Lera Yanysheva: Lullabye For Her Blood (From Russian Romani)

Lullabye For Her Blood
By Lera Yanysheva
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

The wolves in leafy woods are sleeping.
Rockabye baby, day is done.
Horses are sleeping, birds are dreaming.  
So sleep you snug sweet angel son. 

Just close your eyes for bedtime baby
And oh don't cry I'm begging you.
Or else you'll wake your sleeping papa...
And then what am I going to do? 

My shining sun, God how I love you,
My blessing and my saving grace,
I'm begging you, please don't start crying
Or he will come and break my face. 

His mother will burst in with curses
"Dumb outland tramp! Don't let him yell!"   
She'll hiss "Well? Do something goddammit. 
The poor thing's bawling bloody hell." 

I'm asking you on bended knees now,
Dear little apple of my eye,
Just shut your mouth for mama, sweetie.
Hush little baby. Don't you cry. 

Don't make the neighbors hear him beat me.   
I am so tired, sweet shining sun.
It's almost time to head to market.
So please, sweet dreams now, little one. 

The gadje are asleep till morning.
The lambs and chickens rest in peace.
The young and old are off to dreamland.
No one's awake but the police.

The Original:
For reasons explained on this page, all Cyrillic Romani texts I translate are accompanied by transcription in Roman characters. 

Ратуны Гилы
Лера Янышева

Дро вэш рува́ сарэ́ сутэ́,
Бай-бай, миро́ ту гудлоро́.
Совэ́н грая́ тай чириклэ́.
Сов, чяворо́ совнакуно́!

Закэ́р якха́, миро́ бэя́то,
И на дэ го́дла, тут манга́в.
Тэ ушунэ́л тут тыро́ да́до.
Со ту́са ма́нгэ тэ кэра́в?

Ту кхам миро́, мэ тут кама́ва,
Ту бахт миро́ и камлыпэ́н.
Но на дэ го́дла тут манга́ва,
Ведь ма́нгэ муй ёв розмарэ́л.

Сасу́й явэ́ла тэ кошэ́л ман.
«Лахыйка», — ма́нгэ ёй пхэнэ́л.  
«Ну кэр же варе-со май сы́го,
Бэя́то чёрорро рове́л!»

Мэ по чянга мангав дриван тут,
Тырда́ва мэ кэ ту васта́:
Закэ́р же муй, миро́ ту чяво,
Нэ сов же, сы́го, колбаса!

На кэр сканда́лицо дрэ се́мья.
Сыр кхиныём, мро кхаморо́.
Тэ джяв про та́рго уже вре́мя.
Сов дэвлорэ́са, чяворо́!

Сарэ́ гадже́ сутэ́ ратя́са,
Каґня́ совэ́на тай бакрэ́.
Тэрнэ́, пхурэ́ сунэ́ дыкхэ́на,
Екх халадэ́ нанэ́ сутэ́.

Ratunî Gilî
Lera Janîševa

Dro veš ruva sare sute
Baj-baj, miro tu gudloro.
Soven graja taj čirikle.
Sov, čavoro sovnakuno!

Zaker jakha, miro bejáto
I ná de gódla, tut mangav.
Te ušunel tut tîró dádo.
So túsa mánge te kerav?

Tu kham miro, me tut kamáva,
tu baxt miro i kamlîpén.
No ná de gódla tut mangáva,
Vjedj mánge muj jov rozmarel.

Sasuj javéla te košel man.
"Laxîjka" mánge joj phenel.
"Nu ker že vareso maj sîgo,
Bejáto čororro rovel!"

Me po čanga mangav drivan tut
Tîrdáva me ke tu vasta:
Zaker že muj, miro tu čávo,
Ne sov že, sîgo, kolbasa!

Na ker skandálico dre sjémja.
Sîr khinîjóm, mro khamoro.
Te džav pro tárgo uže vrjémja.
Sov devlorésa, čavoro!

Sare gadže sute ratjása
Kaghnja sovéna taj bakre.
Terne, phure sune dîkhéna,
Jekh xalade nane sute.


Ratunî Gilî: the literal title could be read either as "Night Song" or as "Blood(y) Song." (Rat in the singular nominative means "night" when feminine, and "blood" when masculine, representing the phonologically merged reflex of two originally distinct Indic words.) The only sense for ratuno which lexicons give in North Russian Romani is "bloody" — which is also the only primary sense I've seen it used in, in this dialect. Ratuno does however mean "nocturnal" in many — perhaps most— other Romani dialects.

Stanza 1:
Note — the assonances, multiple internal rhymes, and other phonetic echoes in this stanza. E.g. dro vruvá and sov, čavoró sovnakunó. It contributes to a musical mood in the opening, and almost demands to be sung. (The word čavo takes initial stress in the vocative čávo, as it does here. So too would čavoro have a vocative čávoro — at least according to reference materials I've consulted. Though the poet's text, where stress is marked, seems not to envision this.)

Stanza 2:
Note — the echoes here and later, of mangav(a) "I ask, I demand" and mánge, the dative form of the first person singular pronoun.
Line 3: tîró dádo is how I might have predicted the line would be stressed. Though the poet marks accentuation as tî́ro dádo. Presumably it is poetic license, or perhaps a low-level prosodic rule is operating (of the same kind that in American English causes the end-stressed Tenessée to have its accent shifted back in Ténessee State University to avoid accent-clash.)
The last line literally reads "what am I to do with you?" in Romani. For this line I borrowed from Yanysheva's Russian version, for no other reason than that I liked how it worked in English.

Stanza 3:
kamlîpén: perhaps also meant to echo khamlîpén "sweat"?

This stanza is the only one where the rhyme joining lines 2 and 4 is approximate — the two lines end in different consonants. They both end in a sonorant however, and are compensated for by the perfect -ava rhyme in the same stanza. Still, this interruption in rhyming has the effect of signaling a disjointedness, a wrongness, which is completely in keeping with this stanza's role in fully shifting from singsong lyricism to verse of a much more disturbing nature. It's jarring, and I think that's the point, as the word bearing the inexact rhyme is rozmarel "breaks, smashes open." Had the poet wished to have a full rhyme, she could have easily found one. Rhyming in Romani, as in Russian, is fairly easy thanks to the inflectional morphology.

Stanza 4:

Sasuj javéla te košel man: it isn't entirely clear to me how to read this, whether javéla takes its full semantic force and means "come" or is just an auxiliary verb. The poet's own Russian version doesn't settle this, though it does make me feel, at the very least, that I'm not gravely defacing the poem by translating javéla as a verb of motion.

Bejáto čororro rovel! : The bulk of the poem is in pretty normal North Russian Romani. However, the words attributed to the mother-in-law in this stanza seem to shift into a slightly different dialect. Or at least, a different accent. The doubled r of čororro implies a dialect which preserves the two different rhotics of Early Romani — which North Russian Romani does not, but some other dialects spoken in and near Russia do. Perhaps we're not meant to know which dialect exactly, only that it's different. The other possibility — one that I seems more and more plausible as I think about it — is that the form čororro (instead of čororo) is just a misprint, in which case I've overinterpreted to ridiculous extremes.
The term Laxîjka I was unsure about. I take it as being related to other terms in other dialects like Crimean laxînka and assume it has the sense "Rom woman from somewhere else" and having a pejorative tone as befits the fact that the mother-in-law is košel-ing her.
I'm not clear on what implication to take from this. My sense is that the woman voiced by the poem has married into some Romani family from elsewhere, far from where her own family lives — and is thus cut off from the sort of close-knit Romani kinship network she would have be able to rely upon for succor if she were among "her own."

Stanza 7:
gadže: gadje being to Roms as goyim are to Jews. I couldn't find a way to get around simply using the word "gadje" here.

The implication here is either (a) she knows the gadjo police won't care so they might as well not exist, or (b) that the police might hear, or that someone might call them, and that that would only bring further misery, since whatever she suffers — or is worried about suffering — at her husband's hands, this woman knows it isn't half as bad as what would happen, presumably to the entire family, if the police got involved.

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