We lay in pieces hacked by the Gaje
mind, heart , and now body.
Awaken the owl and listen for its call
death is our new life and revenge shall be ours.
Forging ahead we pursue our murderers
compasionless, inspired by their own
heartlessness in action and in word.
Each day fear resided in our dead hearts
but now rekindled by the life of death
We pursue our tormentors.
Dressed in white we approach their homes
match lid, ready to set fire, is this not what is deserved:
an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a life for a life?
…but wait, this is not the Romani way but rather
that of the Gaje, driven by hate
never forgiveness or love, will we become them?
We turn around, heading home because
even in death our heart will live on,
guiding our people, the strong and unbreakable
For this poem, the wildcard, I wanted to draw upon Romani traditions and spirit. Firstly I had our recent reading of the Gypsy Folktale’s “The Death Encampment” fresh on my mind and as a result chose to focus on Romani traditions surrounding death. Secondly I wanted to embody some of the anger that I anticipate many Romani feel as a result of the poor treatment that they have endured. Most importantly I wanted to convey the lack of retribution and vengeance in response to this poor treatment and ensuing anger. From what we have learned this semester, I feel that the Roma are not a hateful people. In Romani culture, “belief in the supernatural is fundamental,” something I conveyed by narrating the poem via the dead (Patrin). In addition, fear of retribution for wrong-doings surrounds the death of family or friends. The dead in the poem seek vengeance on those who have killed, not only their culture, but have also killed Romani in unforgiving and uncompassionate murderous ways.
I included several elements of tradition concerning the dead or the soon to be dead. For instance, I include the call of the owl which is considered a sign of impending sickness or death. The ghosts dress in white which was traditionally one of the “colors worn by mourners” symbolizing “purity, protection…and good luck”(Patrin). It is interesting that this parallels the understanding of white in Gaje culture, but is instead worn at weddings instead of funerals because of our different beliefs concerning the dead.
While I consider all of these elements fascinating, what I feel is most important about the poem that I chose to write, is the ending. Instead of taking vengeance on those who have wronged them, the ghosts choose to turn around and return home. I wanted to create a contrast between Romani treatment and Romani response, one that makes them better- survivors of a sort- preserving their culture and traditions through un-halting persecution.
“The Patrin Web Journal – Romani (Gypsy) Death Rituals and Customs.” The Patrin Web Journal – Romani (Gypsy) Death Rituals and Customs. The Patrin Web Journal, n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2014. <http://www.reocities.com/~patrin/death.htm>.