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Segovia: like the first day

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Tomás Segovia

1927-2011. Born in Spain and exiled during the civil war to Mexico. 

I am taken with Segovia’s poem at the moment and wanted to share it with you. A translated poem will never be faithful to the original; the nature of poetry won’t allow it. So I find my English version is terribly lacking, but here they are!

Como el primer día

Como el primer día
de mi llegada aquí,
a veces la memoria se me pierde
y me encuentro yacente por el suelo
sin hueso ni contorno
ignorando qué vida de qué mundo
de qué recuerdo es ésta.

-Pero tú no me olvides,
dulce tierra sin rostro
cuyo recuerdo pierdo a cada instante,
cuyo sabor me escapa,
cuyos ojos de amor no reconozco.

Oh, no me olvides, me memoria es viento;
me disuelvo en la noche día a día
si tú no guardas algo
de este turbio latido
que derramado apenas humedece
tu vasta frente donde la memoria
es oscura y sin fin como un olvido.

Like the First Day

Like the first day
Of my arrival here,
Sometimes my memory is lost
And I find myself lying on the ground
With no bones, no outline
Not knowing which life, from which world,
From which memory this is.

But you don’t forget me,
sweet, faceless earth
whose memory I lose every moment,
whose taste eludes me
whose loving eyes I don’t recognise.

Oh, don’t forget me, my memory is like wind;
I dissolve night after night
If you don’t keep something
Of this murky pulse
Which, when shed, scarcely dampens
Your vast forehead where memory
As as dark and endless as oblivion.

Do you speak Spanish? If so, any ideas? If not, go learn it and get back to me, please!


Where are you from?

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n. The point or place where something begins, arises, or is derived.

I have been thinking about a film I saw last year, Né Quelque Part, about a young French man who goes on a journey to protect his family’s old house in Algeria from being demolished. He says in voice over, “When someone asks where I’m from I say Algeria, but I’ve never even been there.” He goes not only to discover his father’s house, his homeland, his extended family, but also that bit of himself that makes him identify more with Algeria than France.

Affiche Né quelque part

Does this reflex to state one’s parents’ or grandparents’ origins, rather than the country in which one was born and grew up, come from within? A need to honour and remember one’s roots? Or does it come from the pressures of society, a society obsessed with defining people? (Have you seen What Kind of Asian Are You?)

I wonder about the importance of the connection to one’s native land. The connection is never felt as strongly as when it is broken, a sensation I have witnessed as an expat in Paris. Living in self inflicted exile I am grateful that no-one or no situation has forced me to leave Britain and that nothing is preventing me from returning whenever I want.

I certainly feel a pull to my homeland and I am sure it isn’t just to my family but also to the landscape, to the piece of earth I grew up on. And of course I have only realised this after leaving; if travelling and living in another country doesn’t increase your love of a new culture it will surely increase your love of home.

The grass in the pleasant land of Yorkshire is most definitely greener than that in Paris.

Yet I love my life in Paris, I find so much joy in all the city has to offer. And as the time passes I find it harder and harder to assimilate my life and my identity here with that of the ‘Yorkshire me’. At times I feel a stranger in both lands; enraged by the lack of a queuing system when getting on a bus in Paris; confused by walking into a shop in England and the staff not saying ‘Hello’; eating Marmite on toast for breakfast in Paris; turning my nose up at the terrible excuse for a ‘baguette’ in English supermarkets.

Is where you come from simply the origin of birth, the place(s) you grew up, your ancestry? Is it metaphysical, is it all in the mind? And is it important?

Charles Baudelaire – Le Spleen de Paris

– Qui aimes-tu le mieux, homme énigmatique, dis ? ton père, ta mère, ta soeur ou ton frère ?
– Je n’ai ni père, ni mère, ni soeur, ni frère.
– Tes amis ?
– Vous vous servez là d’une parole dont le sens m’est resté jusqu’à ce jour inconnu.
– Ta patrie ?
– J’ignore sous quelle latitude elle est située.
– La beauté ?
– Je l’aimerais volontiers, déesse et immortelle.
– L’or ?
– Je le hais comme vous haïssez Dieu.
– Eh! qu’aimes-tu donc, extraordinaire étranger ?
– J’aime les nuages… les nuages qui passent… là-bas… là-bas… les merveilleux nuages !