

please let us settle in a land of lushness and bounty

I would pore over oracle bones to learn the secrets of augury

fire both love and faith into rainbow pottery

adorned with water and cloud impressions

Back then all the stories

had begun next to a long fragrant river

Wade through the stream hibiscuses in bloom

the poem was simple and the heart too


Rushed flight of geese the seasons changing

Along the river I slowly seek towards the south

The hand that once engraved goddesses of mercy

has also meticulously carved out

a Sui Buddha's tender stone lips

After the fragments spark and fly it finally emerges

those dearest and most familiar contours of the heart

Within the gigantic, wet and cold grottoes

I am a modest and placid artist

life after life mimicking trace after trace


But where did we really go wrong

Why is that through a thousand reincarnation rounds

I always barely miss that longed-for moment

Before the sands came for you

I had once buried deep all the signs and evidence

After the sands came why

would you always forget some serendipitous reach

A struggle of return might as well in that moonlit night

pour you a cup of wine through rapidly blinking tears

Blast through the pipa urge you to mount and ride

By now what had been a bountiful land

has already entered myth leaving behind only

withered willows and poplars miles upon miles of desert dreams


To go is to return almost

constant calls of the eventide in the shadowy night

between the breast an indecipherable gentleness

The spring that even rainbow silk threads cannot embroider

sinking farther and farther away storm clouds gathering strength

My mottled heart

gliding ponderously between legend and faith


Reincarnating to meet you again

You live outside the cabinet I already breathe within it

Separated by but a shard of cold glass

I earnestly wait for your arrival

Between error and disbelief you capture their voices

of course you wouldn't ever believe

that every piece of samite and taffeta here

every painted man and earthen sculpture

every enclosed carved and engraved relief

are my love for you

my persevering unwavering immortal souls…


In the twilight you turn away in indifference your steps fading

a lonely gallery the deities falling silent

I finally become wood and stone just as departed memory

outside the gallery still a thousand florets of hibiscus

soft violet gentle rose

and that snow-like paleness

mirroring an anonymous ancient likeness

slowly imbibing from the stream of time slowly diminish

translator's note​

XI MURONG’s poems are well-known and loved for their lyricism, references to ancient Asian (Chinese and Buddhist) philosophies, astute observations on life and love, and yearning for empathy and meaning. I tried to translate the poem literally before returning to try to restore some of the original Chinese lyricism; in the end, I stayed fairly true to the poem’s original structure but missed out on some of the rhyme. I particularly struggled with the third and fifth stanzas due to her rampant use of repeating Chinese characters. I am fairly proud of my translation of the sixth stanza, though, which is also my personal favorite from the original poem – I feel like I was able to capture what I loved from the original poem while giving it an additional spin of my own.

about the poet

XI MURONG (席慕容) is a Taiwanese poet, painter and essayist of Mongolian ethnicity. Born 1943 in Mainland China, she spent her childhood in Hong Kong before studying painting at the Belgian Academie Royale des Beaux-Arts. She now resides in Taiwan.

about the translator

KEIJA WANG spent half of her life speaking Chinese and half of her life speaking English. She graduated from Penn in 2016 with a BSE in Bioengineering and a minor in English. She is now studying English and Science and Technology Studies at the University of British Columbia.


Пускай ты выпита другим

Сергей А. Есенин


Пускай ты выпита другим,

Но мне осталось, мне осталось

Твоих волос стеклянный дым

И глаз осенняя усталость.


О, возраст осени! Он мне

Дороже юности и лета.

Ты стала нравиться вдвойне

Воображению поэта.


Я сердцем никогда не лгу

И потому на голос чванства

Бестрепетно сказать могу,

Что я прощаюсь с хулиганством.


Пора расстаться с озорной

И непокорною отвагой.

Уж сердце напилось иной,

Кровь отрезвляющею брагой.


И мне в окошко постучал

Сентябрь багряной веткой ивы,

Чтоб я готов был и встречал

Его приход неприхотливый.


Теперь со многим я мирюсь

Без принужденья, без утраты.

Иною кажется мне Русь,

Иными кладбища и хаты.


Прозрачно я смотрю вокруг

И вижу, там ли, здесь ли, где-то ль,

Что ты одна, сестра и друг,

Могла быть спутницей поэта.


Что я одной тебе бы мог,

Воспитываясь в постоянстве,

Пропеть о сумерках дорог

И уходящем хулиганстве.

Someone’s already had a sip of you

translated by Malika Kadyrova


Someone’s already had a sip of you,

but left for me, for me is

the perfume of your glossy hair,

the languor of your autumn eyes.


Oh, age of autumn! I’ll take it

over youth and summer.

Now more than ever, you’re a sight

for this poet’s sore eyes.


There’s no dishonesty in my heart,

and when arrogance calls,

I can say without fear

that my pranks are far behind me.


Enough of this roguish

and unruly bravery.

My heart’s full of a new brew

running sober in my veins.


September tapped at my window

with a red willow branch,

ensuring I would greet it

on its unassuming arrival.


I now choose to make peace;

I feel no pressure, no loss.

These cemeteries, these cottages,

this Russia seems different.


I look around, and I can see

it written across the sky,

that you alone, sister and friend,

can be this poet’s companion.


That I can sing to you alone,

as I’m learning to be loyal,

about twilight on the road

and the mischief I’m leaving behind.

translator's note​

As someone with a fondness for fancy words, I often find translating Yesenin to be an exercise in restraint. His style is uncluttered, often colloquial, and sometimes abrupt. He paints pictures with words you wouldn’t quite associate with what he is trying to convey - when you think about the essence of a country, do you picture cemeteries and huts? Yesenin does. The “huts” also posed a problem – when you hear the word “hut” in English, what do you think of? Probably not a ramshackle peasant house in the countryside, which is what Yesenin meant (in the end, I went with “cottage”). He repeatedly refers to his “hooliganism” (a recurring theme in his poetry) – a sentiment I used two words to convey: “pranks” and “mischief.” I also chose to step back from Yesenin’s tight rhyme scheme in favour of a freer structure. I felt it better allowed me to express the poet’s calm acceptance of falling in love and the new energy it’s given him.

about the poet

SERGEI YESENIN (1895-1925) was known as the “peasant prophet.” A Russian Imaginist, he was flamboyant and his poetry unornamented. He drew on his background and village lifestyle and lore for inspiration. His poetry later developed a post-revolutionary disenchanted character and was infused with his melancholy. “Someone’s already had a sip of you” belongs to a period in which he attempted to heal himself with poems about love and family.

about the translator

 MALIKA KADYROVA graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 2015 with a major in comparative literature and minors in French and classical studies. She’s currently at Moscow State Institute of International Relations, wandering along the postgrad brick road in the direction of a career in interpreting.


Hora de estrellas

Federico García Lorca

El silencio redondo de la noche
sobre el pentagrama
del infinito.

Yo me salgo desnudo a la calle,
maduro de versos
Lo negro, acribillado
por el canto del grillo,
tiene ese fuego fatuo,
del sonido.
Esa luz musical
que percibe
el espíritu.

Los esqueletos de mil mariposas
duermen en mi recinto.

Hay una juventud de brisas locas
sobre el río.

Hour of Stars

translated by Mira Revesz


   The silent sphere of night

rests on the clef

of infinity.


   I set forth towards the street,

naked, ripe with poems

I’ve lost.

Blackness, tossed

with the crickets’ chant,

a will-o’-the-wisp,

perished from the sound,

a musical light,

perceived by the spirit.


  Skeletons of a thousand butterflies

sleep inside my rooms.


  Wild young breezes

rush over the river.

translator's note​

Translating Lorca always involves a degree of surrender that I’m not normally comfortable with. My translation will not make sense because his poem does not make sense; he paints scenes of emotion rather than scenes of visual realism. As I translate, I read the Spanish over and over out loud until I find what feels right in English. I cannot explain why what feels right feels that way; for me that’s part of the joy of surrender.

about the poet

FEDERICO GARCÍA LORCA (1888–1936). Lorca’s poetry is, in my opinion, some of the most beautiful in the world. In Spanish, his poetry has an extraordinary musicality to it. Indeed, much of his poetry was inspired by gypsy music and other lyric forms. I normally find reading Lorca in translation to be deeply dissatisfying because his musicality is difficult to convey given the diverse and primarily Germanic roots of English. In my translation, I tried my best to honor his sounds, and occasionally shifted some images from more direct translations so that they might better evoke the emotions that I feel they do in the original Spanish.

about the translator

 MIRA REVESZ is a senior at Swarthmore College, pursuing a special honors major that combines English, education, and religion. After graduation, she will teach high school English literature and ESL, and looks forward to reading Lorca and Sastre with her students in both Spanish and English.

© doublespeak magazine 2020

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