Elizabeth Bishop, Yn de wachtkeamer

 
Yn de wachtkeamer

Yn Worcester, Massachusetts,
gong ik mei Muoike Consuelo
nei har ôfspraak by de toskedokter
en siet ik op har te wachtsjen
yn de toskedokter syn wachtkeamer.
It wie winter. It waard betiid
tsjuster. De wachtkeamer
wie fol grutte minsken,
hege skuon en oerjassen,
lampen en tydskriften.
Us muoike wie, sa like it,
in hiel skoft binnen,
en wilens wachte ik en lies
de National Geographic
(ik koe al lêze) en bestudearre
sekuer de foto’s:
it binnenst fan in fulkaan,
swart en fol jiske,
en doe streamde dy oer
yn beekjes fan fjoer.
Osa en Martin Johnson
klaaid yn rydbroeken,
fiterlearzens en tropehelmen.
In deade man, ophyst oan in peal
– ‘Long Pig’, neffens it byskrift.
Poppen mei spitse holtsjes
omwuolle mei koarde;
swarte, bleate froulju mei nekken
omwuolle mei kopertried
as de halzen fan gloeilampen.
Harren boarsten wienen ôfgryslik.
Ik lies it daalk yn ien kear troch.
Ophâlde, dêr wie ik te skou foar.
En doe seach ik nei it omkaft:
de giele rânen, de datum.

Ynienen, fan binnen,
kaam in ah! fan pine
– de stim fan Muoike Consuelo –
mar net hiel lûd of lang.
Ik seach der alhiel net fan op;
dat sy in dom, bangich
mins wie, wist ik doe al.
Ik hie my sjenearje kind,
mar dat die ik net. Wat my
folslein oer it mad kaam,
wie dat ik it wie:
myn stim, yn myn mûle.
Sûnder der by nei te tinken
wie ik myn domme muoike,
ik – wy – foelen en foelen,
mei ús eagen strak op it omkaft
fan de National Geographic,
febrewaarje 1918.

Ik sei tsjin mysels: noch trije dagen
en dan biste sân jier âld.
Ik sei it om it gefoel te kearen
as trûdele ik fan de rûne,
draaiende ierde yn in kâlde,
blauswarte romte.
Mar ik fielde: do bist in ik,
do bist in Elizabeth,
do bist ien fan harren.
Wêrom moatsto ek ien wêze?
Ik doarde amper te sjen,
te oanskôgjen wat ik wie dat ik wie.
Ik wurp in blik fansiden
– ik koe net omheech sjen –
op ûnbestimde grize knibbels,
broeken, rokken, learzens
en alderlei pearen hannen
dy’t ûnder de lampen leinen.
Ik wist, noch nea wie der
wat frjemders bard en nea
koe der wat frjemders barre.

Wêrom soe ik ús muoike wêze,
of mysels, of wa ek mar?
Hokker oerienkomsten –
learzens, hannen, de famyljestim
dy’t ik yn myn kiel fielde, of sels
de National Geographic
en dy freeslike hingelboarsten –
holden ús by inoarren
of makken ús allegearre ien?
Hoe – ik wist der gjin
wurd foar – hoe ‘ûnwierskynlik’…
Hoe wie ik, lykas harren,
hjir bedarre om in gjalp fan pine
te hearren dy’t lûd en wat al net
wêze kind hie mar dat net wie?

De wachtkeamer wie hel
en te waarm. Hy sluorke fuort
ûnder in grutte swarte weach,
en noch ien en noch ien.

Doe wie ik der yn werom.
De Oarloch wie geande. Bûten,
yn Worcester, Massachusetts,
wie it tsjuster, dridzich en kâld,
en noch altyd wie it de fyfde
fan febrewaarje 1918.

 

In the Waiting Room

In Worcester, Massachusetts,
I went with Aunt Consuelo
to keep her dentist’s appointment
and sat and waited for her
in the dentist’s waiting room.
It was winter. It got dark
early. The waiting room
was full of grown-up people,
arctics and overcoats,
lamps and magazines.
My aunt was inside
what seemed like a long time
and while I waited and read
the National Geographic
(I could read) and carefully
studied the photographs:
the inside of a volcano,
black, and full of ashes;
then it was spilling over
in rivulets of fire.
Osa and Martin Johnson
dressed in riding breeches,
laced boots, and pith helmets.
A dead man slung on a pole
—“Long Pig,” the caption said.
Babies with pointed heads
wound round and round with string;
black, naked women with necks
wound round and round with wire
like the necks of light bulbs.
Their breasts were horrifying.
I read it right straight through.
I was too shy to stop.
And then I looked at the cover:
the yellow margins, the date.

Suddenly, from inside,
came an oh! of pain
—Aunt Consuelo’s voice—
not very loud or long.
I wasn’t at all surprised;
even then I knew she was
a foolish, timid woman.
I might have been embarrassed,
but wasn’t. What took me
completely by surprise
was that it was me:
my voice, in my mouth.
Without thinking at all
I was my foolish aunt,
I—we—were falling, falling,
our eyes glued to the cover
of the National Geographic,
February, 1918.

I said to myself: three days
and you’ll be seven years old.
I was saying it to stop
the sensation of falling off
the round, turning world
into cold, blue-black space.
But I felt: you are an I,
you are an Elizabeth,
you are one of them.
Why should you be one, too?
I scarcely dared to look
to see what it was I was.
I gave a sidelong glance
—I couldn’t look any higher—
at shadowy gray knees,
trousers and skirts and boots
and different pairs of hands
lying under the lamps.
I knew that nothing stranger
had ever happened, that nothing
stranger could ever happen.

Why should I be my aunt,
or me, or anyone?
What similarities—
boots, hands, the family voice
I felt in my throat, or even
the National Geographic
and those awful hanging breasts—
held us all together
or made us all just one?
How—I didn’t know any
word for it—how “unlikely” . . .
How had I come to be here,
like them, and overhear
a cry of pain that could have
got loud and worse but hadn’t?

The waiting room was bright
and too hot. It was sliding
beneath a big black wave,
another, and another.

Then I was back in it.
The War was on. Outside,
in Worcester, Massachusetts,
were night and slush and cold,
and it was still the fifth
of February, 1918.

 

Ut Geography III, 1976. It Amerikaanske echtpear Martin en Osa Johnson makke films en skreau boeken oer ynheemske folken en de fauna yn East- en Sintraal-Afrika en oare fiere streken. Long pig (‘lange baarch’) wie by kannibalen yn Melanesië de beneaming foar minskefleis dat klearmakke wie om te iten; it soe smeitsje nei bargefleis.

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