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Poem: "Dancing with the Beast of Tanagra" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
Poem: "Dancing with the Beast of Tanagra"
This poem came out of the November 3, 2009 Poetry Fishbowl. It was prompted by stonetalker, cheered by several other people, and sponsored by janetmiles. It refers to an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation and there is a "Darmok Dictionary" online. I am really pleased to be able to share this with you, because "Darmok" was one of my favorite episodes and a splendid example of xenolinguistics.

Dancing with the Beast of Tanagra

“Darmok” –
This was the episode
I watched with my ears set to the screen
and a cup of tea cooling in my hands,
a friend and myself knee-to-knee on the floor,
both of us calling out translations and hypotheses
as quickly as we could think of them,
breathless and laughing,
even in the face of tragedy.

Even when we guessed wrong
and had to revise our ideas
      Shaka, when the walls fell
it was exhilirating just to stretch out
and fly beyond the boundaries of the human brain
into a language so vivid with imagery.

It reminded me instantly of the saying
that learning a new language
is like wrestling with an angel,
the object being not to win but to surrender,
brawl becoming embrace:
      Sokath, his eyes uncovered!

Every language is an ocean undiscovered,
an island untamed and dense with wilderness.
In every ocean there are deeps and storms,
on every island, beasts –
for to open yourself to a language
is to swallow its ideals and its reasoning
without ever knowing if it will destroy you
or reward your sacrifice with untold riches.
      Darmok and Jelad at Tanagra.
      Picard and Dathon at Eladril.

There is only the ocean and the jungle,
and the warmth of a friend by your side,
and the words in your ears like the beating of breakers
when you go forth to dance with the beast of Tanagra.

Open your mind like a door,
and believe that what you receive will be worth the risk.
      Temba, his arms wide.

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33 comments or Leave a comment
marina_bonomi From: marina_bonomi Date: November 4th, 2009 05:14 pm (UTC) (Link)
'wrestling with an Angel' indeed. Hat off for this one, Elisabeth, it's just perfect. The feeling, the excitement, the undercurrent of fear taking the plunge, the discovery... magnificent!
ladymondegreen From: ladymondegreen Date: November 4th, 2009 05:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
I like that one a lot too. Especially since the language I'm currently wrestling is ASL. ;)
norda From: norda Date: November 4th, 2009 05:38 pm (UTC) (Link)
I liked this very much.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: November 4th, 2009 07:25 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

I'm happy to hear that.
unmutual From: unmutual Date: November 4th, 2009 06:10 pm (UTC) (Link)
How delightfully geeky! :)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: November 4th, 2009 07:26 pm (UTC) (Link)


... geek service available here.
jenny_evergreen From: jenny_evergreen Date: November 4th, 2009 06:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
I am such a sap. *wipes away tears* Thank you!
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: November 4th, 2009 07:24 pm (UTC) (Link)


That is sweet. It's okay to cry if a poem moves you that much. I am honored.
ellenmillion From: ellenmillion Date: November 4th, 2009 06:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
dakiwiboid From: dakiwiboid Date: November 4th, 2009 07:56 pm (UTC) (Link)

That's a very moving poem!

Thank you for writing it!
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: November 4th, 2009 08:11 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: That's a very moving poem!

You're welcome. I'm glad you like it.
From: ladyperegrine Date: November 4th, 2009 08:20 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, oh! I love this.

I have my own Darmok-inspired poem. I'll search around for it and post it if you're interested.

Very, very nicely done. :-)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: November 4th, 2009 08:39 pm (UTC) (Link)


I'm delighted to hear that.

I would certainly enjoy reading your Darmok-inspired poem. If you let me know where you've posted it, I'll link to it.
filkferengi From: filkferengi Date: November 10th, 2009 04:17 am (UTC) (Link)
This is one of my favorite episodes & has inspired some discussion with my spouse about how we create our own languages, based on personal experiences and metaphors.

ozarque, her journal so welcoming
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: November 11th, 2009 01:43 am (UTC) (Link)


That's so sweet.
33 comments or Leave a comment