The plight of women in traditional society is one of Yanysheva's main themes. I had some uncertainties of interpretation. These are noted in, well, notes. Lullabye For Her Blood By Lera Yanysheva Translated by A.Z. Foreman Click to hear me recite the original in Romani The wolves in leafy woods are sleeping. Rockabye baby, day is done. Horses are sleeping, birds are dreaming. So sleep you snug sweet angel son. Just close your eyes for bedtime baby And oh don't cry I'm begging you. Or else you'll wake your sleeping papa And then what am I going to do? My shining sun, God how I love you, My blessing and my saving grace, I'm begging you, please don't start crying Or he will come and break my face. His mother will burst in with curses "Dumb outland tramp! Don't let him yell!" She'll hiss "Well? Do something goddammit. The poor thing's bawling bloody hell." I'm asking you on bended knees now, Dear little apple of my eye, Just shut your mouth for mama, sweetie. Hush little baby. Don't you cry.
Don't make the neighbors hear him beat me. I am so tired, sweet shining sun. It's almost time to head to market. So please, sweet dreams now, little one. The gadje are asleep till morning. The lambs and chickens rest in peace. The young and old are off to dreamland. No one's awake but the police.
The Original: For reasons explained on this page, all Cyrillic Romani texts I translate are accompanied by transcription in Roman characters.
Stanza 1: Note â€” the assonances, multiple internal rhymes, and other phonetic echoes in this stanza. E.g. dro veÅ¡ ruvÃ¡ and sov, ÄjavorÃ³ sovnakunÃ³. It contributes to a musical mood in the opening, and almost demands to be sung.
Stanza 2: Note â€” the echoes here and later, of mangav(a) "I ask, I demand" and mÃ¡nge, the dative form of the first person singular pronoun.
This stanza is the only one where the rhyme joining lines 2 and 4 is approximate â€” the two lines end in different consonants. They both end in a sonorant however, and are compensated for by the perfect -ava rhyme in the same stanza. Still, this interruption in rhyming has the effect of signaling a disjointedness, a wrongness, which is completely in keeping with this stanza's role in fully shifting from singsong lyricism to verse of a much more disturbing nature. It's jarring, and I think that's the point, as the word bearing the inexact rhyme is rozmarel "breaks, smashes open." Had the poet wished to have a full rhyme, she could have easily found one. Rhyming in Romani, as in Russian, is fairly easy thanks to the inflectional morphology.
BejÃ¡to Äjororro rovel! : The bulk of the poem is in pretty normal North Russian Romani. However, the words attributed to the mother-in-law in this stanza seem to shift into a slightly different dialect. Or at least, a different accent. The doubled r of Äjororro implies a dialect which preserves the two different rhotics of Early Romani â€” which North Russian Romani does not, but some other dialects spoken in Russia and near Russia do. Perhaps we're not meant to know which dialect exactly, only that it's different. The other possibility is that the form Äjororro (instead of Äjororo) is just a misprint, in which case I've overinterpreted to ridiculous extremes.
The term LaxÃ®jka I was unsure about. I take it as being related to other terms in other dialects like Crimean laxÃ®nka and Kishinevian vlaxÃ®jka and assume it has the sense "Rom woman from somewhere else" and having a pejorative tone as befits the fact that the mother-in-law is koÅ¡el-ing her.
Given that Yanysheva, from what I have read of her work, is extremely sensitive to dialectal variation, and uses it regularly as an artistic device, it seems that the implication is a significant one. My take (which â€” I remind the reader â€” could well be mistaken) is that the woman voiced by the poem has married into some Rom family from elsewhere, far from where her family lives â€” and is thus cut off from the sort of close-knit Rom kinship network she would be able to rely upon for succor if she were among "her own."
Stanza 7: gadÅ¾e: gadje being to Roms as goyim are to Jews. I couldn't find a way to get around simply using the word "gadje" here.
The implication here, I think (again I'm not entirely sure) is that the police might hear, or that someone might call them, and that that would only bring further misery. Roma often know, and have learned the hard way, to be wary of the police. Whatever she suffers â€” or is worried about suffering â€” at her husband's hands, this woman knows it isn't half as bad as what would happen, presumably to the entire family, if the police got involved.
Another possible reading is that she knows the gadjo police simply don't care.
"Asphalt melts under my sole..." By Lilith Mazikina Translated by A.Z. Foreman
Asphalt melts under my sole, Runs hot beneath my feet. A pack of house-cats calls For mother in loud clear pleas. I open up to the breeze To get drunk with the sun. I'd learned to give up believing That summer again would come.