Lost In Translation

There is something maddeningly attractive about the untranslatable–about a word that goes silent in transit. Anne Carson

Silence came alive in the house after Jimmy died.
As I sat listening for the footsteps
that would never again descend the stairs,
air pulsed, and I could see the molecules dancing.

The universe held its collective breath with me,
waiting for him to return.
Rain tapping his name on the window,
wind howling for him among the trees.

What is the word for choosing to go on
when a part of you has been torn away?

To face the shattering betrayal of Ya’burnee,
the Arabic word for hoping to die before a beloved.
May you bury me …

I became illiterate the night my son died,
lost my language.
Without words to describe
this new land of the lacking.

Where did you go, Jimmy
when your light went out?
When your soul fled your body
and refused to speak.

How to know when Jimmy is near,
whether he is anywhere,
when like the giraffe, he has no voice
and mine is muted by grief and guilt.

How do we translate the darkness
into words another will understand?
The vacancy that takes shape,
highlighting all that will never be.

The list of what Jimmy is missing grows and grows.
No one warned me how long it would be
or the way my longing would separate me
from the life I thought I was meant to live.

We miss so much
when only silence speaks.
Rushing to fill it
with sounds that can never reach the pain.

Some things cannot be translated
While others were never meant to be.
Wounds so deep
they stop the words.

Sometimes late at night
I stare into the darkness beyond the kitchen window
listening for Jimmy,
willing him to come back.

Wondering if when it’s my time to depart,
he will be there.
Arms outstretched,
wordlessly waiting to walk me home.

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  • Jan Haag says:

    Wow… what a gorgeous poem, Margo! The whole opening stanza with the “silence [that] came alive in the house” and “the molecules dancing”—as well as “What is the word for choosing to go on / when a part of you has been torn away?” are just stunning, heart-full lines. Thanks for sharing such a beautiful piece.

  • RememberKala says:

    The silence that followed my screams was just as deafening as the screams themselves. Kala, a high school senior, kept the mornings “noisy” with doors and dresser drawers opening and closing; with music blasting; with running water and singing from the shower; with murmurs of what to wear to school today. Then, my house became a place of silence. No more music, no more morning rush, no more singing in the shower….

    By “chance”, as I was sitting in the parking lot of a grocery store a month or so later, crying, and too froze in grief to actually get out of my car and enter the store, one of her teachers saw me and came over to me. She asked if there was any particular time of day she could pray for me. I thought what an odd question, but said yes, mornings are unbearable because my once noisy and busy home was now silent each morning. She promised to pray every morning as she herself was rushing around her own home getting ready to go. That “odd” question ended up giving me strength to face those early days because I knew someone was thinking of my Kala at that exact time I was and that somehow softened the pain.

    Thank you for sharing your story, Jimmy’s story, so openly, and for allow us space to share our own stories. It matters and you are making a difference!

    Much LOVE and tight heart hugs to all of us~

    • Margo Fowkes says:

      Wow .. what an amazing human. To not only pray for you, but to find out exactly what time of day would have the most meaning for you. I know that silence. Deafening is exactly the right word for it. Thank you for sharing Kala’s story, my friend as well as your journey. Sending love and a big hug to you 💙

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