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Poetry

An Apocryphal History of the Discovery of Migration, or The Sacrifice of the Pfeilstörchen

By Alba Cid
Translated from Galician by Jacob Rogers
"An Apocryphal History of the Discovery of Migration, or The Sacrifice of the Pfeilstörchenn" is one of four winning poems selected by the editors and guest judge Mónica de la Torre for the Words Without Borders—Academy of Americans Poets Poems in Translation Contest.
Listen to Jacob Rogers read his translation of "An Apocryphal History of the Discovery of Migration, or The Sacrifice of the Pfeilstörchen."
 
 
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I, wearing heron symmetrically opposed over my chest,
swore to the five emperors that there was no such thing as balance, that if herons upheld
the rivers on all Chinese porcelain it was
simply due to
a locking mechanism in their joints.
they awarded me for risking everything in my defense.
I wrote to you a few years later. I said:
Rostock, sixth of July,
it’s awful of me to interrupt, but I just
need you to understand how certain kinds of wounds can be useful.
I’m finishing up an essay
on pre-modern explanations for bird migration,
and all the species seen since Aristotle’s time as either moon travelers
or sailors that very rarely return.

I even studied a pamphlet from 1703
that argues for the communion of swallows,
that they gather in wetlands
and follow a specific choreography to perch on top of the rushes
until they sink.
they spend winters underwater, in the hypnotic calm of the muck,
and that’s why they emerge so
klein damp in spring.

but in 1822 (I carefully attached the photograph),
an arrow pierced the neck of a stork in central Africa
and the bird began its flight bearing both weapon and wound.
when it reached Germany, someone identified the origin of the projectile,
and went on to form a scientific hypothesis.

I don’t remember much more of the letter, except:
pain and brightness are distributed in equal parts,
and lightness only exists because of past excess.
Since it’s the migratory season
(I concluded)
I hope you don’t mind if I bypass the formula for farewells—

Atlantic in between us,
every anemone is fluttering along with the currents.

A black and white drawing of a stork with a spear through its neck and the caption "Pfeilstorch"


“Historia apócrifa do descubrimento das migracións ou O sacrificio das Pfeilstörchen”  © Alba Cid. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2019 by Jacob Rogers. All rights reserved.

English Galician

I, wearing heron symmetrically opposed over my chest,
swore to the five emperors that there was no such thing as balance, that if herons upheld
the rivers on all Chinese porcelain it was
simply due to
a locking mechanism in their joints.
they awarded me for risking everything in my defense.
I wrote to you a few years later. I said:
Rostock, sixth of July,
it’s awful of me to interrupt, but I just
need you to understand how certain kinds of wounds can be useful.
I’m finishing up an essay
on pre-modern explanations for bird migration,
and all the species seen since Aristotle’s time as either moon travelers
or sailors that very rarely return.

I even studied a pamphlet from 1703
that argues for the communion of swallows,
that they gather in wetlands
and follow a specific choreography to perch on top of the rushes
until they sink.
they spend winters underwater, in the hypnotic calm of the muck,
and that’s why they emerge so
klein damp in spring.

but in 1822 (I carefully attached the photograph),
an arrow pierced the neck of a stork in central Africa
and the bird began its flight bearing both weapon and wound.
when it reached Germany, someone identified the origin of the projectile,
and went on to form a scientific hypothesis.

I don’t remember much more of the letter, except:
pain and brightness are distributed in equal parts,
and lightness only exists because of past excess.
Since it’s the migratory season
(I concluded)
I hope you don’t mind if I bypass the formula for farewells—

Atlantic in between us,
every anemone is fluttering along with the currents.

A black and white drawing of a stork with a spear through its neck and the caption "Pfeilstorch"


“Historia apócrifa do descubrimento das migracións ou O sacrificio das Pfeilstörchen”  © Alba Cid. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2019 by Jacob Rogers. All rights reserved.

Historia apócrifa do descubrimento das migracións ou O sacrificio das Pfeilstörchen

 
 
Listen to Alba Cid read “An Apocryphal History of the Discovery of Migration, or The Sacrifice of the Pfeilstörchen” in the original Galician.

eu, que levo garzas en simetría sobre o peito, 
xurei ante os cinco emperadores que o equilibrio non existía, que se as garzas sostiñan os ríos de toda a porcelana chinesa era
tan só
por un mecanismo de bloqueo na articulación.

premiáronme por arriscar todo na defensa. 
uns anos despois escribinche. dicía:
Rostock, seis de xullo,  
qué atroz interromperte; verás, 
necesito que entendas a utilidade de certo tipo de feridas. 
estou rematando un ensaio 
sobre as explicacións pre-modernas da migración das aves,
e as especies tratadas, desde Aristóteles, como viaxeiras á lúa 
ou mariñeiras que raramente volven.

estudei incluso un panfleto de 1703
que defende a comuñón das andoriñas, 
a súa reunión en pantanos
e a coreografía que respectan para pousarse nos xuncos
até afundilos. 
invernan baixo as augas, na calma hipnótica dos lameiros,
e por iso emerxen tan klein mollado en primavera.

pero en 1822 (adxuntei coidadosamente a fotografía),
unha frecha atravesa o pescozo dunha cegoña en África central
e a ave emprende o voo cargando coa arma e coa ferida.
cando chega a Alemaña, alguén identifica a orixe do proxectil
e confirma, así, unha hipótese científica.

pouco máis lembro da carta, salvo:
a partes iguais se distribúe a dor e a luz,
e ao final, a lixeireza existe porque existiu o exceso.
Sendo o tempo das migracións 
(concluía)
permíteme evitar a fórmula de despedida, 

Atlántico por medio,
ondean coas correntes todas as anémonas.

A black and white drawing of a stork with a spear through its neck and the caption "Pfeilstorch"


© Alba Cid. All rights reserved.

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