“This is a poor translation, like all translations.”
-Natalie Diaz, “The First Water Is the Body”
A few days ago in class we started reading poetry from Natalie Diaz. Afterward I heard two of my friends talking. Edvin said the poem we’d just read, “The First Water Is The Body,” just kept getting better and better. He’d read the poem a couple times that morning but it hadn’t made sense. Now, talking it over, the poem was alive.
Micha answered, “When I’m in my efficient zone poetry doesn’t land with me.”
“Maybe I should read these at night,” said Edvin.
I think I should read more poetry at night. I’ve been thinking a lot about how a series of thoughts is a series of thoughts but it’s also a way of thinking. When I’m To-Do-Listing my day, I’m arranging myself and my energy and the day in a certain way. A get-through-the-list kind of way. When I read poetry that way, the poetry doesn’t mean much.
Maybe this is a translation of that moment, of the connection and chuckle I felt as I heard Edvin and Micha talk. Maybe it’s a poor translation. I’m trying to explain something, but what I’m looking at isn’t something I really want to explain. I want to—share? Read? Hear read? Hear sung?
How about this, then: for years and years I’ve said I don’t know how to dance. I still say that. Sometimes I’ve watched people dance, watched how graceful and smooth they seem in their bodies, and wondered if they have something I don’t. How do they look so inside themselves, there in the grocery store aisle? In 2019 I started taking dance classes, and lately I’ve been doing bachata lessons. Dance still feels like something (remember to get through your to do list!) I haven’t learned. But the other week I heard music. A music that moved, maybe; in Diaz’s poem, river is a verb and moves. There were eddies in the sounds of the song. There were currents. I felt more held by them than holding them, and I realized I was moving.