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Poem: "A Chorus of Voices" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith
ysabetwordsmith
Poem: "A Chorus of Voices"

This is today's freebie.  It was inspired by a prompt from aura55.  You can read other poems in the Hart's Farm series through the Serial Poetry page.


A Chorus of Voices


Auduna walked through the farm,
listening to the odd swirl of conversations around her.
She spoke Swedish, and only Swedish,
and it had always been enough before.
But the farmborn spoke Swedish,
and Norwegian, and Irish, and English,
so that sometimes it all jumbled together
into something unique to their family.

Auduna cupped a hand over her swelling belly,
and realized that her child would grow up
with this sprawl of languages
that she herself could not always follow;
and it made her feel a little bit left out.

She took the stack of fresh dropcloths to the atelier
in the common house where Finlo and Inge
were entertaining the visiting French painter Fabrice.
Inge was already bent over her canvas,
with her backside hanging out of a paint-spattered apron,
while Finlo used his terrible French
to converse with Fabrice, busy at another canvas,
his dark brown hair already mussed
and his fluffy moustache smudged with paint
because he held his spare brush in his mouth.

Seated on a stool was a nude girl
like nobody Auduna had seen before --
straight black hair sleek as a horse's mane,
dark eyes tilted up at the corners,
skin the pale gold of sunlight before dawn.

"Auduna, you haven't met Ayako yet,
come and make friends!" said Finlo.
He flapped his hands at the girl,
motioning that she could get up and stretch.
Ayako smiled shyly at Auduna,
not showing any of her teeth,
as she accepted a cloth to wrap herself
and went to stand by the pot-bellied stove.

"You are very beautiful," Auduna said.
Ayako said something in a strange swooping tone
that rose and fell like birdsong.
"Belle," Fabrice prompted Auduna, (1)
pronouncing the word slowly and carefully.
"Belle," Auduna repeated,
and apparently Ayako understood French,
because she smiled again.

Finlo added, "In Irish we could say
Tá súile galánta donna aici.
She has beautiful brown eyes." (2)
So Auduna repeated that too,
stumbling over the unfamiliar words.

Ayako spread her golden fingers
over Auduna's rounded belly
and said something to Fabrice.
The Frenchman translated,
"Ayako wishes you a healthy baby."

Suddenly Auduna realized
that no matter what language people spoke,
they tended to say the same things,
a chorus of voices twining together
in melody and harmony,
as familiar as the touch of mother and child.

   *   *   *

1) The French word for "beautiful" is belle.

2) Tá súile galánta donna aici. for "She has beautiful brown eyes." appears on Talk Irish.

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Comments
aura55 From: aura55 Date: June 19th, 2012 07:51 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, this is gorgeous! =) Thank you so much for writing it.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: June 19th, 2012 08:04 pm (UTC) (Link)

*bow, flourish*

You're welcome! I'm glad you like it. Languages are a favorite motif of mine, and this community has mixed ancestry so I decided they could keep their various heritage languages alive. And they like people, so if you drop a foreigner into their midst ... well, they do this.
aura55 From: aura55 Date: June 19th, 2012 08:14 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: *bow, flourish*

Yes, I am fond of languages as well. =) I really like it how we tend to develop really specific shared vocabulary and sometimes even grammar with certain people. Also how people will change their accent or dialect based on who they speak to (my father always does this, he speaks in a completely different accent with his brothers than with the rest of us). And the evolution of this personal language is also really interesting, since it's based on so many things.

I really liked Auduna's reaction. How she felt left out at first, but then realized she doesn't have to know the languages to be included. =) The juxtaposition of family speak and trying to communicate with somebody you have no languages in common with is also really awesome.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: June 25th, 2012 01:41 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: *bow, flourish*

>> Yes, I am fond of languages as well. =) I really like it how we tend to develop really specific shared vocabulary and sometimes even grammar with certain people. <<

This series already has bits of Swedish and Irish scattered through it. There will probably be more. I like writing stuff with a specific ethnic background because it gives me specific sources to use. So then that comes out in the storytelling. Here people have taken bits of several different cultures and woven them together into something that is related, yet unique. So it's going to show in the way they speak.

>> Also how people will change their accent or dialect based on who they speak to (my father always does this, he speaks in a completely different accent with his brothers than with the rest of us). And the evolution of this personal language is also really interesting, since it's based on so many things. <<

The linguistic term for that shift is "code-switching." It's a cool concept.

>> I really liked Auduna's reaction. How she felt left out at first, but then realized she doesn't have to know the languages to be included. =) The juxtaposition of family speak and trying to communicate with somebody you have no languages in common with is also really awesome. <<

I think there will be more of this also. Some of the poems are about knowing and appreciating who you are, and others are about discovering who you are.
janetmiles From: janetmiles Date: June 19th, 2012 07:59 pm (UTC) (Link)
I love the reminder that "no matter what language people spoke, they tended to say the same things".
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: June 25th, 2012 01:57 am (UTC) (Link)

Yay!

I'm glad this worked for you.

There's a linguistic observation that anything someone wants to say, can be said in any language. It's just easier to say some things in certain languages, because the grammar and vocabulary varies. But hey, there's a YouTube of a guy talking about his iPod in Dine. It's possible.
meeksp From: meeksp Date: June 19th, 2012 08:41 pm (UTC) (Link)
I like this :) I grew up in a mixed-language household, myself, and we did develop some private vocabulary, often by mashing two or more languages together and using the result.

I'm curious about Ayako! Why does she understand French, and how did she end up in Sweden?
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: June 20th, 2012 01:21 am (UTC) (Link)

Poem

See the thumbnail for "A Kettle of Fish" under the fishbowl post.
rickybuchanan From: rickybuchanan Date: June 20th, 2012 03:48 am (UTC) (Link)
Ohhhh, this is very lovely!

Although I only speak English and limited Auslan (Australian sign language) I adore being in spaces where there are multiple other languages around too. It seems so much richer to me!
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: June 20th, 2012 04:03 am (UTC) (Link)

Yay!

>>Ohhhh, this is very lovely!<<

Thank you!

>>Although I only speak English and limited Auslan (Australian sign language) I adore being in spaces where there are multiple other languages around too. It seems so much richer to me!<<

I haven't seen Auslan, but I know a few words in American Sign Language and in Plains Indian Sign. I tend to switch that way when I lose my voice.

There is another poem from today's fishbowl (not sponsored or posted yet) that follows "A Chorus of Voices," since meeksp asked how Ayako came to Sweden. "A Kettle of Fish" shows her and Fabrice in the kitchen, with a bit more linguistic juggling.
je_reviens From: je_reviens Date: July 3rd, 2012 05:54 pm (UTC) (Link)
Come take the Metra to downtown Chicago. I swear, it sometimes seems like English is the minority language since I hear it here so rarely.
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