‘The Headless Bird’ by Ileana Mãlãncioiu

According to custom, the old people have shut me away
not to scare me stupid when they killed the bird,
and I am listening by the bolted door
to the trampling and the struggle.

I twist the lock time has worn thin
to forget what I have heard, to get away
from this struggle where
the body races after the head.

And I jump when the eyes, thick with fear
turn backwards, turn white,
they look like grains of maize,
the others come and peck at them.

I take the head in one hand, the rest in the other,
and when the weight grows too much I switch them
until they are dead, so they are still connected
at least in this way, through my body.

But the head dies sooner,
as if the cut had not been properly done,
and so that the body does not struggle alone
I wait for death to reach it passing through me.

© Ileana Mãlãncioiu,  English  Trans. Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin

Ileana Mãlãncioiu is a familiar poet to Irish readers, she is translated here by Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin. Her recent books are  After the Raising of Lazarus, (SouthWord Editions) and Legend of the Walled-Up Wife (Gallery Press).

I thought to do a short post today on the work of collaborative translation, which my readers will know that I prefer in the approach to disseminating poetic literature. I also prefer bilingual poetry editions where possible. I think there is a good tradition of collaboration and poetic sympathy in Irish translators’ work, be it in Hugh Maxton’s sympathetic approach to the wonderful  Nagy, or Peter Fallon’s translations of The Georgics Of Virgil. I have also recommended  Tess Gallagher‘s translations of Liliana Ursu, and John Felstiner’s translations of Todesfuge  by Paul Celan, as demonstrative of sympathetic approach in poetry translation.

Poethead readers interested in reading more on Ileana Mãlãncioiu can access her reviews, her books, and websites which I have included below this brief post in Related Links. I particularly recommend Jennifer Matthews’ review of Legend of the Walled-Up Wife for SouthWord.

Related Links

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