Part of her forthcoming collection THE HOPE OF FLOATING HAS CARRIED US THIS FAR (Coffee House Press, 2015), Quintan Ana Wikswo’s HOLDFAST CROWBITER is a suite of photographs and hybrid texts. The Crowbiter has gone fishing again and she struggles in the tide, thin legs wrapped up in a thick wet pelt of bladderwrack. In the Baltic, girls are trained to catch hold of crows with both hands, and kill them with a single bite to the neck. Now it is winter, and there is a war, and old women of the village depend upon this child to bring back a dead bird. Yet her feet are caught in seaweed, and the waters are rising with the moon. The bees weave a thatch of wax, and with them it sticks, collects. Whereas with us, all is precarious: we leave holes, and no footprints. A fletch of salt-soaked crow bone in the sand and silt.
HOLDFAST CROWBITER was created on the dunes along the shores of the Curonian Spit, a windswept and ferocious lay of land that reaches into the Baltic Sea. Lithuanian, Russian, and German, the people descend from the first tribes, and still maintain a spiritual mythos and tradition that hold more weight of gravity and substance than do the bulbous bellies of sunburned, distressingly anachronistic Russians who vacation there today. It still seems a more ancient place. I was somehow unsurprised to hear of the local tradition of crowbiting. The taste of salt in the mouth is not unlike that of blood. Some generations ago, my family left the Curonian Spit. It was undoubtedly more difficult for them to leave than it was for me to return, although it took many decades, and an insightful friend, and several cars and ferries and long walks along the dunes to come home.
by Quintan Ana Wikswo
translation into German by Dorothea Herreiner
Pray for good winds. Pray for calm seas. For our immortality.
As often as possible, pray for something that does not exist.
Bete für gute Winde. Bete für ruhige See. Für unsere Unsterblichkeit.
So häufig wie möglich, bete für etwas, das nicht existiert.
Give promises that predict a new kind of orifice,
something that opens and closes in a part of the body
that is currently undiscovered,
through which something good emerges.
A body mollusk – as though there are pearls waiting inside us.
As though our poverty of spirit is only passing.
Gebe Versprechen, die eine neue Form der Öffnung vorhersagen,
etwas, das sich in einem bisher unentdecketen
Körperteil öffnet und schließt,
aus dem etwas Gutes hervorkommt.
Ein Körpermollusk – als ob Perlen in unserem Inneren warten.
Als ob unsere Geistesarmut nur vorübergehend sei.
Like the men who sailed off the edges of this sea
and fell into the void, there are areas within us
that contain a precipice.
Wie die Männer, die über den Rand dieses Meeres gesegelt
und in die Leere gefallen sind,
gibt es in uns Stellen, die einen Abgrund beinhalten.
Start collecting sticks and cloth.
Learn how to wrap them for a shroud or parachute.
Fange an Stöcke und Tücher zu sammeln.
Lerne sie wie für ein Leichentuch oder einen Fallschirm zu wickeln.
Please don’t pick up all those rocks.
We are using them for ballast, for today,
for this time when the undiscovered
has at last come finally into view.
Bitte hebe nicht all diese Steine auf.
Wir nutzen sie als Ballast, heute, zu einer Zeit,
in der das Unentdeckte nun endlich erkennbar ist.
Published in Poets for Living Waters
HOLDFAST CROWBITER is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Ucross Foundation, the Virginia Center for the Arts, and Ragdale.
Special thanks to Eimutis Juzeliunas.