she always says she dreams
in her mother tongue
speaks in English but
'not every notion translates to another tongue'
they say it almost gets there
but just misses the mark
what's the word what's the word?
"mis see sõna on? mis see sõna on?"
how you say it in English?
"kuidas seda öelda inglise keeles?"
it's the first word we learn: "pagendus"
but we can't translate it, know it:
those first weeks in September '44
hours, days, weeks of uncertainty:
"Will we all be slain or deported?"
I saw it all, she says,
the train wagons, the trucks, the despair
my family didn't sleep, I was sleepless too
The occupation was far more horrible than Hitchcock's movies
The Birds, do you know it?
Watching that was like a children's game
not horrible at all
but what happened there, in our country,
what happened there,
that was really horrible,
trampled the earth scorched,
the earthbound weight of the
hollows emptied out
into our hearts: hunted haunted
they took it all into exile:
blue moods not-sleeping moody blues
with the sun setting now
on a foreign channel, an unfamiliar language:
"what's the word, what's the word?"
days and darkness shadow-curves
you drank wine, too much
and ordered Estonian rye bread from a bakery
two and a half hours away
when they left their country
they carried their Nordic gloom
like a prize and a curse
they looked towards the sun
setting in another place a different fashion
in exile they knew never to look back
but still they came undone
their rolled r's starched op shop suits heavy European accents
Pretend what you like: they never fitted in
I could hear the English words the neighbouring children spoke:
gobbledegook gibberish wogs refos gobbledegook
they didn't know they were laughed at
but I wanted to slap them, the Aussie kids
tell them the only thing my mother had of her fathers was a ring
and a last letter from Siberia
show them the packages of nylons biros Levi jeans shampoo wigs we'd send to the Baltic States
and how us children would have to add the four letters the adults would refuse to pen:
Pretend what you like: during the war they were
Pretend what you like: assimilation never bloody happened
their English their spirit their sleep was
they drank too much red wine
ate too much rye bread
rolled their r's like madmen
their hearts prized open, cursed apart
drinking eating rolling in the gutters
looking up at the apocalyptic sun
setting on another channel
a different coloured sky
with the letter 'r'
rolling off the page