Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Lost In Translation


Wrap up warm, they said. It’s colder than you think.
Wrap up warm and get ready to fall in love, because Bolivia will nestle inside you.
I don’t think I’m the loving type, but I’m ready to be coaxed in Spanish.


I wring out my clothes with cracked, swollen hands and hang them out to bake on the terrace.
Dregs of mud and coffee and blood slurp in to the plug hole: I swipe my face on my sleeve.
They say if you get messy eating salteñas, you must be a bad kisser.
(I wiped my leg on the table cloth.)


I grasp at Spanish like it’s life, like it’s air, like it might soothe my parched throat
with its altitude burns and its tangle of unspoken words.
I can buy fruit in Spanish, I can say I love you, I can ask to get off the bus, please.
But I don’t know how to say I’m sorry for your loss, sorry for your heart ache;
I’m sorry that we’re needed at all.
I want to ask my host father if there’s pain in his knee and I want to wish him better.
The spine of a borrowed dictionary presses a line on my jaw.


It really is colder than you think, and I didn’t wrap up warm.
There’s relief in hot showers with their electric shocks, and in mugs of coca tea.
But it’s not until salsa that I’m warm to my walls, to the tips of my hair and my fingers.
So this is heat, I think to myself, as the room swings past in a blur. Surely I’m mistaken;
it was never sublime before.


My body is my body: I rinse and repeat. Tu cuerpo es tu cuerpo, niños, your castle, your muddied trench.
I pound away another day’s shame on the potholed, pimpled hills and think: will it ever be that simple?
And who am I to preach?


So it’s winter, so it’s wilderness, so it’s sardine tin buses and muddled key phrases and panting hard
on the hills. I stumbled here from the salted Welsh air almost by mistake but
perhaps I could breathe the mountains
and murmur Spanish in my sleep.

Written by Joanna Jones

1 comment:

  1. Really loved reading this - such a personal response to your experiences so far!
    Kay - International Service office, UK