Two Poems

Poetry / Emma Gomis

:: Traces ::

          As a way of keeping you close 
                    I follow, trace your thought 
                    it curls as it mounts the stair 
                              & shimmers at a clearing

          T’escric desde lluny, em poso les teves paraules a les butxaques

          In care to carry your rhythm 
                    I drape the film of your shape 
                    over my body  
                              it creases & folds 

          El teu ritme presocràtic, els teus gests, petits miralls

          From one object to next 
                    I finger contours left behind 
                    yearn for you to animate  
                              a quick turn in palm of hand 

          Un crit s’enfonsa al pit, com un ocellet que vol ser alliberat

          I pace the perimeter of your room 
                    straining to summon  
                    the fade of your print 
                              in folds of your garments

          No sé com més puc dir-te que et trobo a faltar









From the writer


:: Account ::

We were raised in the wake of an oppres­sive reign, in a coun­try still wound­ed from years of liv­ing under Fran­coist dic­ta­tor­ship. Swathed in grief from the years which saw the pro­hi­bi­tion and per­se­cu­tion of polit­i­cal par­ties, the repres­sion of the press, and the elim­i­na­tion of left­ist orga­ni­za­tions, the Cata­lan Statute of Auton­o­my and its asso­ci­at­ed insti­tu­tions were abol­ished, our lan­guage and cul­ture sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly persecuted. 

Dur­ing Fran­cis­co Franco’s dic­ta­tor­ship (1935 – 1975) the Cata­lan lan­guage was banned in pub­lic spaces and in schools. The author­i­ty released state­ments like: “hable el idioma del impe­rio”: speak the lan­guage of the empire. But ban­ning a lan­guage may be an effec­tive way of pre­serv­ing it, as the speak­ers feel an impulse to resist the author­i­tar­i­an reach into their iden­ti­ty. Teach­ers and rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies held clan­des­tine class­es in Cata­lan; fam­i­lies whis­pered it in the safe­ty of their homes. 

These poems rep­re­sent a recent urge I have felt to incor­po­rate my lan­guage and cul­ture into my writ­ing, maybe because it still is, as all lan­guage is, some­thing in need of defend­ing. It is resilient as long as we do our part to make it sing. The Cata­lan lan­guage is more sim­i­lar to Ital­ian or French. My father’s favorite exam­ple is that in Span­ish the glass is on top of the table is el vaso esta enci­ma de la mesa, while in Cata­lan it is el got esta a sobre de la taula. Our accents open and close as they do in French. Recent­ly, the dia­crit­ic accent was lost, removed from gram­mar to facil­i­tate the exe­cu­tion of the lan­guage. In a move to defend, we lose a mark. Now the words bear and bone are spelt out the same: os and os

With the death of Fran­co in 1975, the 1978 con­sti­tu­tion rec­og­nized that oth­er lan­guages could be offi­cial lan­guages of the state. Despite this, there is still a pal­pa­ble hos­til­i­ty from the Span­ish state to sup­press the Cata­lan lan­guage. The first poem, “Traces,” is a pin­ing for my lan­guage and how it feels to miss the fam­i­ly and friends that often feel too far away; the sec­ond poem, “ST JORDI,” is a fem­i­nist reimag­in­ing of the leg­end of the patron saint of Catalun­ya, and the for­mer Crown of Aragon. 


Emma Gomis is a Cata­lan Amer­i­can essay­ist, poet, edi­tor, and trans­la­tor. Her texts have been pub­lished in Den­ver Quar­ter­ly, Entropy, Asymp­tote, Vice Mag­a­zine, and Moth­er Jones, among oth­ers, and her chap­book Canx­ona is forth­com­ing from b l u s h. She is the cofounder of Man­i­fold Press. She holds an MFA in Cre­ative Writ­ing & Poet­ics from Naropa’s Jack Ker­ouac School of Dis­em­bod­ied Poet­ics, where she was also the Anne Wald­man Fel­low­ship recip­i­ent. She is a PhD can­di­date in crit­i­cism and cul­ture at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cambridge.