Translating Shez’s “in the nights”

Translating, round two, after help from Ann Ellen Dichter and Eugene Sotirescu. This is complex stuff, translating. Which I knew, but I just keep knowing more and more. In theory, I’ll have an entire manuscript of at least 48 poems by next year. In theory…

First, the Hebrew original:

בַּלֵּילוֹת הָאַיָּלָה חוֹלֶמֶת עַל
נִמְרֹד גִּבּוֹר צַיִד
שֶׁתָּבוֹא כְּבָר לִתְקֹעַ חֵץ
שֶׁתַּעֲמֹד פְּשׂוּק רַגְלַיִם מֵעַל
גּוּפָתִי הַדּוֹמֶמֶת
שֶׁתַּעֲרִיץ אֶת הַבָּשָׂר הַזֶה

Eugene’s translation:

at night the doe dreams of
nimrod the hunter hero
let him come already to stick an arrow
into my insides
let him stand with spread legs over
my still corpse
let him admire this flesh

Here’s my revised translation, based on his literal translation.

In the nights, the fawn dreams
of Nimrod, the mighty hunter
Let him come, press an arrow
into and into me
Let him stand, legs spread,
over my unmoving body
Let him lord over this flesh

a few notes about my translation:

I chose “fawn” rather than “doe” because in the Hebrew the word ayalah is both a girl’s name and the word for “doe.” I think the sense of human and animal intertwined is essential to the poem, so I chose “fawn,” which can be a woman’s name in English. It’s not common, and I’m not sure the double meanings carry anything close to the same strength of the Hebrew, but it’s a start.

I chose “press” rather than “stick” because the word in Hebrew can also mean the meteorological term “bar” as a measure of pressure. Press also, I think, carries an intimacy that I think is there in the poem.

I chose “into and into” rather than “to my insides” because of how Marcia Falk uses “b’kirbi” in her morning blessing and translates as “heart of hearts” or “innermost being.” I’m not sure “into and into” captures the sense of being in the deepest part of oneself, although the sense of the act being repeated night after night is important.

And I chose “lord over” rather than “admire” because the Hebrew root carries a sense of being a despot or tyrant and thus a strong sense of control. “Lord over” in English carries both the sense of being the lord of the manor and of the slang “to lord it over someone,” both of which meanings are relevant here.

Or at least that’s what I’m thinking today. When I hear from some of my other Hebrew speakers, words and emotional meanings could shift again radically.


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