Rexa Zoelfman: Waking (From Laisaluga)

Here's a sonnet I have loved for years, translated from a language whose poets so rarely employ the sonnet form, unfortunately. 

By Rexa Zoelfman
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

Hearing a sound that ought to be your sleep
I reach and set my heart on your left hand
But find the window: winter, ankle-deep
In autumn, hates the pathways of the land.
But snow is slowly stepping down the tree
Where morning tried to speak, but mused in rain.
I lie back, wondering if you also see
What dreams we are begetting in my brain:

Years roll along our faces and we cling
To bedsheets and each other. In cold light
Snow melts between our bodies. Everything
We do shall stake our claim to all the night.
I turn against your ceiling with our cry
As if to look for kinship with the sky.

The Original:

Rexa Zoelfman

Xomé takai talonti vitrok sün
Momú kai latri mik kor vitrok sin
Ma trewu qo ferfatai: Herazün
Pedlunge xi qibranai doro xin.
Ma nolge newu peto dendriné
Txa motro paulet pürka txü plük fal.
El rebaskú kai pregu hek vit vé
Mai rezui est txü nitrok tetmonal.

Hai hokorú figaiper kai txelú
En nitrakón, en loqfarín, en pai.
Ex lumper kaxnu newu. Heimarú
Ie vitrok maka tolu honter lai.
Vitrok metonper kansu kailaséq
Kehapesú kedrán xo kuxmonéq.


  1. Good to see there are more people interested in Laisaluga! I've been learning it for a couple of years, but can't make much progress due to the lack of available material. As for the poem, I enjoyed greatly your last verse: translating "kuxmonéq" into "sky" has not only maintained the rhyme scheme but also preserved the "atmospherical" tone of the word (or at least how I perceive it). The surreptitiously emphatic "kinship" has also a great aesthetical effect, as it echoes back the "affinal" quality of the poem. :)

  2. Hey friend, what is laisaluga? Is it a conlang? It does appear anywhere on the web!

  3. Hey friend, what is laisaluga? Is it a conlang? It does not appear anywhere on the web!

  4. Rexa Zoelfman would seem to be an anagram of Alex Z Foreman. Coincidence? You decide! Would you care to enlighten us about the genesis of Laisaluga?

  5. It's extraordinary that after all of 18 hours' intensive research the excellent sonnet above remains not only the only sonnet in Laisaluga known to me, but, in fact, the only text I've come across in that language.

    Though Laisaluga looks rather like Basque (eg, the "tx" combination seen frequently above), there are telltale signs that, unlike Basque, it has a certain degree of Indo-European and indeed specifically Romance ancestry. While the translation, rhyming and scanning as it does, may not be absolutely literal, and while the word order of Laisaluga may conceivably differ from European norms, one can with a fair degree of confidence identify the roots of such words as "suen", "sleep", in Italian, "sonno"; "sin", "left (hand)", in Latin "sinister"; "trewu", "find", in French "trouver"; "pluek", "rain", in French "pluie". A composite term like "pedlunge" for "ankle-deep" seems clearly composed of similar roots to the Italian "piede" and "lungo" (ie, "foot-long"), or their slightly less close analogues in various other Romance languages; the word for brain, "tetmonal", almost incorporates the French for "head"; and there's also an obvious logic to the rendering of "lie back" as "rebascu". I am, however, on less sure footing with the sestet, where there are fewer obvious correspondences.

    It's possible, of course, that Laisaluga (whose name sounds rather Finno-Ugric) is a non-Indo-European language which has, at some stage of its evolution, undergone a profound infusion of Romance vocabulary, rather as was the case with Maltese. However, it would I think be unusual for this to permeate so deeply as to infiltrate basic vocabulary like most of the above (in Maltese, the base vocabulary is primarily Arabic, just as in English, most everyday terms are Anglo-Saxon). Maybe, therefore, Laisaluga is essentially a Romance language which however has inherited certain terms from an older non-Indo-European language spoken in the same region. A fuller exposition, however, will have to wait until further samples of text can be unearthed; from the current sample, for instance, it's not wholly clear to me (although it seemed to be to Selk'nam112) whether "kuxmoneq" means "sky" or "kinship".

    One curiosity - not being a Laisaluga speaker, I first deduced that "mik" meant "my", "nitrok" meant "our" (a supposition substantiated by the fact that "en nitrakon" appears to mean "each other"), and "vitrok" was "your". This again suggests a Romance root, since it seems analogous to the M / N / V distinction between first person singular, first person plural and second person plural (or polite) in French. Yet if that's the case, and the translation is accurate, shouldn't the second word in the fourth line of the sestet read "nitrok" rather than "vitrok"? I trust you have not made an error in transliterating this most important sample of Laisaluga literature! Moreover, while excusable in the effort to create a rhyming translation, the apparent change from "our brains" ("nitrok tetmonal") to "my brain" does seem to sacrifice some of the original's stress on the couple's shared experience. Still, perhaps such imperfections are, when translating from such a subtle and complex tongue as Laisaluga, inevitable.