Haitian Creole Poem Translated

The following Creole poem was originally found with an English translation at http://heathermueller.wordpress.com/2010/01/18/creole-poetry-from-haiti/.

As a vocabulary building exercise, I translated the poem myself from the Creole version on the website above. In doing so I came up with a significantly different translation, so I decided to post it here.

There are a few Creole words I left untranslated. Most importantly, the term “ayida” refers to a woman with naturally short hair, but also to a voodoo spirit, and the term  “kalinda” refers to nocturnal pre-revolutionary Haitian dances held by slaves where voodoo ceremonies, by then outlawed, were performed.

To see the Creole version, scroll down and click on “Continue Reading.”

[The poem title and author information are directly posted from the other wordpress page where I found the poem]

WONGOL POEM, by EMMANUEL EJEN

Pwezi Wongol
Pou Ayida

I.
Sometimes I stand
And watch you Ayida
My mind spins

True your head is frizzy
But the night seemingly
Sleeps in your hair

Ayida o!
Sunlight frolics
Over all the surfaces of the house
The children eat hunger
Till their stomachs are full

A small bottle of night
Spills on a sheet of life
The moon becomes blotched
How the darkness is thick, konpè!

Ayida o!
When will the day wane?

Zombies struggle up
Shooting stars fall
Birds rise to sing
At the wake in the house of Ayida

Lightning flashes past
Weapons are pulled to fire
Ancestors rise to stand
Chaos breaks out in the house of Ayida

II.

A shooting star falls
Cuts my forehead
Pakanpak!
Thunder rumbles down
In the middle of my breast
A small fire burns to my searing heart

You may cut me
Slash me throw me
You may burn me
Make charcoal with me
Birds won’t stop
To nest in my roots
Hope won’t cease
To flower in my heart
I am a poet
My roots have no cell

III.

When a flower is cut at 10 o’clock
At exactly 10 o’clock
It dies of tetanus
Nothing is made of it

When a hibiscus is bled
Its blood bathes its body
A hummingbird calls out
That’s nothing at all

But when a royal poinciana
Aches and tremors
All the birds flee

To exile they go to sing
Overseas they go to wail
Of the suffering that’s left behind

The wind carries news
News which spreads
Buzzes in Ayida’s ear
She does not hear anything

IV.

Every drop of night that drips
Is a cup of dark coffee in our hearts
In our eyes dew trickles
Wipe off the layer of dust
In bandannas before the dawn

The hawk lunges on the day’s throat
Pecks the sun in the grain of the eye
Light stumbles thrice
Before the great daylight dies

All our cards of liberty have been cheated from us
Our dreams fill up a small tin can
Our silence breaks us
Our patience scalds us

But you, you watch the nor’easter wind
Who’s measuring the length of your slip
From the moutaintop
Which puts the sea in your control
Thunder cracks thrice in your palm

When the wind casts her off
Who will cut her calf?
When the sea swings her dress
Who will call her uncouth?
When thunder beats the kalinda
Who will rise to dance?

Translation by W. Scott

NOTE: I have made some changes to the Creole version of the poem I found on the other website. Chiefly, I have added accents where I believe they belong, and removed dashes ( – ) before possessive pronouns, as this is a an old convention.  In a few places I have also changed what I believe to have been misspellings.

If I find the poem in its original form, I will post that here, and make modifications to my English translation where needed.

Feel free leave comments and suggestions on my translation.

[Possible Misspellings: In I. pews is changed to pwès. In II. samba to sanba. In III, tetanus to tetanòs. In IV. patmen to palmen.]

I.
Gendelè m rete
M gade ou Ayida
Lòlòj mwen vire

Tèt ou gridap se vre
Men lannuit genlè
Dòmi nan cheve ou

Ayida o!
Solèy galonnen
Nan tout plenn lakay
Timounn yo manje grangou
Vant deboutonnen

Poban lannuit
Tonbe sou fèy lavi
Lalin nan tounen biva
Men nwase a pwès konpè!

Ayida o!
Kilè jou a va sevre?

Zonbi sige l’ale
Zetwal file tonbe
Zwazo leve chante
Nan veye kay Ayida

Zèklè file pase
Zam rale tire
Zansèt leve kanpe
Deblozay pete kay Ayida

II.

Youn zetwal file tonbe
Fann fontèn tèt mwen
Pakanpak
Youn loray gwonde tonbe
Nan mitan zantray mwen
Tidife boule kale nan kè m tou wouj

Ou mèt koupe m
Rache m jete m
Ou mèt boule m
Fè chabon ak mwen
Zwazo p’ap sispann
Fè nich nan rasin mwen
Lespwa p’ap bouke
Fleri nan kè m
Mwen se sanba
Rasin mwen pa gen tobout

III.

Lè youn flè dizè blese
A dizè tapan
Li mouri tetanòs
Pa gen anyen nan sa

Lè youn choublak senyen
San kò l benyen kò l
Wanganègès rele
Sa pa di anyen

Men lè youn pye flanbwayan
Fè emoraji
Tout zwazo vole gagè

Nan ekziltik y’al chante
Lòt bò dlo y’al kriye
Lapenn sa k’rete dèyè

Van pote nouvèl
Nouvèl gaye
Zorèy Ayida kònen
Li pa tande anyen

IV.

Chak gout lannuit ki koule
Se youn tas kafe anmè nan kè nou
Nan je nou lawouze koule
Detenn kouch poud
Nan machwa douvanjou

Malfini gagannen jou
Beke solèy nan grenn je
Limyè bite twa fwa
Anvan li trepase gran jounen

Tout kat libète nou anba kod
Rèv nou mezire nan timamit
Silans nou fele
Pasyans nou kankannen sou nou

Men oumenm ki mezire nòde
Ki lonnen jipon ou
Nan kat pwendinò
Ki peze lanmè nan balans ou
Loray pete twa fwa nan plamen ou

Lè van kase kòd
Ki mounn ki va koupe jarèt li
Le lanmè souke jipon l
Ki mounn ki va di l san lizay
Lè loray va bat kalinda a
Ki mounn ki va leve danse

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Filed under Haitian creole poetry

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