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This poem is taken from PN Review 167, Volume 32 Number 3, January - February 2006.

Kings David Morley

Cav acoi, pralor, pen, se the nav of a lil, the sherro-kairipen of a pura kladjis of the Roumany tem: the Borobeshemescrotan or the lav-chigaripen between ye jinneynengro ta yi sweti; or the merripenskie rokrapen chiv'd by the zi oprey the truo.
                                                                         from the Lil of Romano Jinnypen

This here, brothers, sisters, is the title of a book, the head-work of an old king of Romani land: the Tribunal, or the dispute between the wise man and the world; or the death-sentence passed by the soul upon the body.
                                                                         from the Book of the Wisdom of the Egyptians


This poem tells the journeys and trials of a wise fool, a Romani man maybe more used to the twin worlds of Roma and Gajo than he will freely allow. He is a fellowtraveller of the Blacksmiths' tribe, the Boorgoodjìdes, useful to them for his part as their shaman.

The poem is a fairytale, once upon a time. The scenes are set in no country but in many countries the borders of which are invisible. The time frames coincide with certain events in Eastern Europe, but the persecution of Roma has been permanent and is a story that lies outside written histories. Yet the poem is also the man's history as he remembers it, and sings it.

In this poem, the Romani language is an opening, not a fence, between fields of language, not least because Romani contains so many words and phrases from other languages. Language is absorbed as it is travelled through. The Romani words are pronounced exactly as they appear. Their meaning is best caught by reading the story at a canter, and without leaning too hard into the glossary. When a Romani word has two or more meanings in English, all those meanings are brought into play.

I 1933

I beg of you believe in the Kings, the blacksmiths' tribe, the Boorgoodjìdes
made up of the tamar, true twisters of sàstra, sras or srastrakàni,

who jam the jagged srast in the jaws, the chamàhoolya,
of their kerpèdy, and ply it, plume it polokès then plakomè

that way and this, rotating it like wire, until it's rinimè, roopoovalò,
arced into white rings, into angroostì, necklaces, into the bright akanootnò.

I am the kings' man, asanòo mànoosh, all smiles, ahmàtsi manoosh...

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