Speaking in Tongues: NaPowWrimo 2020, Day 21

For the NaPoWriMo prompt today, we were to find a poem written in another language we do not know and to write a poem according to what we thought it meant. Here is my translation of a poem by a poet from the Netherlands. Her original and a true translation follow.

Messages in Bottles

Messages they send out to the world in bottles
(those they think up as they stir their morning cups of chocolate)
—beware their dangers.
These messengers have hands that can slap you awake,
then abandon you as they return to the problems of the privileged rich.These parasites, dosed with their vitamin B, ride roughshod over their hosts.

They linger in their beautiful dreams of percentages,
profit on the hunger of the poor.
They see not your skeletons when they look in the mirror.
They do not see the hearts they have broken.
Once, surrounded by the stricken, they put their fingers in their ears
and pretended they were evangelists to the poor.
Then, their illusions shattered by going door-to-door, they slammed doors shut again.

Their messages in bottles are swift to flow away.
The ocean has no doors to slam in their faces.
And their heads bent in prayer will not open those doors they have closed.
The ballast their bottles carry does no good.
The hunger of the world has no stake in the good books they carry.
The mood of their verses is malevolent. The vows they swear
are words in a wind that has come too late.
                                                                 –Judy Dykstra-Brown, April 21, 2020
Below is the poem in  Dutch, its original language—the language  my grandparents and father grew up speaking. I know about 5 words in it–and the alphabet!


Meisje van botten en pezen praat een wereld
aan elkaar van ’s avonds drop en chocola
de rijst voor straks bewaren, dagelijks
een handje noten voor het slapen en alleen
geen kaas vanwege mogelijke huidproblemen.

Heeft het over parasieten, vitamine B, genetisch
aangejaagde schommelingen in haar percentages
vet op water. De honger heeft het laatste vlees
van haar skelet gegeten en nu lukt het niet meer
om haar vast te pakken zonder haar te breken.
Onze enveloppen met de stokken, potten pindakaas

en preken neemt ze met een glimlach in ontvangst en
spoelt ze daarna ongeopend door haar lievelings-wc.Meisje van botten en pezen zweeft bij ons vandaanen wij, gebonden door de zwaartekracht, kunnen alleen
nog van beneden naar haar roepen dat ze haar verloren
ballast altijd terug omhoog mag hijsen, dat het nooit
te laat is om het hongeren te staken, een buik te kweken
om moed in te verzamelen, een vrouw van gewicht
te worden en de wind de wind te laten.
                                                       —© 2018, Gerda Blees Uit: DwaallichtenUitgever:                                                                                    Uitgeverij Podium, Amsterdam, 2018.


And here is a translation into English of the above poem. I did not read this translation until after I had written mine. Obviously!! But, it is interesting that the idea of hunger did come across, somehow, although my poem is in an expanded world context whereas her poem about anorexia is very personal. I prefer hers!

The prompt for NaPoWriMo 2020 day 21 was to find a poem written in another language that you do not know and to write a poem about what you think it says.

7 thoughts on “Speaking in Tongues: NaPowWrimo 2020, Day 21

  1. lifelessons Post author

    Reblogged this on lifelessons – a blog by Judy Dykstra-Brown and commented:

    Our assignment was to pick a poem in a foreign language we didn’t know and to write a poem saying what we think it means.  I have done this twice for NaPoWriMo in the past 13 years so I’m going to say turnabout is fair play and do a reblog.  My excuse is that I have literally been on the phone, internet and emails for 12 hours trying to do my taxes… dealing with banks in U.S and Mexico, Charles Schwab, my investment people and my sister.  Going crazy!!! A friend just pointed out I hadn’t don’t NaPoWriMo for the first time yesterday and today. Mea Culpa.  I’ve been distracted.  So, here is the reblog:


  2. Pingback: Speaking in Tongues: NaPoWriMo 2023 Day 6, | lifelessons – a blog by Judy Dykstra-Brown

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.