Harmonics

Earl Livings

 

For Veronica Calarco and her Knowing Place series, Stiwdio Maelor, Wales

 

To birth our first tongue

we plunge into the music

of those who speak to us

and around us, cradle

to kitchen table, make sense

out of our nonsense replies

to their words, fine-tune

our ear and mind with chatter,

books and blackboard lessons,

live the language in landscapes

of playground, city, country

and nature, till world and words

become our own music

without our thinking of it

 

To earn a second language needs

more than paper learning

from dictionary and grammar book,

which can only give us

Mae’r haul yn disgleirio,

‘The sun is shining’,

Not Mae’r haul yn gwenu,

‘The sun is smiling’,

the native speaker’s lifetime

of intimate rhythms

in landscape and breath

 

Harder still to express two worlds

of adoption and heritage

in picture or story when the words

and melody of one are lost,

or fragmented, or withheld,

snatches, glimpses, hints only

to help us reconstruct

Ngawak walang, back-stone,

from the phrase itself, not

from the lived learning

of landscape and speaker—

back of the stone, behind the stone,

a stone to rest the back

 

Leaving us the only burden:

to make sense of more than

stolen histories, faded music

by quickening with tools

of haunted eye, ear and mind

a death-right anthem that rouses

and haloes all our worlds

 

 

Earl Livings has published literary and speculative poetry and fiction in Australia and also Britain, Ireland, Canada, the USA, and Germany. His writing focuses on science, history, nature, mythology and the sacred. In December 2018, Ginninderra Press published his second poetry collection, Libation, and he is currently working on an historical fantasy novel set in 6th century Britain.

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