Emilie

I was hoping to make this into a podcast, inspired by Stephanie’s dialect poetry, but it’s not working out. So instead, you get the same poem twice in print: once in Dutch and once in English. It was actually an interesting exercise, because you don’t just ‘translate’ a poem. Really, you write it all over again. So if you are bilingual, read both versions – perhaps you have a favourite?

For my first ever niece

Lieve Emilie,

Jij noemt hem papa
– of eigenlijk noem je niet,
je kijkt en denkt
hij is een warme
vorm vol veiligheid –
papa, dus, voor jou.

Voor mij: broertje.
Altijd vijftien in mijn hoofd
lang haar en fijn gezicht
en t-shirts uit de Large
een cello, even groot als hij,
een stille denker
rekenwonder
dichter, zanger
en acteur.

Nu is hij jouw papa
en jij zijn allerliefste Emilie.

Zijn haar is kort
en hij draagt pakken
rijdt een auto van de zaak
en elk moment zingt hij van binnen
omdat jij in zijn leven bent.

Jij kijkt en denkt
Jij groeit en leert:
Die handen, dat gezicht
De ogen die maar kijken
lachend, vol met liefde,
papa heet hij
papa nu.

Ik blijf het zeggen
want het lijkt zo vreemd
hoe één klein mensje
zoon en broer en man
voor altijd zo veranderen kan

maar ja

jij kent hem toch niet anders
dan die man die
alles voor jou over heeft
altijd in je blijft geloven
een veilige haven
een rots in de branding
je vaste anker
je trouwe vriend
altijd blijft hij van je houden:

papa

je papa.

(c) Judith Kingston, 2013

Dear Emilie

You call him Daddy
– though really you don’t

say anything at all
you watch and think
he is a warm
safe shape –
so: Daddy, he is to you.

To me: brother
always fifteen in my mind
long hair, fine features,
black t-shirts with band names
swamp his frame
like the cello that he plays.
A quiet thinker
a mathematician
an actor, a singer
a crafter of words.

Now he is your Daddy
and you his dearest little Emilie.

His hair is short
and he wears suits now
jet-sets, analyses and consults
and every heartbeat is a song now
because you have come into the world.

You watch and think
You grow and learn
Those hands, that face
The eyes that gaze
laughing, full of love:
the word is Daddy
Daddy, now.

I keep repeating and repeating
because it strikes me as so strange
that such a tiny little person
can change who someone is, for ever:
son, brother, husband, man –

But then

you have only ever known him 
as the man who would do
anything
for you
who will always keep believing
your safe haven
your protector
your rock
your friend
his love is for ever

He is: Daddy.

Your Daddy.

(c) Judith Kingston, 2013

 

Prose for Thought, you can’t get rid of me. Soz.

18 responses

  1. Oh I would love to hear it!! If you want help getting it up as audio just let me know.

    The line about a tiny person changing who we are really struck a cord. So true.

    • I would like to put the audio up if I can actually. Having trouble getting onto soundcloud. Will give it another go but if it keeps getting stuck then could you host it?

  2. As I told you on facebook, I cannot read this without welling up. Definitely prefer the Dutch, mainly because “papa” hits closer to home than “daddy”. Love you!

    • that makes perfect sense – conversely, The Husband prefers it when the kids call him Daddy, as it means more to him than “papa”. Love you too, you are a great papa!! x

  3. I love this poem it is so true how easily such a tiny scrap of humanity can change a person forever! She is so lucky to have such a wonderful Daddy!

  4. Glad I read this via Prose for Thought. Becoming an auntie to a sibling’s child is such a moving experience. You expressed it beautifully. Wish I could compare the two but sadly Dutch beyond me!

  5. This is gorgeous. I love both versions for different reasons. I love the Dutch version because it looks so beautiful. I love the English because I can understand it (!) and because it has such a beautiful meaning. Thanks for linking to Prose for Thought x

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