Magazine article World Literature Today

Language of Stone

Magazine article World Literature Today

Language of Stone

Article excerpt

I try to write something I have done,

I have lived, I have learned,

but I cannot remember a word once spoken by my ancestors,

Arberors speaking Arberishte.

I have no one to turn to who might help me remember;

if I cannot quite remember the word I will not write it.

I do not want there to be one in a hundred chances that I might get the

word wrong.

Days pass, weeks pass, sometimes months, as I linger in mid-line.

I ask my people, friends who still know Arberishte,

if they remember how our ancestors once said a thing.

But I find no help, not once in a thousand.

I wring my mind in sleep, back sixty years

when I last heard the word I have forgotten.

As I wake it is there and I write it

on a piece of paper I keep by my side.

Translation from the Arvanitika

By Peter Constantine

Translator's note: Arvanitika, or Arberishte as it is called in the Corinthian mountain villages, is one of the many languages in the world facing extinction. It was once spoken in central Greece and in the Peloponnese and its islands. …

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