On Poetry and Culture Shock

Homeless kids

When I was maybe eighteen or so, I saw a documentary called “When I’m 21”. It showed a handful of homeless Glaswegian teens telling why they were homeless, how was their life before, and what they would like to do either for their 21st birthday, or with their adult life. I knew that homeless children existed, but it was something I associated with the Third World and with much bigger towns. I had more surprises; most of the children were out in the streets because their parents had split up, and the parent with whom they had stayed had taken a new partner that didn’t get on with the kid, so the children either ran away or were thrown out (Spain is no paradise, but we still keep such tight concept of family that I’ve never heard of such a situation here). I also remember the documentary because the teenagers did their own voiceover and it was my first contact with any variety of English other than Standard British English or Standard American.

This is just an introduction to a poem by Langston Hughes.

Beggar Boy

What is there within this beggar lad
That I can neither hear nor feel nor see,
that I can neither know nor understand
And still calls to me?

Is not he but a shadow in the sun –
A bit of clay, brown, ugly, given life?
And yet he plays upon his flute a wild free tune
As if Fate had not bled him with her knife!

¿Qué tiene este niño mendigo
Que ni lo oigo, ni lo toco, ni lo veo,
que ni lo conozco ni lo entiendo
y aún así me llama?

¿Es que no es él más que una sombra al sol -
un cachito de arcilla, marrón, feo, dotado de vida?
Y aún así toca en su flauta una canción salvaje y libre,
¡como si el Destino no lo hubiera desangrado con su cuchillo!

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