Caveat: Poem #1348 “What they said about Michelle”

The trees surround us. "Find your way," they say.
The stones are singing, night and day, they say.
They sing their geologic dirges, then.
They grasp the roots of trees and play, they say.
A raven might make signs across the sky.
That kind of bird can't see the gray, they say.
You waited but refused to change your mind.
Your ghost just watched and didn't say, they say.
I saw it once out on the tidal flats.
You'd hoped that I could learn to pray, they say.
The orange-hued bits of sun revealed your face.
It seemed to you I'd lost my way, they say.

– a ghazal with six couplets. Ghazal is an originally Arabic poetic form, later popularized and spread through the old world by the Persians. It has a long history of adaptation into different languages, including into English. I was struck by the repeating identical refrain of the second line of each couplet, and I felt it demanded an adaptation to the “second-hand-orality” (my own term) that I’ve seen in a lot of translations of classical Haida and Tlingit literature here in Southeast Alaska. Aside from constraints on theme and voice, and of course the repeated rhyme and refrain, there seems to be some freedom with respect to meter – it only demands that it be in some kind of consistent meter – so I’ve chosen iambic pentameter as fairly appropriate for an English adaptation.

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