Friday, July 10, 2015

When words were like magic

This week Ms. Mallard rests under the willow with her rapidly growing children.
That is she facing away in the duck-clump on the right. One of her children
stretches his neck in the center. In the wood ducks, it is often the male who raises
up and looks around like this, but I cannot tell the males from the females yet
in this batch. There is a larger group that are beginning to put on adult feathering now.
And it has only been a couple of weeks since I saw another mother with only two:
one completely yellow and one black-brown, and not more than a week or so old.
I love the way the willow turns the sunlight on the water green.


In the very earliest time,
when both people and animals lived on earth,
a person could become an animal if he wanted to and an animal
could become a human being.
Sometimes they were people
and sometimes animals
and there was no difference.
All spoke the same language.

That was the time when words were like magic.
The human mind had mysterious powers.
A word spoken by chance
might have strange consequences.
It would suddenly come alive
and what people wanted to happen could happen—
all you had to do was say it.
Nobody could explain this:
That's the way it was.

translated from the Inuit by Edward Field

an international anthology of poetry. 
Edited and with an introduction 
by Czeslaw Milosz, Harcourt, 1996, page 268.

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