Sunday, February 6, 2011

Lost in Translation

We don’t understand one another, though we share the
same language. We group our words and hurl them,
like sharpened stones, hoping to penetrate
doors that never open.

Listen, there is wailing behind the wall!
And while some of us are clamoring to get in,
others are screaming to get out.
Even if the gates open
and everyone converges,
each takes his wall with him.

Who hears those silent cries of anguish
behind the fence of fear?
We wage word wars with one another
over differences in perception,
unaware that we are being played.

It’s as if a clever master set the stage
so the actors never know
that even when they shed their roles,
their masks remain.

When the play is over, some applaud;
some thrust insults and say it was a sham.
Most simply walk away, confused.

What happened here? What was it all about?
Inside the wall, or out,
alone or together, voices mingle, clash,
forever caught in the net of time
we choke on unsaid words.

And even when a thing is known,
absorbed, and carried in one’s bones…
millions more still question
the truth of it.

Observers will be criticized for not acting,
actors condemned for continuing the charade,
the audience is never satisfied …

and the trickster just laughs.


*First publication.


Jim Murdoch said...

I like the imagery here but I think you stay too long on the page. What would you think about cutting the last four stanzas completely and ending the poem with the great punch line, “Most simply walk away, confused.”? When I read the poem this feels like a natural cadence – an amen – and then we’re suddenly off with an afterthought, at least that’s how I read it. I used a similar metaphor to your opening stanza in a short story once which included the line, “Short, sharp words fired at will.” Of course as soon as you mention plays it’s impossible not to think of “All the world’s a stage” but no one’s going to write a line better than that, eh?

awyn said...

Poem on a page, overstaying by its Wait-a-minute-I-got-something-more-to-say, appended afterthought. You are right, and those last lines could be two other poems (about "choking on unsaid words" and that ever-present trickster laughing, "Wrap it up already, the reader's halfway out the door.") Thanks, Jim.

McKenna Donovan said...

Good morning, and thank you for posting this! I loved the "We group our words and hurl them, like sharpened stones, hoping to penetrate doors that never open."

SO very apt! Most would consider that others hear us, but don't open the door. It made me wonder how many people stand at my closed doors, for whom I never open.

Jim Murdoch pointed out your blog on Ash Joie Lee's MeetnGreet blog at I would like to add your blog to my author, Author! links on

Nice to meet you, and I shall return to read more of your enticing work! Thank you!

Ash said...

Ah, that ole trickster! I enjoyed this. Being from the SW, I like references to the trickster and I see your Kokopelli image in your sidebar--makes me feel at home. :)
Came by due to a recommendation from Jim. Am glad he introduced your blog to us!

awyn said...

Thank you, McKenna and Ash for visiting and for your kind comments. I enjoyed reading your adventures driving in Italy (in Aquila Review), McKenna.

And thanks to one of the links on your blog, Ash, I've discovered an answer to a question re: writing/publishing I've had. Thank you both, and welcome.