This fourth collection of poems by Dah, ‘The Translator’, reveals the subdued, watercolor melancholy of foggy harbor scenes, receding radiance of rugged canyons, and diverse personified winds.
Dah connects with nature’s silence rather than downtown’s cacophony. He listens to the trees, observes birds hovering over the rocky coast and meditates about the past and origins. He doesn’t hurry to reach the turnpike of the sun-bleached future but tries to decipher the future’s signs, translate its message, obscured by unfeeling winds.
A symbol of transience, fruitless striving and cosmic breath, Wind becomes one of the main characters in ‘The Translator’. The aerial messenger handling invisible energies blows where it wills, reshapes and breaks apart scattered clouds and destinies and dampens once promising infatuations.
The woman occasionally appearing in Dah’s poems is sometimes represented by her voice extending the narrator’s reflections, sometimes sensuously sketched by varying chiaroscuros of her nakedness. All the while, fleeting blossoms of earthly romance are followed by emptiness, the existential loneliness of the narrator’s Anima:
“Sitting close to you I feel your unrelenting loneliness”.
“After the wind blew there was nothing, but a strand of your black hair”.
Sparks torn from campfire embers snap fragments of autumnal trees and disappear into the darkness. Permanence exists only in changeable seas, skies, winds, and the monotony of an inner soliloquy:
“I have come to love the silence, the darkness, the end”,
which calls to mind a beautifully unsettling song about wandering stars.
The two characters other than the narrator’s Anima and Animus are their aged and, in a way, more balanced versions: “the bent-over old man” who slowly rakes leaves “like an angel sweeping heaven” and the lean, greying woman at the marina, whose slow Tai-Chi circles and curves the narrator mimics:
“Maybe this is the way to be content, to create a stance of fearlessness at the gate to the one ending.”
The narrator ponders human finiteness, remembers years of frequent funerals followed by ceaseless rains sufficient enough “even for the dead”. He ponders the “staggering office workers” with “aching facial lines” and finds refuge in nature and fruitful solitude.
Introspective and guideless, Dah refutes the old saying that whoever watches the wind will not plant, whoever looks at the clouds will not reap:
“My hands are the hands of a gardener
fresh with soil, sunlight and rain.”
‘The Translator’ is abundant in all shades of existential melancholy. But at its core Dah’s poetic impulse is stoic and bright:
“My heart is bound to the coast,
to the cliffs that have mastered the edge,
to the sea that extends its directions,
to the sand that sails the wind.”
February 15th, 2015
This “review”, by Ukraine Poet Elina Petrova,
is the Foreword to ‘The Translator’.
I am forever grateful for her insightful take on this collection.