Megszentségteleníthetetlenségeskedéseitekért

In Hungarian, loosely translated, “for your [plural] continued behavior, as if you could not be desecrated.” So let’s consider the [plural] behavior we might continue: perhaps the work of border hunters who stroll a fence of coiled wire barbed to cut the flesh and tear the dusty clothes of those who seek asylum. Someone says, Let them pant and sweat and plea on the side of the Serbian soil, which knows desecration well: the ground there has swallowed whole the bones of masses—in Srebrenica, Batajnica, Rudnica. These are the lands of graves and trains and swastika graffiti, where once, in summer, instead of people fleeing a war, plains of yellow flowers seemed to stretch forever, their brown faces turning to seek the sun.

 

Pinakanakapagpapabagabag-damdamin

In Tagalog, the longest word describes whatever disturbs or unsettles: the bump that tips the apple cart; the kick that wakes the sleeping dogs we should have let lie; the lump in the smoker’s throat. It’s the heart of the core of what drove Pandora to open the box, and it’s also the contents inside: the moth face of our certain death, the flutters of worries whose wingbeats pound and resound in our ears minutes before we’re felled like trees by the stroke of an axe in the brain. It’s anxiety pacing the rooms in our heads, or the feeling we get when walking at night we sense a presence, vaguely human, and soon learn why we should never go walking alone.

 

Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateaturipukakapikomaungahoronukupokaiwhenuakitanatahu

In Maori, the word refers to a place and is the longest place name in the world. If we stood the word on end, it’s almost as high as the hill it describes and as tall as its namesake, Tamatea, a giant traveler who consumed the earth, a man of big knees and tattooed lips who played his nose flute for his beloved while his snakes and dogs ran into the sea where they became spirits, hissing and barking. We go there to see a meteor shower and see a tsunami instead, the aftermath of a burning comet which smashed like a fist into the water 50 kilometers off the coast and into the South Pacific. Meanwhile, the giant tunes his flute and continues to woo his beloved, unaware of the water’s rise or the tide in extraterrestrial waves which knows not even he can save us.

These are words we should not even try to pronounce but rather attend to how they denounce us, we who desecrate, worry, lament; who forget the legends; who fail to believe. These are the [plural] continued behaviors which seethe in the liminal space between syllables, which spark in the interstices: that bad habit we can’t break; the panic at night which suddenly wakes us; the strides of the traveler shaking the tectonic plates of the earth as he makes his way hurriedly home.

 

Amy Jo Minett

Amy Jo Minett has been involved in extensive international language projects for many years throughout Afghanistan, Iraq, and Central/Eastern/Southeastern Europe. She is also a professor of English at the Salem State University in Salem, Massachusetts (USA), where she teaches English and Graduate TESOL courses. She has a Master of Fine Arts in Poetry from the University of Virginia. Her works have been previously published in Poetry East, Poetry Northwest, The Jacaranda Review, and The Wisconsin Academy Review.

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