LA PROFESSORA D’ALEMANY THE GERMAN TEACHER
Joan Margarit trans. Anna Crowe (from Catalan)
En aquell Institut de la postguerra
hauria d’haver après una mica de grec
i haver sortit amb un vernís dels clàssics.
Però, si aprendre alguna cosa allí
ja era difícil, res amb menys futur
que l’alemany, llavors entre les runes
negroses de Berlín sota la neu.
La meva era una llengua perseguida
i la d’ella una llengua derrotada.
En una aula petita de la torre
on era l’Institut, en entrar a classe,
sempre me la trobava de genolls
fregant vora un cubell i parlant sola.
No sé alemany, i en general em queda
un mal record de tota aquella gent,
però mai he oblidat el seu dolor.
Ara que passo comptes amb qui sóc
sento els genolls al fred de les rajoles
per esborrar el passat, com ella feia
amb la roja sanefa del mosaic.
In that secondary school in the aftermath of war
I must have picked up a smattering of Greek
and left with some veneer of the classics.
But, if learning anything in that place
was hard enough, the subject with less than nothing
going for it was German, with Berlin
then in ruins, blackened under the snow.
Of our two languages, mine
was a persecuted, hers a defeated tongue.
In a tiny room in the mansion that housed
the school, as I went into class,
I'd always find her on her knees, scrubbing
beside the bin and talking to herself.
I know no German, and in general have
no good memories of any Germans,
but I have never forgotten that woman's grief.
Now that I'm taking stock of what I am
I'm on my knees feeling the cold of icy tiles
in order to wipe away the past, as she was doing
scrubbing the red border of the tiled floor.

Copyright © Joan Margarit 1986-2006: transl. copyright © Anna Crowe 2006;
orig. publ. "Estaciò de França", poesía Hiperiòn 1999; trans. publ. "Tugs in the Fog", Bloodaxe Books 2006.


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