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Poetry

The Strength of Water

By Gawani Gaongen
Translated from Kankanaey by the author
In this poem by Kankanaey Igorot poet Gawani Gaongen, water is both a source of life and a threat to survival.
A large wave crashes in a stormy ocean
Photo by Todd Turner on Unsplash

This poem is part of a series produced via a partnership with the George Town Literary Festival, an annual literary festival taking place this year between November 24 and 27 in George Town, Penang, Malaysia.

 

I.

Water is a beast, the great
Wave off Kanagawa, Boxing
Day tsunami, Yolanda’s storm surge:
Merciless, unselective in what to take away,
It will not turn around at the cries of a mother
For her dead child be released from its clutches.
To plead you must seek for higher forces.
Or let go, surrender yourself to the invincible.

II.

For the needs of the village, there are springs
Steadfast, undefeated by the dry months.
“Do not make the water angry,” they say.
No loud noise as you fetch it,
No spitting, no trashing,
No carrying of smelly things,
No one in mourning may go
(Someone fetches water for them in their time of grief.)
The springs are named, acknowledged
When the elders say their prayers—
A survival guide—a map of the places
Where water is life.


© Gawani Gaongen. All rights reserved.

English Kankanaey

This poem is part of a series produced via a partnership with the George Town Literary Festival, an annual literary festival taking place this year between November 24 and 27 in George Town, Penang, Malaysia.

 

I.

Water is a beast, the great
Wave off Kanagawa, Boxing
Day tsunami, Yolanda’s storm surge:
Merciless, unselective in what to take away,
It will not turn around at the cries of a mother
For her dead child be released from its clutches.
To plead you must seek for higher forces.
Or let go, surrender yourself to the invincible.

II.

For the needs of the village, there are springs
Steadfast, undefeated by the dry months.
“Do not make the water angry,” they say.
No loud noise as you fetch it,
No spitting, no trashing,
No carrying of smelly things,
No one in mourning may go
(Someone fetches water for them in their time of grief.)
The springs are named, acknowledged
When the elders say their prayers—
A survival guide—a map of the places
Where water is life.


© Gawani Gaongen. All rights reserved.

Nan Mabiyadan di Danum

I.
Nan danum et baknatan, kumekedse
Daluyon sin Kanagawa, sin agew
Di panagboboksing, sin Yolanda:
Maid seg-ang na, adi menpili is map-esan,
Adi menligos sin adawag di ina ay men-dawat
Ta iwwak na’y awak di anak, adi na pepetpetan.
Nan menpakaasi et men-anap is nangatngato ay turay.
Wennu kedeng, ipalubos nan adi pulos kaabak.

II.
Para sin ili, wada da nan balaan di danum
Menpeges, adi abaken di tiagew.
“Adi en paligligten nan balaan,” kanan da.
Adi men-ngaba nan sumakdo,
Adi tubtubbaan, adi lugluggitan,
Adi iyal-ali nan nalangsi,
Adi umal-ali nan menladladingit
(Maisakduwan da sin timpon di ngitit).
Mangadanan nan balaan, mabigbig
Nu mensus-owa nan amam-a—
Sin ikkan di matago—mapa ay mangitdo
Nu intu nan danum ay biag.

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The ornate Khoo Kongsi house in George Town, Penang, Malaysia