marcel barang

Skyline vs. horizon

In English, Reading matters on 28/06/2013 at 12:07 am

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Sorry, Jadet, it’s only now I understand why your latest collection of poems carries an erroneous title in English. Phoo Ork Baep Sen Korp Fa doesn’t mean Skyline Creator but Horizon Designer if you want to gobble articles the way Yankees do. The explanation is at the very end of the book, which carries the otherwise sensitive translation of the main poem by one of the Peter Rosses LinkedIn lists by the dozen with that faulty title. A Google question: difference between skyline and horizon?

I had actually begun to translate that same poem, but heck, it doesn’t deserve that much fuss. Here instead is the one that gives its title to the second half of the collection. It has a subtle bite: Buddhist Jadet is a native of the Muslim South; it isn’t the North-eastern dialect he alludes to, but Jawi or plain Malay.

In a country where another tongue is spoken

A young woman from far away Skypes me
A country where she must speak in another tongue
A country whose natives are posters on the walls
A handful of whom only remain
Parked like animals in special enclosures

She’s just back from work
Her bus almost one hour behind schedule
She walked on a road in the heart of the capital before she cut into a street
On the way there were frizzy-haired swarthy full-lipped locals
Who sat skewering over a fire leaping off an iron drum
Their prancing shadows even less trustworthy
The young woman hurried
To get out of ogling reach

The young woman sends data across the sky across the ocean
Back to the country of her birth
Says it’s too scary there
The government shouldn’t let the locals cluster
At night
They might steal away from the reservations
And intrude on citizens’ grounds

I cheer her up, even tell her
Their ancestors snuggled their chilled bodies
Underground in that ancient land
And campfires erupted
Ages before Edison came up with the first electric bulb
Don’t worry don’t worry
It’s the bus that delivered you late
Don’t worry don’t worry
Even I must speak in another tongue
With people in our own country

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