Cutty Days / Días Cortos / Short Days

Photo by David Boca on Unsplash

Dorothy Lawrenson: I had been thinking about the difference between the solar and lunar calendars. This poem, first published in Eemis Stane, explores the contrast by riffing on the traditional gendering of the sun and moon, who are figured – not without an element of stereotype – as a lazy man and an uncomplaining woman. I enjoyed glancing at different registers of language here: my rendering of the Biblical phrase ‘to hide one’s light under a bushel’ draws on Lorimer’s translation of the New Testament, where a bushel is a meal-bowie; and the concluding image of the new moon alludes to the modern colloquial usage of brand new to mean ‘feeling fine’.

Carlos Llaza: This is a striking piece. The personification of both sun and moon evokes the tenderness and tension of human relationships, while at the same time portraying the experience of ‘cutty’ winter days in this northern part of the world. Commitment and sense of duty, or lack of these, seem to be at the centre of the poem. The biblical image of the ‘bushel’ allows for the use of a beautiful Spanish word such as ‘celemín’.

Scroll down to see a video of poet and translator reading this poem, with English subtitles.

Cutty Days
bi Dorothy Lawrenson

When the sun’s sweir
tae rise an gleg tae dern
his licht ablow a bowie
he juist kittles the lift
syne yirds his braivity

whiles the mensefu mune
wi nae sic fause blateness
busks hersel an taks
the road she’s uised wi
tentless o day or nicht

or whether she’s hailly
or ainly hauf hersel
till, jimp an dwynin,
she kens it’s lowsin time
an syne she’s brand new.

Días Cortos
traducido al español por Carlos Llaza

Cuando el sol es reacio
a levantarse y rápido para ocultar
su luz bajo un celemín
tan solo tienta al cielo
y luego entierra su esplendor

mientras la amable luna
sin falsa modestia
se viste y hácese
al camino de siempre
sea de día o de noche

así esté completa
o solo sea la mitad de sí,
hasta que, quieta y menguante,
se alza hacia el fin de la jornada
y se renueva. 

Short Days
translated into English by Dorothy Lawrenson

When the sun’s loath
to rise and quick to hide
his light under a bushel
he just teases the sky
then buries his splendour

while the seemly moon
with no such false modesty
dresses herself and takes
the road she’s used to
heedless of day or night

or whether she’s wholly
or only half herself
till, slim and waning,
she knows it’s knocking-off time
and then she’s brand new.

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