Sunday, June 15, 2008

"Teheyapami Achiska" (Giving Honor)

Teheyapami Achiska
Giving Honor

Eni micha elpa mishmaxanano
I feel you in my blood,
nishiyano nishiti’anaxno, nishahurno.
in my bones, my gut, my teeth.

Name sikosura niche a’kxi,
You rise all around,
kolopisik xulin opa.
return like a lover.

Nishkuuh, niche lahake.
my basket, carry me.
nishimila, niche lasapke.
my ocean, bathe me.

eni namexumunipsha,
I am your hummingbird
name hi’iyatan neku masianehk.
you are a flower of the heart.

Name cha’a nishkxatasaxno,
I feel you in my head,
nishxushuno, nishkeleno.
my hands, my feet.

Uxarat kai pire.
We dance on the cliff of the world.
Name cha’a nishchawisaxno,
I feel you in my spine,

nishxorksno, nishsixihano.
my throat, my womb.
Namesanaxkak opa, eni inamkak opa.
You are a river, I am the rain.

Mantuxite, mantuxite,
It is true, it is true,
mantuxite, mantuxite.
it is true, it is true.

Nishwelel, lexwelel:
My language, our language:
maksiri maknoco.
breath of life.

This is my first poem in Esselen, and made possible only by the hard work of Louise Ramirez, who compiled our first dictionary, and the linguistic help of Ruth Rouvier, who held my hand through the grammatical constructions. I haven't figured out how to put accent marks over letters, but the general rule is, the second to last syllable gets the emphasis. Also, per Louise and Dr. Shaul, I don't use the International Liguistic Alphabet markings (for example, instead of an S with an inverted V on top for "sh", I simply write "sh"). In Hebrew we would call this a transliteration. At the conference, LeAnne Hinton called it a "practical alphabet." The main thing is, this is a poem in the Esselen language that I can pretty much read out loud at about the speed of a first-grader.

If this poem were a child, then Louise and Ruth would be the midwives, and The Breath of Life Conference would be the birthplace/homeland.

John Fowler of ktvu came and did a story on the conference. You can see the video (Louise is in it!) at

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