A Few Lines About My Age

by Abdulla Pashew

When Valia asked me,
'When did you first set foot in the world?',
my laugh, like a rhubarb shoot
pokes its head through the snow of my mouth.
My laugh is a sob
that crumples all the smiles in the world.
Yes, Valia!
I was Neanderthal
when I first set foot in this world.
With my own eyes
I witnessed the era of the prophets,
the shameful passage of history
marched down the wrinkles on my forehead.
And yet...
the swindling institutions
of the rotting conscience of the age
have not recorded my name
in the book of the living.

Moscow, 19/10/1974

The literal translation of this poem was made by Mahsn Majidy

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

Notes

We Brits tend to think of rhubarb as being a very distinctive British - especially Yorkshire - plant and so we were pleased to come across it the very different context of a poem by a Kurdish poet written when he was living in Moscow. (In fact, the plant originated in China and was brought to Britain during the fourteenth century via the Silk Route and was first known as 'Turkish Rhubarb'.)

This small poem is, of course, a wry reflection on the ancient culture of the Kurds who, although swindled and pushed from pillar to post for centuries, have not (yet) been accepted as a nation.

Comments

  1. January 17th, 2013 at 10:45 pm

    Alan Dizayee says:

    It is a nice piece of work. I entirely agree with PTC comments. To best of my knowledge in Kurdish language Rewas=Rhubab.  

  2. January 13th, 2013 at 10:14 pm

    Akram says:

    Hi, this is a nice poem. 

    But I believe the fruit does not exist in Kurdistan. and it is a clear mistranslation. The translator opted for Rhubarb possibly due to the close look of the two plants. But they are not the same in any way.

    The Kurdish plant is called Rewas and this is how it looks like (second image) http://bit.ly/W0tB8J

    From the PTC. Thanks for getting in touch, Akram, but I'm afraid the translation is correct, the plant is rhubarb (Rheum rhubabarum) and it does grow in Kurdistan and many other parts of central Asia. As we wrote above, rhubarb was first grown in China thousands of years ago where only the roots were used for medicinal reasons; the fleshy stalks were never eaten. Rhubarb was an extremely expensive and rare medicine that came to the west in dried form only along the Silk Route in the fourteenth century. The fleshy stalks were first eaten when the plant was cultivated in Yorkshire after being brought as cuttings in the early nineteenth century. Rhubarb can't be grown outside in cold climates like northern England and so it is 'forced' in greenhouses. The plant was originally green - as in your image - but was bred for its pink colour (similarly, carrots were originally purple before being bred to be orange).

  3. December 19th, 2012 at 11:26 pm

    Aftaw says:

    This translation is very close to the Pashew's original words. I wish you success...

  4. December 10th, 2012 at 2:13 pm

    sherzad says:

    in kurdistan mountains a kind of wild rhubab is growing in the beginning of spring. this kind of rhubab is called REWAS in kurdish language. this poem is full of music in kurdish language and became one ot the most beloved poems of  Pashew