Sunday, 22 February 2009

Christine Busta's Fragments of Origin

It is time in this series of translations to bring into English another side of Christine Busta. This poem Fragmente der Herkunft, is a poem in which she recalls her humble origins.


My grandmother couldn't read or write
but she could sing lullabies
and tell stories to her nine children.
She laboured with pride between the urns
and the crowns of the poppies. Fog clad
she brought the crop in.

My mother was beautiful and vulnerable,
as a schoolgirl and a maid she was quick to learn.
She burned-up and went out like a poppy
in the meagre wistful land of her childhood
and became as bitter as the juniper.

From the silent forest my grandfather
brought granite, the firstborn stone.
I broke with the noisy city*,
silence, the firstborn word.

My father is a silhouette:
blacksmith, metalworker, assiduous, mannish.
Fled from wedlock for the solitary life.
Last heard-of living in a hunting lodge.
His son, his half-sister's secret,
was for the inheritance first recorded.

*Busta suffered a nervous breakdown and broke with Vienna University after less than a year. The line probably recalls that experience.
Gwilym Williams
February 2009


  1. We all have skeletons in our closets. Busta has a beautiful way of relating history.

  2. Coming from similar humble origins myself, Gwilym, I find that poem very moving indeed.

  3. Make no mistake about this, those who come from humble origins are the salt of the earth. Mega-greed and xenaphobic-mendacity is a quality of the rich and powerful and in lesser measure of the would-be rich and powerful. And Cathy, I can assure you that they have enough skeletons for all of us.


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