In this dream, I’m the bad mother sent for,
my words: unruly bairns,
hanked to my skirts, mouths blared shut
except for the babby,
my favourite, his trembling lips stammer
submission while his milk teeth cut a rage
that gnaws his tongue to a silence
that moves me to speak:
Children, when they judge us
and they will, don’t cower
in the dock; iron bars can’t hold
the world from its orbit. Even
the caged bird hatches from the egg
knowing the purpose of wings,
as does the poet, as does the word.
Thought is freedom, and no bailiff
can extinguish its breath once
it is aired—it lives beyond walls,
beyond reach. Birds die, poets too,
but the word—even the most whetted
axe cannot blunt its edge, like
the fledgling swift, it is hard to catch.
So, run along now, don’t mither;
does the harvest worry for the field?
Remember, this earth won’t stay fallow
forever; in time it’ll be tilled with a sharper
blade. So run along now, run along—
your future lies elsewhere. Sneck the door
firm behind you. I’ll take what’s coming here.
Notes on this poem
This translation was selected from our online translation workshop to feature in our Latvian poetry pamphlet.
Inga Gaile, the Latvian poet who set the workshop and chose this poem for our digital pamphlet Words about Words, gives feedback on the workshop in this article. You can listen to this poem read in the original Latvian, as well as in English translation, in this podcast.