Cries in Translation

Cries in Translation

I’m remembering that day in Capitola

when the Mexican man in street clothes

ran into the water shouting, having

never before seen the sea. The ocean

really, the Pacific, the largest body

of water on earth.

His cries, that shocked us at first–

we thought he’d been distraught, perhaps

assaulted by some horror or grief–

were soon revealed to be those of joy,

inarticulate joy, “unbridled,” indeed,

as they rose up to join in with the songs

the gulls were singing, songs that might well

have been joyous, too, although I think of them

always as sorrowful, as though they were

laments for the dearly departed; each gull

an angel watching over some soul

lost at sea.

His childlike antics began to wane after a while,

those of this man revelling there, at the edge

of the sea, gaping and gasping before it.

This man whose cries were neither English

nor Spanish. Were they really inarticulate?

His cries that answered the gulls’ despair.

Were they not, in fact, clearer than these

lines cast back to that day at the beach,

that undoubtedly sun-washed day

no kodak could’ve caught.

Lines harking back that wild moment

by the shore, where we sat

on our promenade bench, gaping at

the spectacle, beholding this man’s

uncontained wonder, before we made our way

back into town, wondering about this migrant

worker’s life, trying to recall seeing the ocean

for the first time, ourselves, as children on vacation.

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