You’re the sole inhabitant of an island
known only to you, encircled
by a surf of wind
and a silence barely touched
by a barn owl’s wingbeats.
You can see a broken plough
and a threshing machine whose skeleton houses
one last gleam of sun.
You see summer shrunk into a scarecrow
whose nightmares disturb the wheat.
You see the irrigation ditch in whose depths your missing friend
grabs hold of the paper boat you launched.
You see the town and fields spread out
like pages in a spelling book
where one day you’ll realize you’ve read
the true history of happiness.
The storekeeper goes out to close the shutters.
The farmer’s daughters herd the chickens in.
In the sky, the eyes of strange fish
begin a menacing vigil.
Better return to earth now.
Your dog comes bounding up to meet you.
Your island sinks in the sea of night.
A un niño en un árbol
de Jorge Teillier
Eres el único habitante
de una isla que sólo tú conoces,
rodeada del oleaje del viento
y del silencio rozado apenas
por las alas de una lechuza.
Ves un arado roto
y una trilladora cuyo esqueleto
permite un último relumbre del sol.
Ves al verano convertido en un espantapájaros
cuyas pesadillas angustian los sembrados.
Ves la acequia en cuyo fondo tu amigo desaparecido
toma el barco de papel que echaste a navegar.
Ves al pueblo y los campos extendidos
como las páginas del silabario
donde un día sabrás que leíste
la historia de la felicidad.
El almacenero sale a cerrar los postigos.
Las hijas del granjero encierran las gallinas.
Ojos de extraños peces
miran amenazantes desde el cielo.
Hay que volver a tierra.
Tu perro viene a saltos a encontrarte.
Tu isla se hunde en el mar de la noche.
I came across this poem just this morning, and decided to try translating it for the 50th edition of the Festival of the Trees (submissions due by midnight!). The host this time is Growing with Science Blog, and the theme: Trees through a child’s eyes.
Climbing trees was a regular activity for my brothers and me when we were kids. Mom warned us to be careful and look out for each other, but other than that, she and Dad encouraged us to explore, for which I am eternally grateful. We stayed away from fruit trees and other species we knew to have brittle banches, but we certainly didn’t shy away from tackling the tallest trees we could get up into. Usually, these were woods’-edge trees with a convenient ladder of limbs on the field side.
Needless to see, this was free-hand climbing, usually with bare feet for added traction. We tried building tree forts a couple of times, but none of us really had the carpentry skills to make it happen, and besides, if you climb high enough, the leafy branches close in and it’s just as easy to pretend you’re surrounded by walls. Tellier’s poem resonated with me, even though we don’t live in sight of town, because it really captures that shipwrecked experience of being alone in the top of a tree, and seeing how things below seem to grow distant in time as well as in space.
In some way that I can’t quite put into words, climbing trees strikes me as an essential experience — one that teaches you things you can’t learn any other way. Our physiognomy still reflects the arboreal habitat of our not-so-distant ancestors; watching the tree elves in Lord of the Rings or the Na’vi in Avatar, we’re struck by a powerful nostalgia. Trees are almost like godparents, nurturing, teaching us both how to aspire and how to respect our limits. It saddens me to think how many kids these days never get to learn such things.