Home > Translation > Two poems with cello accompaniment

Two poems with cello accompaniment

February 24, 2011

by Sheila Packa with Kathy McTavish

in translation

the name of the river
has fallen into another river
names are buried by falling leaves
as the next rise from the roots

in your words, another people
the settlers displaced
in violence is a silence
a river only has its mouth
never saves itself

we know the boundary
the harbor in each breath
the shores but not between
in the currents
journey is erased

we carry a map and a book
say these are the stones
cross a bridge into memory
everything here
will be pulled down by gravity

near the high water mark
the voice and music
of a river gone

Note: “Zambini-nimi” is the Ojibwe name of what is now known as the Sucker River.



but I meant
the lonely road where I walk
in the forest

not lost but passing through

cold that receded into seasons
before berries

I meant the stones broken and carried
by glacier
that came and left

I meant morning’s heavy mist
rising from the deep lake
to climb the headlands

from the direction of the sun
where hawks fly overhead

where we all come
the place of hidden roots
I put my weight

look for the way
one wild stem of columbine rising
with its bud

opens into a tiny lantern made from sunset
and unborn strawberries

I meant the fox who meanders from this side
to the other
following the scent

not hungry but taken into another

Note: This poem was written in response to a line from Argentinian poet, Alejandra Pizarnik: “Algo caía en el silencio. Mi última palabra fue yo pero me refería al alba luminosa.” (Something was falling in silence. My last word was I but I was referring to the luminous dawn.) On the podcast, Cecilia Ramón reads the Pizarnik quote, as well as her translation of Sheila’s poem into Spanish.

Download the podcast

Sheila Packa (website, blog) is Poet Laureate of Duluth, Minnesota (2010-12). She has two books, The Mother Tongue and Echo & Lightning. She has had her work featured by Garrison Keillor on Writer’s Almanac. Her four poetry and cello CDs with accompaniment by Kathy McTavish may be ordered from her website.

Kathy McTavish (website) is a composer/free-style cellist who uses chance and generative/organic forms to create everything from sparse, minimalist spaces to dense, orchestral landscapes and performs in venues ranging from streetscapes to concert halls. Her work has been used behind spoken word, theater, visual art/sound installations, and film.

  1. February 24, 2011 at 3:49 pm

    Lovely. I’m still weeping.


  2. February 24, 2011 at 4:20 pm

    This is fabulous – such wild, tangled sophistication of form and feeling! But why no Spanish text?

  3. alex cigale
    February 24, 2011 at 6:05 pm

    Yes, it wasn’t the first word on my lips alone: some lovely choices! Thank you Sheila and Kathy. Look forward to tracking down more of both of your work.

  4. February 24, 2011 at 10:00 pm

    Extraordinary collaboration. Beautifully rendered works, Mesmerizing in the way great poetry can be.

  5. February 28, 2011 at 12:41 pm

    Quite extraordinary, very lovely.

    I would have liked a Spanish text too, but quite enjoyed listening to the Spanish while following the English, though I haven’t really any Spanish!

  1. May 9, 2011 at 3:31 pm
Comments are closed.
%d bloggers like this: