Lost in Translatione by Sarah Caulfield (Mays XXIV)

Lost in Translatione

by Sarah Caulfield


Latin is a closed door to me.
I was born in the years where Catholicism’s devotion to it wanted;
I think of it as foreshadowing.

The past is prologue and Latin is old money and I wasn’t
Even shown the door, they kept us in another building.
Latin is myalgic encephalomyelitis, Troy burning,
the catch of a boy’s inner wrist against my hand,
the cutlery bright as French military uniforms,
glinting like sniper scope.
Latin is perfer et obdura; dolor hic tibi proderit olim.
Latin is bastardised, brutalised, nil bastardum carborundum,
mangled in my haphazard mouth. If I was Scheherazade, I would be dead at dawn,
Google Translate my Achilles’ heel. The light and the sacred cups beckon me, but I have only
matches, struck off my fingernails and off my ancestor’s bones,
and it’s hard to conjugate by that light. Mea culpa.

myalgic encephalomyelitis – inflammation of the brain and spinal cord
perfer et obdura; dolor hic tibi proderit olim – be patient and strong; someday this pain will be useful to you
nil bastardum carborundum – don’t let the bastards grind you down (pig Latin)
Mea culpa – my own fault, line from the Latin Mass


(from The Mays XXIV)