Multilingual poem by Merlinda Bobis

Introducing our podcast with Filipino-Australian poet Merlinda Bobis, I mentioned her poem ‘siesta’, an innovative multilingual work. In the podcast, she spoke about her writing in Filipino and English, and the way in which it is mediated by her first language, Bikol. Thanks to Merlinda’s generosity, we are able to reprint her poem ‘siesta’ in this blogpost so that readers can enjoy an example of her multilingual writing.

 siesta 

 take me not
 in mid-winter,
 only to thaw the frost
 of your old bones
 imagining how stallions rear
 in the outback,
 hooves raised to this August light,
  
 kakaibang liwanag,
 kasimputla’t kasinglamig
 ng hubad na peras.*
  
 but take me
 on a humid afternoon
 made for siesta,
 when my knees almost ache
 from daydreaming of mangoes,
 tree-ripe
 and just right,
  
 at higit sa lahat
 mas matamis, makatas
 kaysa sa unang halik ng mansanas.*
  
  
  
  
 ––––––––––––––––––––––––
 *‘alien light,
 as  pale and cold
 as a naked pear’
             
 plucked from my tongue         you have wrapped
 in a plastic bag with the $3 mango 
 from woolworths 
  
 while i conjured an orchard
 from back home — mangoes gold and not for sale, and
  
 *‘above all,
 sweeter, more succulent
 than the first  kiss of the apple.’   

From Summer was a Fast Train without Terminals (Spinifex, 1998, 8).

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