"Hiraeth is a Welsh word that has no direct English translation. Attempts to define it [describe it as] homesickness tinged with grief or sadness over the lost or departed. It is a mix of longing, yearning, nostalgia, wistfulness, and the earnest desire for the
No one had heard of feta or sushi.
My family boiled the day in a pot
I listened hard, today I just hear rice
packed soggy 'chow mein' with
saturated pineapple chunks in
And three-bean salad from
a farty tin. Everyone’s aunt
was named after someone from
A Country Practice.
At thirteen, we cemented
her poem by heart. I researched:
Y maent yr mynyddoedd yn canu,
ac y mae’r arglwyddes yn dod.
We brought mountains, sang
this uncommon rising language
in our different accents.
Looked up the double L.
We had mad Welsh knowledge:
A girl, white as rice,
A girl, brown as rivers.
I craved your home's scent, your
easy spiced community.
Struck by Susan Cooper:
iron for our birthdays, bronze carried long
In Nouvelle Calédonie I was
‘la grande blanche’ to my new family:
The big white one; tall and icy.
Three from the circle, three from the track.
I was never la grande blanche
in your house. Sure I was an oddity,
but placed carefully, sistered and mothered.
Fire in the candle ring, water from the thaw.
At thirteen, I had sudden siblings,
infuriating and full of eyebrows.
I can grieve us clearly, I am homesick
for sonic giggles and loud confidence,
nostalgia for the brilliance of our limbs.
We are mothers now and not forgotten:
taller than mountains of children.
What of our bronze babies carried long?
Come here, rice women. We desire singing,
trace silver marks on the tree.
Today's poem is based on suggestions from two peeps:
- @snazzydee: In honour of St David's day yesterday, I nominate this http://bit.ly/i3ahZN (a link to the definition of Hiraeth. I'm saying this for my mother who is internetless, so I have to print out my blog and post it to her).
- @realnixwilliams: Eating delicious food!
Hiraeth is pronounced like this, which sounds a bit like 'here rice' to me, hence my need to include the phrases 'hear rice' and 'here, rice' in the poem. Nerd.
When we were 13, my friend and I read Susan Cooper's Dark is Rising sequence at the same time and adored it (we still adore it). The photo for this post is of my copies of the books (can't find The Grey King! Where isit!). My friend and I both knew the poem off by heart, though I think I was a bit more obsessive because I looked up Welsh pronunciations because it had to be right. She and her family were part of an easy, wide Sri Lankan community in our town that I longed to be part of, big white sensitive doofus that I was/am. And I was a part of it, in a way. Belonging can be colourless.
This poem is what grew up this morning when I thought about hiraeth - my earnest homesickness for community, and the way that strangely enough: Wales is a part of it.