José Kozer

Lit-Mag #40 – Expatriations:  The expat edition

Four poems

Translated by Mark Weiss and Christopher Winks

Te acuerdas, Sylvia

Te acuerdas, Sylvia, cómo trabajaban las mujeres en casa.
Parecía que papá no hacía nada.
Llevaba las manos a la espalda inclinándose como un rabino
fumando una cachimba corta
de abedul, las volutas de humo
le daban un aire misterioso,
comienzo a sospechar que papá tendría algo de asiático.
Quizás fuera un señor de Besarabia que redimió a sus siervos
en épocas del Zar,
o quizás acostumbrara a reposar en los campos de avena y
somnoliento a la hora de la criba
se sentara encorvado bondadosamente
en un sitio húmedo entre los helechos
con su antigua casaca algo deshilachada.
Es probable que quedara absorto al descubrir en la estepa una
manzana.
Nada sabía del mar.
Seguro se afanaba con la imagen de la espuma y confundía las
anémonas y el cielo.
Creo que la llorosa muchedumbre de las hojas de los eucaliptos
lo asustaba.
Figúrate qué sintió cuando Rosa Luxemburgo se presentó con un
opúsculo entre las manos ante
los jueces del Zar.
Tendría que emigrar pobre papá de Odesa a Viena, Roma, Estambul,
Quebec, Ottawa, Nueva York.
Llegaría a La Habana como un documento y cinco pasaportes, me lo
imagino algo maltrecho del viaje.
Recuerdas, Sylvia, cuando papá llegaba de los almacenes de la calle
Muralla y todas las mujeres de
la casa Uds. se alborotaban.
Juro que entraba por la puerta de la sala, zapatos de dos tonos, el traje
azul a rayas, la corbata de
óvalos finita
y parecía que papá no hacía nunca nada.

Sylvia, Do You Remember

Sylvia, do you remember the women of the house, how hard they
worked.
It always seemed that father did nothing.
Smoking his short birch pipe hands clasped behind him he paced like
a rabbi, mysterious in a cloud of smoke.
Looking back it seems to me there was something asiatic about him.
Maybe he had been a lord of Bessarabia who had freed his serfs in the
days of the Czar,
or perhaps he would rest in the oat fields and at threshing-time
sleepily would sit bent forward in his threadbare
coat in a damp place among the ferns.
I imagine he’d become transfixed upon discovering on the steppe an
apple.
He who knew nothing of the sea.
Doubtless he would struggle with the image of foam, confusing
anemones with sky.
Even the weeping mass of eucalyptus leaves would have frightened
him.
Imagine then what he must have felt when Rosa Luxemburg, tract in
hand, appeared before the Czar’s court.
Forced to emigrate from Odessa to Vienna, Rome, Istanbul, Quebec,
Ottawa, New York.
Weary of traveling poor father would arrive in Havana like one
document and five passports.
Do you remember his return from the Muralla Street stores, the women
of the house quivering with excitement.
I swear to you that when he entered through the livingroom door in
two-toned shoes a striped blue suit and a thin tie
decorated with ovals
it would seem that papa had never done anything.

Translated by Mark Weiss

Don

Un hombre es una isla, camina a paso tendido por

sus propios islotes, guano.
Refiérelo al aire y desciende
a su Anunciación. En el
Verbo tergiversa a la primera
persona. Ya se le ve, es él,
lo ejemplifica yo, ya se asusta:
canguelo, calambrica. No es
un hombre una isla cualquiera,
Cuba: es una isla rodeada de
agua por todas partes menos
por una: viejos eran ya los
chistes del Viejo antes de
ser viejo, se fue a bolina.
Habló una vez en voz alta,
le daba el agua hasta los
hombros, alzando el ceño
me mostró el horizonte, y
dijo Euménides, destino del
Atrida, voz contundente:
ahí estaremos. Anoche
soñé con un pueblo de
calles sin asfaltar en
algún sitio embarrado de
Polonia, giraba un carricoche
hacia una bocacalle, de
perfil me vi (soy mi padre)
(y ahora soy padre de mí
mismo) no me esperaba
Egisto, el rey de la isla de
Pilos no atendió a mis
preguntas, saca al polaco,
es otro mar, otro malestar,
hubo asimismo alegrías
numerosas, terrazas, enea,
crujidos, somnolencia
vivificadora, un gran
silencio repentino tras
las persianas: Onán Onán,
soy muchacho. Obra la isla
en mí, es perpetua. Cetro es
la isla, al tercer golpe se abre
la puerta (Eliot el búho
Apollinaire, entraron): yo
tengo veinte años, ya sueño
lo nunca habido, el Cartujo
en su celda. Guíame, Padre,
por entre hileras de hicaco,
ya pronto darán las ocho,
se cierra el número. Un
boquete hay en Egipto, por
la cara de la pirámide corre
un río, cuatro afluentes, a la
Isla: una habitación. Guíame,
Cronos, adentro (péndulo y
punto) a tu abstracción. Tocan,
quién vive, a cada mudanza
interpondré los libros, y a
cada desastre (pues es la
condición) me sentaré de
nuevo a releer los libros sobre
mi regazo: yo soy la madre
atenta y paridora de la alfabética
distancia: con la letra, la Isla;
con la figura de la letra, la
figura de la Isla: un hombre
la compone y recompone, y
muere. Y la muerte lo baja;
muere la coronilla, y muere
de los ojos a la palabra a sus
genitales. Tribulación.
Tribulación del muerto.
Recorrido de la hormiga
en la cuenca vaciada; la
avispa en la configuración
de la boca; y qué animal lo
agota lamiendo y
reconfigurando (allá) sus
partes bajas: en verdad soy
de carne, muslo del Viejo,
postizo de su cadera. Se
desportilló mi padre, a
dos bastones huecos de
latón, caminotea mi madre.
Ventrílocuo de ambos, yo:
en boca cerrada, etc.; mis
palabras caigan en saco roto.
Y por el descosido del dril
viejo del saco me fumaré
en su nombre (el nombre
de la Isla) para una última
ocasión un veguero.

Gift

A man is an island, he strides his islets—guano. He tells his story to the

air and descends to his Annunciation. By twisting
the Word he becomes the First Person. I see him now,
he embodies I, he’s scared: shocked, panicked. A man
isn’t any island, he’s Cuba: an island surrounded by
water on all sides except the top: the jokes of the Old
One were old before he was old, nobody listens. Once
he spoke out loud, the water up to his shoulders,
raising his eyebrows he showed me the horizon and
said, Eumenides, the fate of the Atridae, his voice
commanding: that’s where we’ll be. Last night I
dreamt of a town with unpaved streets in a muddy
corner of Poland, a cart was being driven towards a
crossroads, I saw myself in profile (I am my father)
(and now I’m father to myself) Aegisthus didn’t wait
for me, the King of the isle of Pilos didn’t listen to
my questions, get rid of the yid, it’s a different sea, a
different annoyance, he had many pleasures also, ve-
randas, bullrush, crackling, refreshing somnolence,
a great and sudden silence behind the blinds: Onan,
Onan, I’m a boy. The island works in me, it’s end-
less. The island is a scepter, at the third knock the
door is opened (Eliot, the owl, Apollinaire, entered):
I’m twenty, I dream now of what’s never happened,
the Hermit in his cell. Guide me, Father, between
rows of hicaco, son it will be eight o’clock, the num-
ber is closed. There is an opening in Eygpt, a river
with four tributaries flows to the Island through the
face of the pyramid: a room. Guide me, Cronos, (pen-
dulum and point) within, to your abstraction. They
knock, who’s there, I will place books in the path of
each change, and at each disaster (its nature is such)
I sit myself down to reread the books on my lap: I
am the attentive mother and the brood mare of al-
phabetic distance: the letter producing the Island;
the letter’s shape producing the Island’s shape; a
man writes it and writes it til he dies. And death
brings him low; the top of the head dies, and he dies
from eyes to words to genitals. Sorrow. The sorrow
of the dead. The way of the ant in the empty socket;
the wasp in the space of the mouth; and what ani-
mal (down there) wears it out licking, reshaping its
lower parts: the truth is I’m flesh and thigh of the
Old One, an artificial hip. My father was chipped,
my mother staggered on two hollow canes. I’m both
their ventrioloquists, my mouth closed, etc., let my
words fall into a torn sack. And through the rip in
the old drill of the sack in his name (in the name of
the Island) I’ll smoke a cigar for the last time.

Translated by Mark Weiss

‘Sylvia, Do You Remember’, and ‘Gift’ are taken from Stet, a selection of Kozer’s poems edited & translated by Mark Weiss, New York: Junction Press, 2005

De los nombres

from No buscan reflejarse, Havana: Editorial Letras Cubanas, 2001

Qué nombre le va a poner, o Juana, o Fernandina, o la

dejamos quieta: ¿y tiene
o tendrá pareja?

Se afinca a sus arrecifes, mas si suelta un pie, la Isla

vuela a su garza y de la
garza a su aura tiñosa y
de su aura, torcaza: y
ahora se dio vuelta a
Oriente, a su nacimiento,
y con Ella por Maisí
regresamos a nuestro sitio:
mango, semillón, y el
centeno averiado por
el cornezuelo, ergot,
ergot, Gott in Himmel,
la pajarera herrumbrosa
en la habitación trastera
se abre a su vacío de
tomeguines, nos cayó
gorgojo, alza el rostro
y verás la Ceiba del patio
infestada de totíes: pobre
pobre pájaro bienhechor,
culpable de la culpa
inmemorial de haber
nacido, la Isla.

Sujeta a una flora y fauna expectorantes, fuera y fuera,

solavayan, váyanse ya, a
otra cosa, mariposa, somos
tres sobran dos, y quien queda
(apaga y vamos) aguarda su
Anunciación, murió marzo,
murió el día 25, a respirar
todos parejo en nombre de la
isla asmática, cogerla por el
cuello, arrojarla al Mar: varada
Isla, isla defenestrada, el manatí
lame la costra de tus orillas por
Maisí, volveremos: a tu bautismo,
Cuba; tres narras tres polacos
tres niches tres cubiches a la
Mesa, y el Redentor en su
centro irradiará silencio,
ausencia de palabras, buena
señal para esta gente cotorrera,
subuso y calla, calla lengua,
y volveremos.

Quitando a dos o tres, y bien sabemos quiénes, todos

los héroes (solavaya) de esta
Patria son unos hígados: del
marabú, descendientes; de
picudas hablas heredadas
de sus fornicadores padres,
mejor se atuvieran todos a
guapear menos, guachinear
más, y sentarse en el muro
de espaldas a la ciudad a
fumar a solas: un poco de
soledad, caballeros, hace
falta. Falta que hace, verracos:
abran paso; por un desfiladero
llegará volando, pajarito
parejero, el zunzún.

Ola y ola, aguas lustrales, salió el sol. Yo me llamo

José, fumo bebo tiemplo
escribo no me meto con
nadie, es ideal: y por rieles
empíreos oigo el tres de
una guitarra, por su esfera
vuelvo a la cúpula de una
casa de mampostería,
observatorio y lucerna
(oriundo paraíso de
rascabucheadores) soy
pequeño. No hubo nada,
nada pasó, fue todo un
error pequeño de la
percepción de quien vive,
quien anda, se traspapela
y ofusca, elucubra que si
la acción del tiempo que
el diablo son las cosas o
que por si las moscas, vaya
vaya, tanta cosa: soy Juan
soy híbrido, estoy a un
paso de toda historia,
y viceversa en su espejo
de aguas me leo (manatí)
releo la Isla, su verdadero
nombre es Yagua (Balboa,
cómo se llama) yara yarey,
pongámosle de una vez por
todas Áglaye, Alecto o qué
por falta de mejor palabra.

Concerning Names

What name shall we give her, Juana, or Fernandina, or should we

just leave her alone, and does she
or will she have a partner?

She’s rooted to her reefs, but if she puts her foot down, the Island

flies to her heron and from the
heron to her buzzard and
from her buzzard, a wood dove and
now she turns toward
Oriente, toward her birth,
and with Her by way of Maisí
we return to our location:
mango, large seed, and
rye blighted by
fungus, ergot,
ergot, Gott in Himmel,
the rusty birdhouse
in the back room
opens into its void of
finches, a grub fell on us,
raise your face
and you’ll see the ceiba in the courtyard
infested with blackbirds: poor,
poor beneficent bird,
guilty of the immemorial
sin of being
born, the Island.

Subject to spitting flora and fauna,

get out of here, beat it, see
you later, alligator, there are
three of us and that’s two too many,
and whoever’s left (put out
the lights and leave) awaits
his Annunciation, died in March,
died on the 25th, breathing
all together in the name of the
asthmatic island, grab her by the
neck, throw her in the Sea: beached
Island, defenestrated island, the manatee
licks the scab of your shores near
Maisí, let’s return to your baptism,
Cuba, three Chinese three Poles
three Negroes three Cubans at the
Table, and the Redeemer at the
center will radiate silence,
absence of words, a good
sign for this gabby people,
keep it on the down-low, hush-hush,
and we’ll return.

Outside of two or three, and we know who they are, all

the heroes (scram) of this
Patria are a bunch of jerk-offs: of the stork,
descendants; of smooth talk inherited
from their fornicating fathers,
better they should all stick to
throwing their weight around less,
playing it cool more, and sitting on the wall,
their backs to the sea
smoking by themselves: a little
solitude, gentlemen, that’s what
you need.  It’s what you need, dumbbells:
make way; through the gorge, a bold little bird
will come flying, the zunzún.

Wave upon wave, lustral waters, the sun rose.  My name is

José, I smoke I drink I fuck
I write I don’t mess with
anyone, it’s perfect: and through
the empyrean tracks I hear a three-stringed
guitar, through its sphere
I return to the dome of a
house of masonry,
observatory and chandelier
(the native paradise of
peeping-toms) I’m
little.  There was nothing,
nothing happened, it was just
a little error of
perception of who’s there,
who goes there, who’s getting lost
and confused, elaborates that if
time’s action that
it’s a hell of a thing or
that just in case, c’mon now,
such a fuss: I’m Juan
I’m a hybrid, I’m a
step away from all history,
and vice versa in her mirror
of waters I read (manatee)
I reread the Island, her true-true
name is Yagua (Balboa,
or whoever) yara yarey,
let’s set it down once and
for all Aglae, Alecto, or whoever
for lack of a better word.

Translated by Christopher Winks

Camisa nacional

La planchadora escamotea la imperfección de

la camisa colgada ahora
en percha de hierro dentro
del escaparate cerrado a
cal y canto, bolas de
naftalina en los bolsillos
de la camisa, un primer
punto de moho en el ojal
de la solapa, color tabaco
el punto primero de la
putrefacción en el sobaco,
en el hilo, la trama de la
camisa: apremio de un
inusitado descosido en
ciernes, queda atrás,
ya lejano, el dos por uno
de la oferta, y aquel
excedente del almidón
que les echaban a las
camisas del colegio,
trepar la cuesta en el
calor de las dos, la
tétrica Matemática a
la vista, el esqueleto
salía del escaparate y
se ponía a enumerar
reglas y ordenamientos,
un lado igual o desigual
a otro las fórmulas,
caminos por donde no
se puede deambular: no
hay repechos, cúspides
ralas o de grama
invadidas, arbustos, un
bisonte de nieve, truncar
la altura, encima no hay
nada, sólo bajada y nada
más que bajada, a causa
del calor quitarme la
camisa, es más,
despojarme, y al llegar
a casa colgarla recién
planchada por manos
de criada, salvaguarda
de la madre, la madre
es la criada, guardiana
de las criadas que
pasaron por casa: cerrar
batientes, hojas a cal y
canto, bolas de naftalina,
el alcanfor de los muertos,
sales de olor de los
moribundos, y sin tener
que rasgarme las
vestiduras, jamás volver
a ver la camisa de algodón
cinco veces oblicua a la
semana a la hora de subir
la cuesta: ved la camisa
revestida de sí misma,
cual estafermo hueco,
estantigua pasada de
mano en mano, camisa
de trasmano ajada, la veo
entrar a un patio sin
resurrección, once peldaños
de la escalera trasera al
salón imaginario de entrada,
siete ventanas a un solo
lado: pared de fusilamiento:
acta inmovilizada la lección
de la tarde, clase de
Matemática, tragar en
seco que nuestro nombre,
atención, va ser nombrado,
sudor perlado la frente, las
sienes, el cuello agrio, de
pie nos despeñamos
mientras recitamos las
fórmulas que nunca
cuadran: es así que nos
toman la lección del día,
lección que aprendemos
que no aprendimos,
bien hicimos.

Reconforta saberlo: expectante el botón blanco de la

rosa de trapo para el
ojal de la solapa, el
yugo de oro de un
quilate bajo para el
día de la fiesta de
gala, siempre pasado
mañana y nunca jamás:
la camisa reglamentaria,
la corbata sepia, botones
nacarados, y el traje de
gabardina color azul de
Prusia para los actos
martianos, vanagloria
del señor Director.

Ya se metió la hormiga a trastear con la camisa en

el escaparate cerrado,
seguro la carcoma la
orienta por el camino
que lleva a la camisa
colgada de la percha
de hierro, no habrá ni
hay escapatoria para
la carcoma y la hormiga
cuyo cometido es alcanzar
el punto inicial del hilo que
forjó la camisa, el punto
de la madera vuelto anillo
concéntrico, falaz el
algodón, falaz la madera.

Caiga al lodo, veamos descolgarse la camisa con el

monograma sepia desteñido,
el almidón grisáceo y
quebrantado de la
planchadora, veámosla
caer al fango y mancharse
con indeleble manchón
un sobaco, un bolsillo,
un pliegue dentro de un
repliegue interior.

Y yo mismo pisotearla, apisonarla hasta volverla

embutido en sí embutida
para empotrar a la
pisoteada bajo tierra, y
amortajarla, entre crujidos
de una madera noble, noble
y nacional, partirla en dos,
dos por seis por el eje la
Isla.

The National Shirt

The iron wipes away the imperfection of

the shirt now hung
on a metal hanger inside
the closet shut
firmly and securely,
mothballs in the shirt
pockets, a first
spot of mildew on the lapel
button, tobacco-colored
the first spot of
putrefaction on the armpit,
on the linen, the weft of the
shirt, urgency of an
unusual open seam
in blossom, the two-for-one
sale, now remote, is left
behind, and that excess
starch they threw
on the school shirts,
climbing the hill in the
2 p.m. heat, dismal
math in sight, the skeleton
fled the display window and
started enumerating
rules and regulations,
one side equal or unequal to
another, formulas,
paths that can’t be
trodden: there are no slopes,
no summits whether sparse
or invaded by crabgrass,
shrubs, a snow bison,
shorten the height, above
there’s nothing, just a drop
and nothing but a drop, taking
off my shirt because of
the heat, more than that,
stripping, and on reaching
home hanging it newly
ironed by the maid’s
hands, the mother’s
safeguard, the mother’s
the maid, guardian
of the maids who
passed through the house:
shutting doors, windows
tight, mothballs,
the camphor of the dead,
salts smelling of
the dying, and without
having to rend my
garments, never again
seeing the cotton shirt
slanted five times a week
when it’s time to climb
the hill: behold the shirt
clothed in itself,
like a hollow dummy,
a scarecrow passed from
hand to hand, shirt
crumpled by persons unknown,
I see it entering a yard
without resurrection, eleven
steps on the back staircase
to the imaginary entrance hall,
seven windows on a single
side: execution wall:
immobilized certificate
the afternoon lesson, math
class, swallowing hard because
our name, watch out, will be called,
sweat beading the forehead,
the temples, sour neck, standing
we fall headlong
as we recite the
formulas that never
add up: that’s how they
test us on the day’s lesson,
a lesson we learn
that we didn’t learn,
we did well.

It’s reassuring to know: expectant, the white bud of the

cloth rose for the
lapel buttonhole, the
golden, low-carat
yoke for the day of the
formal party, always the day after
tomorrow and never again:
the regulation shirt,
the sepia tie, mother-of-pearl
buttons, and the gabardine
Prussian blue suit for the patriotic
ceremonies, vainglory
of the Headmaster.

The ant’s already started messing around with the shirt in

the closed wardrobe,
for sure the termite’s
showing him the way
to the shirt hung from
the iron hanger, there won’t be
nor is there any way out for
the termite and the ant
whose mission is to reach
the starting point of the thread
that shaped the shirt, the point
of the wood become a
concentric ring, deceptive
cotton, deceptive wood.

Let it drop into the dirt, let’s watch the shirt slide down with

its discolored sepia monogram,
its grayish starch burned by
the iron, let’s watch it
fall into the mud and get stained
with an indelible stain
an armpit, a pocket,
a fold within an
inner crease.

And I myself trampling it, crushing it until it becomes

stuffing packed into itself
to embed the trampled thing
underground, and shrouding it,
amidst the creaking
of a noble wood, noble and
national, split it in two,
two by six by the axis the
Island.

Translated by Christopher Winks

Mirko Bozic

Lit-Mag #37
Myself & Others

Poetry in Translation

Kisa Mostar

Kisa gori na bijeloj mostaskoj jeseni
Vrejeme smrti poslije ponoci
Misise na staklo posije pijanke

Rain Mostar

Rain is burning in the white Mostar autumn
The time of death after midnight
It smells of glass after a drinking party

Caffe

Dva upaljaca
Kutija cigarette
Jeden covjek pije
svoju sudbinu.

Café

Two cigarette lighters
A packet of cigarettes
One man is drinking
his destiny.

Translated by Jennifer Compton

Nikola Madzirov

Lit.-Mag #36
Home & Homecoming

They return three times sadder

RETURN

I open fearfully the door
to draw a border with the sun rays
upon the carpet.
I feel like shouting,
but the echo of the unfurnished room
is faster than me.
The sweat on the door-knob is not mine
and the rush on my neck
does not belong to this world.
I emerge in several
painted memories,
my soul is the womb’s palimpsest
of a far-off mother.
Hence the thought of return
and the quiet squeaking of the hinges.

I’d expand the space with a step
I’d thicken the grains of dust
and multiply the hairs that fall
down, always white
because of the light.

Translated from Macedonian by
Zoran Anceski

TAGE, AN DENEN MAN ALLEIN SEIN SOLLTE

Es ist wahr, dass die Stadt
als Folge einer Lüge entstand
notwendig für die Menschen
die Blumentöpfe und die Haustiere

(so versorge ich mich mit
den nötigen Rechtfertigungen)

Es ist wahr, dass alle Menschen
die Gebäude verlassen
(wie bei einem Erdbeben)
und mit einer Vase in Händen
zu den Wiesen gehen

Sie kommen dreimal trauriger zurück
mit Staub in den Handflächen
und einigen Geräuschen
wie Löcher in der Erinnerung

Danach
wieder allgemeine Stille.

Aus dem Makedonischen von
Alexander Sitzmann

DAYS WHEN ONE SHOULD STAY ALONE

It is true that the town
grew as a result of a lie
necessary for people
flowerpots and pets

(that is how I provide myself with
the necessary justification)

It is true that all the people
get out of the buildings
(as during an earthquake)
and with a vase in their hands
head towards the meadows

They return three times sadder
with dust in their hands
and few murmurs
like holes in their memory

Then
again common silence.

Translated from Macedonian by
Makedonka Bozhinovska

THE WORLD’S SECRET

Over the airport speaker today
I address you: Turn around
before you put on the seat
of your autumn jacket.
Cut the air
with the dark movement of your face.
Don’t trust the guardians
of lasting values. In the houses
protected by law there are
no tenants. Don’t trust
the continent that
lowers its palm gently
over your forehead. Let’s go running
after cars, to soak in the smell
of burnt petrol.
Reject stories about whales
and explosions. The world’s secret
is written on the doors of run-down
public toilets. Kneel down, pray
and bow your head as a street
shoe-shine boy does. Lean your ear on the ground
and predict all earthquakes and resurrections.
Like a mirror in a lift reflect all
the heights of the Universe.

Translated from Macedonian by
Magdalena Horvat

Anant Kumar

Lit.-Mag #36
Home & Homecoming

Islands are places far from land

“Islands are places far from land. They lie unknown to the world, separate, secluded, segregated. And one must leave the mainland to discover this new, little-known acquaintance. Yes, one must be mobile…and the arrival has to discover it; for when he arrives, in many instances he doesn’t not know whether the place is an island. Only during discovery and exploration does the far-off place prove to be an island. No other way”. Some such thing is what the foreigner said.

“Yes, it is important…” he continued, repeating himself, “…to explore the land, to discover it. And to notice that the space is an island…had the searcher known from the outset that was an island, then it would no longer remain an island…In that case it would long have turned into mainland.” At this point we both broke out laughing simultaneously.

There is a story by Graham Greene in which the plot revolves around a tiny little private island and its secrets. In the story, “Under the Garden,” the boy Winton grows up on a farm. There is a private lake and on the private lake there is an islet. This small isolated place with its shrubbery and plants hides within itself an array of riddles which cause the boy’s imagination to take flight more and more each day. Especially of an evening, when dusk falls. Winton wants to go there and thoroughly discover the island. Its secret treasures.

One evening the little fellow feels the urge to discover, he wishes to locate the secrets of the private lake as well as its island. As dusk falls, Winton hides while his older brother searches in vain for him. Only briefly, because the obedient George is afraid of the encroaching darkness. He withdraws into the house to Mom. The good boy.

The younger Winton stays away a long time that evening. He goes to the island on his journey of discovery. While explorating the unknown, space, size and levels of consciousness meld into one. In the ‘real’ imagination of the boy the tiny geographical space expands to a immeasurable secret place with giant trees and chasms.

All of this Winton describes and recounts as an adult when he learns that the house with its garden and island are to be sold by his older brother. In recollecting he is deeply amazed at the actual size of the islet in the private lake and at its intense effect on his childhood soul.

The older George is a mainland boy through and through. A businessman in the making, who pursues a ‘rational’ life and then becomes captive to it. George marries, has children and a home.
Winton on the other hand remains a child of the island. One who becomes enmeshed over and over in the charm of irrational secrets and is always on the move in order to unravel its mysteries. Changing his job and abandoning places, he finds himself even as a fifty-year old, ever searching.

When I read Graham Greene’s “Under the Garden”, my own childhood danced before my eyes as I was reading.
Back then, the East Indian town of Motihari was small, pretty and full of secrets. In contrast to the overcrowded city of today, whose half-paved streets full of holes threaten to explode with all manner of primitive and modern means of transportation – from horse and ox cart, bike and motorcycle. Indian and half-Indian cars (Suzuki, Daihatsu, Ford…), trucks and busses, tractors, rickshaws.
In the holidays, when my big brother came to visit from the boarding school, the syllables of two children’s nicknames could be hear rhyming with one another. As soon as these sounds reached our ears on lonely evenings, our mouths would automatically answer “Yes, Papa, we’re coming.”

A curious, quite amusing anecdote occurs to me about this very thing. At this very time in my life, a new street vendor whose voice was markedly like that of Papa’s, began ramble the lanes in our part of town. And whenever he called out the names of his “nutty delicacies” (Chole-Chole), I heard my own and my brother’s names in Papa’s voice. Promptly as an automaton I replied, “Yes, coming!” Immediately, however, the fact became clear – even after I’d repeatedly searched the house – that neither Papa nor my brother were there on that still afternoon. My child’s soul queried in bafflement whether I’d heard correctly or merely imagined the calls. My childish brain puzzled over it. In the days to follow I heard the odd calls that I’d initially answered mechanically a few more times. Then I was baffled. A few more days passed until I investigated myself and laughingly discovered the embarrassing reality – a peddlar!

The playgrounds of my childhood were the streets of Motihari. Back then that little East Indian town was not overpopulated, and the dry, clean streets of every part of town were ideal for our games: marbles, tops, badminton.
And back then Motihari was a wide distance away from the big world.
There were very many mango and lichee trees, fragrant lemon bushes, broad, large fields…and very few people. There were scattered decrepit hawelis1 and bungalows, in which frightening bhuts, geniis and juraels2 dwelled.

My childhood on that island was cosy, enchanted and now and then, jinxed. Every day brought with it a renewed sense of riddles in new unknown quarters, whose secrets always enthralled me anew.

The bejinxed evenings in Motihari repeated themselves and resembled one another, and at the same time there were far from any sort of boredom.

And I left Motihari, and today I live on the mainland. Yes, we leave islands. Perhaps unwillingly, but not unseldomly. And some of us travel without interruption, from land to island and from island to land. Ah, as blissful as shepherds.

 

Translated from German by
Marilya Veteto Reese

1 Richly decorated traditional trading posts in the desert of Rajasthan
2 Various male and female forms of ghosts

Ferida Durakovic

Lit.-Mag #36
Home & Homecoming

Too much sadness and too little hair

A baby with hair

The rubber doll, probably conceived in the Russian doll factory as a boy baby, or a baby in general, sexless like all dolls and all toys in the world, her treasure, her baby kin, which her Mother had bought her in the city market, her most beloved baby, that is her only one – had no hair.

The Little Girl did not like male babies, did not like boys, she was ashamed and disgusted by them; she wanted a baby with hair. But Mummy had no money to buy her a doll with hair, like the one belonging to the daughter, an only child, or the one belonging to Mirica, her cousin, an only child: the one from Italy, the magnificent one that sat in the middle of the double bed in the beautiful big house, where the bed linen had Mirica’s name embroidered on it, the one in the magnificent pink dress with lace flounces… But never mind the dress; it was the hair that mattered, those cascades of locks which fell over the shoulders of Italian dolls – oh…

The Little Girl longed, wished, dreamed, daydreamed, that she had that doll, and knew that she would never, n e v e r, NEVER ask her mummy to buy it for her. She knew that it could not be bought; it was rude even to enquire.

In the evening, under her heavy woollen quilt that stifled her, pressing her thin little hands onto her stomach, she would repeat God, give me a baby with hair, and with that desire drifted into sleep and surfaced from sleep, astonished that God had not fulfilled her desire – just as she would wake astonished in adulthood if He ever did fulfil one.

If on her way to school she went a hundred steps without treading on the line between the paving stones, Father would buy her a doll with hair. Father loved her, more than all of them, and every day he bought her something which her brothers and sister would not get, he held her in his lap and caressed her, which he didn’t do with the other children because he didn’t have time, but she was sickly, thin as a twig, her heart jumped and stifled her, and she went regularly to the sea because she had to, to Zelenika, when the sick children went there, and Father would understand why she needed that doll baby with hair so badly, and … she had stepped on a line between the stones… She wouldn’t even ask him.

The Little Girl was an excellent pupil, she worked hard, she learned her lessons in advance because she was bored in class, and the other children were so slow to understand, she was a good girl, she longed for someone to praise her because she was good, she never went anywhere she was not supposed to, she didn’t say bad words, so why couldn’t she have a doll from Italy? Or some other doll, just so long as it had hair? She didn’t understand the words: there’s no money. How come, when there was money for everything else just not for that doll? Why did they have to buy so much food and wood and clothes? You could do without all of those.

It was the spring of 1968. The little girl took her cardboard box out onto the meadow behind the house and took out each of her treasures one by one and placed them on the damp ground: brightly coloured chintz rags she would use to sew a dress for the baby she dreamed of; silk embroidery thread which she would weave into a ribbon for the hair of the baby she dreamed of; a little shoe box, she would use it to make a bed for the baby she dreamed of. Here too was her only, boy baby, the one without hair … what would she do with it when she got the baby she dreamed of? She took the baby without hair and cuddled it, saying I won’t leave you, don’t worry, and she nearly cried for sadness that this one didn’t have hair, and that she had to not love it because it had no hair, and that she had to dream of the one with hair, which she had to love in advance, even without seeing it.

***

Father had shouted last night, he came home tipsy and snored on the double Bed; something had happened that the Little Girl didn’t understand, but she knew that it wasn’t good. Mummy had big blue bags under her eyes this morning, and she had not stroked her head and said Mummy’s lambkin. Father came out and said to her and her sister, Get ready, we’re going out. They didn’t dare ask where, and got ready and set off after him down the steep street, holding hands, without a word, like every time they went anywhere together. The Little Girl didn’t like holding her sister’s hand, for her Sister hated holding hands and she hated the Little Girl because of that hand holding as though it was her idea, but this morning she liked it because she was afraid of being alone and her Sister’s hand was something that connected her to the house which had been so sad that morning, suffocating and cramped for everyone who lived in it.

They went into a shop where the sign said Men’s Hairdresser; a man with combed hair full of brilliantine sat them down on seats, one beside the other, and cut off their beautiful long plaits, first her Sister’s, then the Little Girl’s. The Little Girl did not remember much apart from the circle of her hair lying round the hairdresser’s chair, and sorrow, and the horror with which she knew Mummy would look at them both, two plucked chickens with short spiky boys’ hair, and Father’s smirk when he saw their mother’s face. I’ve got my own back, was written all over that face, which the Little Girl had never seen so ugly, and he handed Mummy an old newspaper with four plaits wrapped in it, sad and lonely and tearful, like Mummy, who unwrapped them, and wrapped them up again, and put them in the drawer of the dresser, where she kept needles and thread and some old yellow photographs.

A few days passed; Father was calm, Mummy was calmer, at school the Little Girl and her Sister were ashamed of their haircuts, but there was nothing to be done. The Little Girl went on dreaming about the baby she dreamed of, and life, which she had thought would come to an end with her parents’ quarrel, returned to the house. Her eldest brother went off to demonstrate, no one knew exactly what that was, but Father said The only way to talk to them is with a belt. Mummy rushed agitatedly through the house, opening and shutting cupboards, rummaging through the same drawers twice, putting away her hair that was already put away, dusting what had already been dusted, stroking the Little Girl’s head, although she had already done so that morning. Because of all of that the Little Girl wound round her Mother’s legs like a kitten, trying to provoke another caress, trying to summon the strength to ask Mummy, Will you buy me a baby with hair? Suddenly, Mummy – mummy knows – opened the drawer in the dresser once again, and said Hey, mummy’s lambkin, here take this and make your baby some hair, and handed her the newspaper with the four plaits wrapped in it, and then disappeared out of the kitchen into the bedroom, where she could be heard stifling sobs, but no one dared go in there.

The Little Girl went out onto the meadow behind the house, unwrapped the newspaper and looked at the plaits of dead hair, and saw the solution of her desires.

From that moment, until the moment when a pile of hair was stuck to the boy baby with O-HO glue, several long days passed. But that didn’t matter to the Little Girl, what mattered was that at last she had the baby with hair that she dreamed of. What the Little Girl could not see, but everyone around her could – first her Sister, then her brothers, then the neighbours, and the writer of these lines – was the fact that her little clumsy hands had not known how to stick the hair on properly, so that the baby, in fact, looked like a little typhus victim, with big patches of bald head and a few locks of hair which moulted like dogs’ fur and fell out every time the Little Girl wanted to comb it.

But, here is the important idea of the story, it is important that I wanted to say something, says the writer, while the Little Girl says What’s important is the hair, and we ought, in fact, all to be pretty happy with the outcome of this story, in which there is too much sadness and too little hair.

It’s not important that we are (I know, I know) on the side of the Little Girl and that finally, as in all stories about Divine justice, a year after this event her Mother would buy her a doll with hair, after she had her tonsils out, as a present for being brave, and that, after that, the Little Girl would connect every act of bravery in her life with dolls with hair, which no one bought her as a reward.

And it’s not important that the Little Girl, by Divine injustice, at the age of twenty-nine would lose almost all her hair, without anyone knowing why, not even the omniscient doctors. And that, by Divine justice, new hair would grow again almost over night: new, curly, beautiful, healthy, like her life, which from the moment she got her new hair developed like a long love story which survived even the people who did not get the main parts in it.

After the war in 1992, one in history and the hundredth for a Little Girl of this kind, the Little Girl gave birth to a Little Girl, a tiny baby – her baby kin. When they placed her on her breast, tightly wrapped in a dirty hospital nappy in the maternity ward where they washed the babies in cold water from war canisters because there was no power, the only thing that she wanted to know – before she fainted with pain – was whether the baby had hair. Of course, said the nurse, it’s a real miracle. She has long black hair.

Translated from Bosnian
by Celia Hawkesworth

Danijela Kambaskovic-Sawers

 

Lit.-Mag #36
Home & Homecoming

Six poems from Balkan homes

‘Out of my house a tree is growing’

Selected and translated into English by
Danijela Kambaskovic-Sawers (Belgrade-Canberra-Geneva)

Željko Ivankovic
(Bosnia & Herzegovina)

Out of my house a tree is growing
(Iz moje kuce raste drvo)

Out of my roofless house
a tree, growing for seven years.
Out of my house a night is growing,
A large, glutinous night is growing,
a night, seven years long:
seven Biblical years.
Out of my house a tree is growing,
Its budding canopy home
to new tenants: the wind and the cold,
and the unease
of my mother’s final prayer.
Its budding canopy home
to waiting – waiting as green
as the grass was on her grave;
And we are gone. We are gone.
Our house is gone;
Seven years, seven long
Biblical years.

Jovanka Uljarevic
(Montenegro)

The Red Algae Coast
(Obala crvenih algi)

I live on the coast of red algae
And I have never worn
A fox stole around my neck

In the absence of light
Crocodile hunters say crocs go quiet
But, you see, on the red algae coast
This is not the case at all

Maybe because there are no crocodiles there
Or because the algae can go blue

Stick to my feet
Like loyal co-swimmers

Of the kind you cannot imagine
Unless you are accustomed to engraving
Your initials into the surface of the sea
Sensing that to the surface, this makes sense

Mehmed Begic
(Bosnia & Herzegovina)

FROM THE BALCONY
(SA BALKONA)

the view goes on
to the hills
they brought me up
to miss the sea
but to always
feel
at home
amongst them
A perfect image of nature
sliced by
trucks
busses
cars
On the table before me
a pencil
a box
a lighter
a mug of white coffee
turning back
to look for you in the room
we’ll think of something

Živorad Nedeljkovic
(Serbia)

Belgrade, a desire to magnify
(Beograd, želja za uvecanjem)

I am relishing my fourth apple,
but peeling words and using only the husks.
I hear a childhood friend, who dropped in
After ten years or so, chatter about the metropolis,
He is grown into its labyrinths, the rat;
Safely drunk, he roll-calls the names of actors and singers,
Bolding bullet points of biography, he focuses on
Skin imperfections, not heeding
The futility of this work. He worms his way still deeper into the fruit,
And I find out about who never sobers up, which one is a whore
And the like detail of urban planning.
Curled before the sudden vivisection,
I foretell needles and narcotics. My friend
Is up to the challenge: he drinks with authority;
Homesick for his birthplace and its distilled beauty,
He skims the unripe cream.

In a short piece on criminality
And murders, he says, You touch nobody,
Nobody touches you, it’s simple. He bears down
On his disbelief, slurring. Is it possible
Not to touch anybody, I wonder. Unaccustomed
To visitors, I shelter behind sober words,
Inside the hollowed-out layers of the predictable
I wander, as always without haste, to the periphery
Of my body’s excavation site. And feed it, like tonight,
Avoiding the worm-ridden parts.

Dinko Delic
(Bosnia & Herzegovina)

A Democratic Dialogue
(Demokratski dijalog)

You live in a fairy tale,
says
my friend, driver and mechanic,
in a café called THE GARDEN OF SHEHID by
the gravestones marked with lilies, lawns
growing marble;
a discharged
combatant, entrenched in whiskey and barricades
of smoked meat, his blood-shot eyes
locked on my herbal tea. You’re wrong,
I retaliate under the table,
With
the intention of forcing him
to sign a badly thought-out truce. A fairy tale
is a logistical term belonging to the field
of literature, but in the war, it stands for a strategic base
for top-secret, tactically astute
planning. You see, and then I sipped some of my tea,
it would be stupid if I were to tell you
about the carburetor.

Danijela Kambaskovic-Sawers
(Belgrade-Canberra-Geneva)

Laughing at the bottom of the well
(Smejem se na dnu bunara)

Deep at the bottom
I clang like stairways
I peal with laughter
knee-deep in water

spinning in circles
gyrating maelstroms
my outstretched fingers
scratching the wall

in this furrow cities are growing
tiny buildings
circular roadways

in my furrow music is playing
kitchens are bubbling
men are pleading

in my furrow live the poets

of a questioning eye

Sarajevo, Summer 2004 (Foto T. Lukic)

Prasenjit Maiti

Prose Poetry from India

Sound of Silence

You are there and you are not as the doors would neither open nor close and I may see you now while the very next moment my sorrows blind me, my sorrows that are quite so gay and straight and black that I may not see you dressed in white in a darker room and smiling for a moment as you are angry like evermore … I may even touch you in the nude and may or may not feel jovially embarassed, my new found delights that pain me like nobody’s business as you are always there and never once haunting my rich city of memories, the Chinese downtown and the WASP*) countryside, my poor city of oblivion and joyous hatred … You are there and you are not as the doors would neither open nor close like a clash of cymbals that I may or may not enjoy like Coca-Cola as you are there and you are not dressed in white and naked stark …

*) white anglo saxon protestant /
weisser angelsächsischer Protestant

Klang der Stille

Du bist dort und doch nicht, so wie die Türen sich weder öffnen noch schließen, und ich kann dich jetzt sehen, während schon im nächsten Augenblick meine Sorgen mich blenden, meine Sorgen, die so nachdrücklich und direkt und schwarz sind, dass ich dich nicht einmal in weiß gekleidet in einem dunkleren Raum wahrnehmen kann, einen Moment lächelnd, wo du doch zorniger bist als je zuvor … Es mag sogar sein, dass ich dich in deiner Nacktheit berühren darf und mich in heiterer Verwirrung empfinde oder auch nicht, meine eben erst gefundenen Freuden, die mich so sehr quälen wie nichts einen Menschen quälen kann, da du immer dort bist und doch nie wieder meine reiche Stadt der Erinnerungen aufsuchst, das chinesische Viertel und die Landschaft der WASP*), meine arme Stadt aus Vergessen und fröhlichem Haß … du bist dort und du bist nicht dort, so wie die Türen sich weder öffnen noch schließen, wie das Anklingen von Zimbeln, die ich genieße oder auch nicht, wie Coca-Cola, da du dort bist und nicht in weiß gekleidet and gänzlich nackt …

White Diamonds

Your white chiffon burns as the sky burns in Calcutta and I dig inside molten sundae and ketchup like religion like recluse like fantasy, your white chiffon burns as I admire the riverfront and the bridge girdled like chastity, the breeze and its fragrance like a woman in season and panting, your white diamonds burn like your eyes, black like Bengal’s sorrows and ranting, your white diamonds burn like ashes like Coventry like merry sex like royalty

Weisse Diamanten

Dein weißer Chiffon brennt wie der Himmel über Calcutta und ich vergrabe mich im Becher mit schmelzendem Eis und Ketchup wie in Religion, in Klausur, in Phantasie, dein weißer Chiffon brennt, während ich die Flußpromenade bewundere und die wie ein Keuschheitsgürtel wappnende Brücke, die Brise und ihren Duft wie eine Frau in der Schonzeit und schwer atmend, deine weißen Diamanten brennen wie deine Augen, schwarz wie die Schmerzen Begalens und tobend, deine weißen Diamanten brennen wie Asche wie Coventry wie fröhlicher Sex wie ein Königreich

Calcutta Oh Calcutta!

My City never sleeps and can never live down her boisterous indifference whenever there are those dark rain clouds hovering across the skies of Bengal. I know her vanity and inanity and sick desires and yet cannot do anything to redeem her glory that is rightfully hers. Calcutta my beloved is a cat crossing the thoroughfares of sorrow and desperation like myself, Calcutta my desire is myself driving my auto in confusion into the night. My City nowadays never even dreams her colonial dreams of grandeur and divide and rule. My City never ever sleeps the sleep of the dead or divine.

 

Calcutta oh Calcutta!

Meine Stadt schläft niemals und wird nie ihre heftige Unbekümmertheit zu Tode leben, wann immer diese dunklen Regenwolken über den Himmeln von Bengalen hängen. Ich kenne ihre Eitelkeit und ihre Hohlheit und kranken Wünsche und kann dennoch nichts tun, um ihren Ruhm wieder zu erlangen, der ihr zurecht gebührt. Calcutta, meine Liebe, ist eine Katze, die die Durchgangsstraßen aus Schmerz und Verzweiflung überquert wie ich selbst, Calcutta mein Begehren, das bin ich, der seinen Wagen in Aufgelöstheit durch die Nacht fährt. Meine Stadt träumt heute nicht einmal ihre kolonialen Träume von Größe und Erfindergeist und Herrschaft. Meine Stadt schläft niemals den Schlaf der Toten oder Begnadeten.

Übersetzung aus dem Englischen: Petra Ganglbauer

 

Peter Paul Wiplinger

Translated Poetry from Vienna

AUSBLICK AUF DEN SEE

grün ist alles hier
in der landschaft

bäume und wasser
am ufer das schilf

das hohe farnkraut
sträucher und gräser

graublauer himmel
wölbt sich darüber

liebliche landschaft
als gäbe es frieden

und nirgendwo
krieg

Kloster Glendalough
Dublin, 6.8.1999

LOOKING ACROSS THE LAKE

everything is green here
in the countryside

water and trees
reeds on the shoreline

the high bracken
ferns and grasses

blue grey sky
curving above

lovely landscape
as if there were peace

and nowhere
war

Glendalough
Dublin, 6 August 1999
Translated from the German by James A. Ritchie

ZWISCHEN HIMMEL UND ERDE

zwischen himmel
und erde

der horizont
das niemandsland

zwischen himmel
und erde

das grauen
der völkermord

zwischen himmel
und erde

der vogelflug
der vogelschrei

zwischen himmel
und erde

die grenze
der freiheit

zwischen himmel
und erde

die wolken
der regen

die kälte
der schnee

BETWEEN HEAVEN AND EARTH

between heaven
and earth

the horizon
no-man’s-land

between heaven
and earth

terror
genocide

between heaven
and earth

the bird’s flight
the bird’s cry

between heaven
and earth

the border
of freedom

between heaven
and earth

clouds
rain

coldness
snow

Translated from the German by Herbert Kuhner

FARBENLEHRE

das wasser ist
mit blut vermengt

das wasser
dieser erde

was sollen mir
die bunten farben

von generalen
von kardinälen

in ihren uniformen
in ihrem prunkornat

da war
der schwarze zug

und später
leichenberge

was soll die welt
in maske und kostüm

der tod
hat keine farbe

wer tot ist
ist nur tot

LESSON IN COLOURthe water is mixed
with blood

the water
of this earth

what sense is there
in the bright colours

of generals
of cardinals

in their uniforms
in their splendid robes

there was
the black train

and later
piles of bodies

what sense is there in a world
of masks and costumes

death
has no colour

the dead
are just dead

Translated from the German by Herbert Kuhner

LITERARISCHES PROGRAMM

gegen jeden staat
der sich absolut setzt
werde ich widerstand leisten

gegen jede partei
die sich absolut setzt
werde ich widerstand leisten

gegen jede religion
die sich absolut setzt
werde ich widerstand leisten

gegen alle die nach macht streben
nur um macht zu erreichen
werde ich widerstand leisten

mit meinem handeln
mit meinem wort

LITERARY PROGRAMME

any country
that claims to be absolute
I will resist

any party
that claims to be absolute
I will resist

any religion
that claims to be absolute
I will resist

all those who strive for power
just to achieve power
I will resist

with my actions
with my words

Translated from the German by Hilde Spiel

POESIE

dasitzen und nachdenken
ein gedicht schreiben

indes die anderen sterben
durch krankheit und hunger

durch krieg und gewalt
durch gleichgültigkeit

dasitzen und nachdenken
ein gedicht schreiben

während tag für tag
der urwald brennt

sich das klima verändert
die welt vergiftet wird

dasitzen und nachdenken
ein gedicht schreiben

wort für wort setzen
ordnungsgefüge aufbauen

tag für tag versuchen
am leben zu bleiben

in der sprache lebendig
zu sein im gedicht

POETRY

sitting there and thinking
writing a poem

while others die
due to disease and starvation

due to war and violence
due to indifference

sitting there and thinking
writing a poem

while day after day
the forest burns

the climate changes
the world is poisoned

sitting there and thinking
writing a poem

placing word after word
constructing a system

day after day
trying to stay alive

living in language
living in a poem

Translated from the German by Herbert Kuhner

LIEBESGEDICHT

als du sagtest
der sommer ist
zu ende

da fiel
der schatten

deines gesichtes
auf mich

draußen flogen
schon möwen

und das herz
begann

einzufrieren
in der kälte

wer dachte ich
wird im frühling

da sein für mich
wenn die magnolien
blühen voll pracht

LOVE POEM

when you told me
that the summer
is over

the shadow
of your face

fell
on me

outside the seagulls
were already flying

and my heart
began

to freeze
in the cold

who will be here
for me in spring

I thought to myself
when the magnolias
bloom in their splendor

Translated from the German by Herbert Kuhner

SICH ZURÜCKZIEHEN

sich zurückziehen
mit dem längerwerden
der schatten

sich zurückziehen
in die trauer
in die hoffnung

sich zurückziehen
in das schweigen

die spuren verwischen
unauffindbar sein

der tag ist schön
der tod ist nah

WITHDRAWING

withdrawing
with the elongating
shadows

withdrawing
into sadness
into hope

withdrawing
into silence

wiping out the traces
being undiscoverable

the day is beautiful
death is near

Translated from the German by Susanne Nowak

Alexandra Ekkelenkamp

Dutch and English Poems

dicht

ik wilde dat we weer samen
drongen achter een ruit

zacht zou ze ademen
wasem op het uitzicht

dan werd de rivier uiteindelijk zo glad
de verre paarden gaven kopjes

dan mocht ik schrijven
en schreef van haar en ik

schreef dat uitzicht
met lange lome letters

dicht.

Zomertje voor Ingi

je rent rond
in het verhaaltje
dat je schreef

klaprozen tot je knieën
tenen in gras
huppelend in een zon

de wind trekt je mee
jij de lucht in: een vlieger
in een blauw jurkje

 

Limitations
(for Ursula Wood)

Father

you
hand guiding gaze
fixed Venus
on my retina
last night

tonight
another cloudless sky
I cannot recognize
any
constellation

stars and planets
remain
in chaos
without you:
my patient telescope

still you know not where God lives

Passport

a spaceship has no anchor
to keep it
from dreaming

travelling
is tugging
at an umbilical cord

I am always offspring
of continent
yet my spirit is a Briton

and my limbs spring from strange soil

AD

before whose time
am I alive

will I be a haunting spirit
looking
over brilliant shoulders

will I copy poetry
in chimney dust

dating it             73 yrs after me

Ingeborg Bachmann

ANRUFUNG DES GROSSEN BÄREN  / INVOCATION
Großer Bär, komm herab, zottige Nacht,
Wolkenpelztier mit den alten Augen,
Sternenaugen,
durch das Dickicht brechen schimmernd
deine Pfoten mit den Krallen,
Sternenkrallen,
wachsam halten wir die Herden,
doch gebannt von dir, und mißtrauen
deinen müden Flanken und den scharfen
halbentblößten Zähnen,
alter Bär.
Ein Zapfen: eure Welt.
Ihr: die Schuppen dran.
Ich treib sie, roll sie
von den Tannen im Anfang
zu den Tannen am Ende,
schnaub sie an, prüf sie im Maul
und pack zu mit den Tatzen.
Fürchtet euch oder fürchtet euch nicht!
Zahlt in den Klingelbeutel und gebt
dem blinden Mann ein gutes Wort,
dass er den Bären an der Leine hält.
Und würzt die Lämmer gut.
’s könnt sein, dass dieser Bär
sich losreißt, nicht mehr droht
und alle Zapfen jagt, die von den Tannen
gefallen sind, den großen, geflügelten,
die aus dem Paradiese stürzten. 

 

Mit freundlicher Genehmigung des Piper Verlags und
Dr Heinz Bachmann für den Bachmann Nachlass

 

Great Bear, descend, shaggy night,
nebula-furred animal with those ancient eyes,
Eyes of star,
your clawed paws break shimmering
through the thicket,
Star claws.
We keep vigil over our herds,
yet you hold us in your power, and we mistrust
your tired flanks and sharp
half-bared teeth,
old Bear.
Your world is a pine cone
and you its scales.
I propel them, roll them
from the firs at the beginning
to the firs at the end,
I blow them, test them in my mouth
and grasp them with my paws.
Be afraid or be fearless!
Give alms and
spare a kind word for the blind man
that he hold tight the Bear’s chain.
And season the lambs well.
It could happen that this Bear
breaks free, threatens no more
and chases all the cones that have
fallen from the firs, the large winged ones,
that plummeted from paradise. 

Translated by Angelika Fremd