Akka Ballenger Constantin is a dreamer with a camera and a pen. When she was 6, her father gave her her first 35mm camera. It was love at first sight.
Her piece, “About the Eyes”, is a multilingual poem written in Spanish, French, Romanian and English. For those of us who do not speak all four of these languages, Akka has provided a snapshot of the meaning of her poem, which follows the final stanza.
“About the Eyes” first appeared on Akka’s blog (in a modified format) at https://planetakka.blogspot.com.au/.
I often get this question: “Why do you write in languages other than yours?” And I’ve thought very carefully about how I could answer it.
Writing in Romanian is something I will always cherish, but it is also a very intimate act. Most of those writings have never been seen by anyone else, because when I write in Romanian, it feels like I am unveiling my entire soul, and that is not something I am always prepared to do.
The most accurate answer lies perhaps in the fact that my biggest regret is not being able to make music, so instead, I play with words. I find music in their rhythm.
I am not an academic, and I am sure that my grammar is poor at times. Perhaps the sense of what I want to convey is sometimes lost in translation, too – just like me. But what a fun adventure, to dance one’s way through all these words.
Sometimes I do have something to say, and I want it to resonate with readers, too. In these times, I use a fusion of languages to convey a simple but important message: we all live under the same sun, we are all equal, and we all matter.
My story “About the Eyes” has 4 different characters, with 4 different languages, 4 different eye colours, and 4 different life experiences. They are made by the different memories that each of them carries.
About the Eyes
– Quizás, mis ojos son negros porque vieron demasiadas tormentas sin querer.
Demasiada lucha, demasiada hambre y cosas que no deberían ver.
Mis ojos son lagos claros; llenos del tormento de mi madre, tan gran,
Quando ella no sabia adónde buscarnos el siguiente pedazo de pan.
Hoy vivo en un país de gente con ojos azules y almas tan nobles.
De gente que siempre sonríe. Yo también sonrío.
Y a veces mis lágrimas siguen fluyendo, como un río.
Pero mis ojos todavía son negros. Y fuertes, como los robles.
– Mes yeux sont vertes, ou peut-être foncé
De tous les orages que j’ai vu, de fracas et de bruit.
Des fois, mes yeux changeants deviennent dorés
Comme le printemps murmurant doucement dans la nuit.
– Mi-s ochii bruni ca mierea de-asta vara
Si-n ei port stelele si ploaia, alternand.
Port curcubeu si soare, port lup si caprioara
Toata padurea mea de-acasa o port ascunsa-n gand.
– My eyes are blue like seas in summer days
With shores of endless promises ahead
Sunsets so bright, setting horizons in a blaze
And plains of wheat – you’ll never worry again about the bread.
Los ojos negros, les yeux vertes, ochii bruni and the blue eyes
The same red blood runs through all veins and we all matter.
We love the same green grass; we’re sheltered by the same bright skies,
And all together, we drink the same colourless water.
* * *
My black eyes remember storms, wars and a mother trying to find her children’s next piece of bread. Even when they find peace, living in a different country, the memories come back. My green eyes remember different kinds of storms and spring nights. My brown eyes remember the enchanted forest of their childhood. My blue eyes reassure – we will never have to worry about the bread.
© Akka Ballenger Constantin, 2017