You Will Turn in Your Sleep

by Gagan Gill

Eyelashes will shed
in her desire to see you

Fingers will be
ants
climbing
slipping
on your feet

Lips will be
a little fly, a tiny mosquito
placing their first touch
on your ears


Her breath
will stroll
through your sleeping body
carefree
as if in an empty house

You will turn
in your sleep
and you won't
know a thing

Neither
why some loves
keep wandering
this earth

Nor
why bugs and beetles
keep busy
day and night

In the afternoon
you will sit up
a little drowsy
a little thirsty
a little confused

For a while
you won't know

Why all creation
stirs
at this moment

Who is sobbing?
Where?
Inside
or outside?

This is no time for desire

The literal translation of this poem was made by Lucy Rosenstein

The final translated version of the poem is by The Poetry Translation Workshop

Notes

'Eyelashes will shed': The verbal form in the Hindi indicates a completed action (rather like 'eat up' as a completed form of 'eat' in English), hence 'Eyelashes will fall off' in the literal version. Yet 'fall off' is too abrupt an action for the delicacy of eyelashes. 'Shed' is a more natural collocation, carrying associations of both hair and tears. 'She will shed her eyelashes' would then be the most idiomatic way of incorporating 'shed' into the line. We wanted to preserve the concision of the Hindi, however, and so used 'shed' in its much less common intransitive form.

'Fingers will be': 'Will become' of the literal anticipates a process. 'Will be' focuses the perception more sharply by directing it to the result of that process.

'little fly, tiny mosquito': 'Tiny' can be cutesy. By preceding it with the epithet 'little' we've placed it in a sequence that intensifies as it moves from a word meaning 'small' to one meaning 'very small'. 'Tiny' thus acquires a visual precision (mosquitos are generally smaller than flies) that controls the hazier feelings that attach to it.

'placing their first touch / on your ears': We toyed with 'resting' here, as a verb that describes the action of an insect settling on an object; but you can't 'rest' a 'touch'. Can you 'place' a 'touch' for that matter? English would tend to use 'touch' directly as a verb. We liked the implication of a deliberate yet gentle action, however, that 'place' transmits. 'Placing their first touch' wouldn't pass as conversational idiom, but nor is it outlandish, and it communicates a precise meaning. Colloquial language is a guide for our translations, not a law.

'stroll through your sleeping body': 'Stroll over' suggests trampling; 'through' anticipates the comparison 'as if in an empty house'.

'as if': Crisper than 'as though'. Link words shouldn't draw attention to themselves and away from what they link.

'keep wandering / this earth': As with the Blanca Varela, 'distantes y nunca tan próximos', we left out the preposition ('on this earth').

'stirs': We chose the present simple 'stirs' over the continuous 'is stirring' for its more forceful agency — the observer sees the action happen rather than arriving when it is already underway.

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