On the Impossibility of Translation


Of course impossible, transmuting touch
and color into sound, sound into sign,
sign into sense again and back: too much
struggling after the names for flavor, line,
knowing they can't be found, no, not in one
language: in two? across the grain of speech?
Unthinkable! Easier to fold the sun
into its syllable. Yet lovers, each
mute in one skin, can learn to speak in tongues,
speak themselves whole, if only once; you've heard
fitful above the fields, the summer sung
in high, cascading turns of fluent Bird,
and seen, in shallow pools in every town,
how rain translates the sky and writes it down.


Rhina P. Espaillat, Her Place in These Designs, Truman State University Press, 2005.