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Poetry

Two Poems

By Christopher Whyte
Translated from Gaelic by Christopher Whyte

The Chinese Beetle

In a certain region of China,
in the southwest, not far from the mountains of Yunnan,
a kind of apple is to be found
with such an exquisite flavor
that in ancient times the emperors would spend
their gold to buy them, and offer them
at feasts and banquets in the great palace.
But they didn't actually taste like apples.
I read that this was because of a beetle
which is only found on the trees of that region
and which lays its eggs for the time of their growing
in the heart of the apples. They do not stay
for long, but a marvelous fragrance
spreads through each fruit. After the worm
has spread its wings and fled
no trace remains of its sojourn
except an amber glow in the flesh
of the apple and a wonderful aroma
that all the scholars and gardeners
of the court were unable to explain.

That is what I do with this language.

A Wish

I'd like to make pictures
instead of poems.

That way
each one would have its tale
of sales and robberies
of rooms where it had hung
of women and dear friends
who got it as a gift.

They would have to be insured
carefully packed and transported
in lorries and in trains
and a hundred years from now
somebody could restore them
because each color would have its own way
of changing and decomposing
just as pebbles and plants
will change the taste and color
of a mountain pool across the centuries.

They would get lost and damaged
stubborn people would refuse to sell them
cracks in the canvas would cause concern
and experts would hunt without success
for the most precious one of all
hanging unknown
in the darkness of a warm
quiet home, where each evening
a woman closed the curtains
and sat long before a lively fire
with a book in her hands.

They would have none
of the tiresome repetitiveness of printing.
They'd only come together
in ephemeral exhibitions
spilling over from room to room
mixing with other painters' paintings
while spectators came and went
or escaped to the café for half an hour.

And when the museum had closed
in the shadows of the echoing rooms
they'd converse secretly
like members of a scattered family
who only rarely come together
for funerals or weddings or christenings.

English Gaelic

The Chinese Beetle

In a certain region of China,
in the southwest, not far from the mountains of Yunnan,
a kind of apple is to be found
with such an exquisite flavor
that in ancient times the emperors would spend
their gold to buy them, and offer them
at feasts and banquets in the great palace.
But they didn't actually taste like apples.
I read that this was because of a beetle
which is only found on the trees of that region
and which lays its eggs for the time of their growing
in the heart of the apples. They do not stay
for long, but a marvelous fragrance
spreads through each fruit. After the worm
has spread its wings and fled
no trace remains of its sojourn
except an amber glow in the flesh
of the apple and a wonderful aroma
that all the scholars and gardeners
of the court were unable to explain.

That is what I do with this language.

A Wish

I'd like to make pictures
instead of poems.

That way
each one would have its tale
of sales and robberies
of rooms where it had hung
of women and dear friends
who got it as a gift.

They would have to be insured
carefully packed and transported
in lorries and in trains
and a hundred years from now
somebody could restore them
because each color would have its own way
of changing and decomposing
just as pebbles and plants
will change the taste and color
of a mountain pool across the centuries.

They would get lost and damaged
stubborn people would refuse to sell them
cracks in the canvas would cause concern
and experts would hunt without success
for the most precious one of all
hanging unknown
in the darkness of a warm
quiet home, where each evening
a woman closed the curtains
and sat long before a lively fire
with a book in her hands.

They would have none
of the tiresome repetitiveness of printing.
They'd only come together
in ephemeral exhibitions
spilling over from room to room
mixing with other painters' paintings
while spectators came and went
or escaped to the café for half an hour.

And when the museum had closed
in the shadows of the echoing rooms
they'd converse secretly
like members of a scattered family
who only rarely come together
for funerals or weddings or christenings.

An Daolag Shonach

Ann an ceàrn àraidh de Shìona,
san iar-dheas, chan fhada bho bheanntan Iunnàn,
tha seœrsa ùbhlan rim faighinn
a tha cho anabarrach taitneach
's gum biodh na h-ìompairean o shean a' cosg
an œir rin ceannach, is gan tairgse
aig fèisdean 's cuirmeannan san àros mhœr.
Ach cha robh dìreach blas nan ubhal aca.
Leugh mi gu robh daolag coireach ri sin,
nach fhaighear ach air craobhan na ceàirn ud,
's a dh'fhàgas a h-uighean airson tràth a' chinntinn
an cridhe nan ubhal. Chan fhan iad fada ann,
ach thèid cùbhraidheachd iongantach
a sgaoileadh feadh gach meas. An dèidh don chnuimh
a sgiathan a shìneadh a-mach is teicheadh,
chan fhàgar lorg de fantainn ann ach sgleœ
œmarach an lì an ubhail, 's boladh
mìorbhaileach a dh'fhairtlich e
air sgoilearan is gàirnealairean
na cùirt gu lèir a mhìneachadh.

'S e sin a nì mi leis a' chànain seo.

Miann

Bu chaomh leam dealbhan a dhèanamh
an àite dhàintean.

Mar sin
bhitheadh sgialachd aig gach fear dhiubh
air malairtean is mèirlean
air seœmraichean san deach a chrochadh
air boirionnaich no dlùth-chàirdean
a thugadh e dhaibh mar ghibht.

Dh'fheumte urras fhaighinn orra
am pasgadh gu cùramach is an giùlan
air làraidhean is trèanaichean, is dh'fhaodadh
cuideigin an leasachadh ceud bliadhna air thoiseach
oir bhitheadh a dhœigh fhèin aig gach dath
air atharrachadh is lobhadh
dìreach mar a bhitheas
na lusan is na dèideagan
ag atharrachadh blas is aogas
pollag an aonaich bho linn gu linn.

Rachadh an call is am bristeadh
bhitheadh iomagain ann air sgàineadh a' chanabhais
dhiùltadh duine rag an reic
agus bhitheadh luchd-teœma a' sireadh gun èifeachd
an fhir a bu phrìseile
is e gun fhios
a' crochadh an dachaigh thosdaich, bhlàith
is dhuirch, is boirionnach gach feasgar
a' dùnadh nan cùirtean, is i na suidhe
ro fhada ro theine beœthail
le leabhar na làmhan.

Cha bhiodh aca
ath-aithriseachd sgìtheil clœ-bhualaidh.
Cha rachadh an cruinneachadh
ach an neo-bunailteachd nan taisbeanadh
is iadsan a' taomadh
bho sheœmar gu seœmar, coimeasgte
le dealbhan ùghdairean eile.
Bhitheadh an luchd-thadhail a' tighinn is a' tilleadh
is a' teicheadh don chafaidh airson leth-uair de thìde.

Agus an dèidh dùnadh an taigh-tasgaidh
ann an dubharachd nan seœmraichean ath-fhuaimhneach
bhitheadh aca an cœmhradh dìomhair
a tha aig buill teaghlaich sgaraichte
nach tèid an tionail ach gu tearc
aig tœrraidhean is baistidhean is bainnsean.