Curtis Harnack Wrapped Me in a Shawl
TOMAŽ ŠALAMUN Translated from the Slovenian by Michael Taren & the Author
Scantily Clad Press, 2008
poetry must be made of music, moths! I buried my soul in the sand so it would lie there for a while to hide and get crust, to be made safe so the devil when he bites will slide with his teeth giants’ anthems, covered shoulders I chopped off my hair, toes, black thresholds of paintings I fodder princes, I don’t touch hunting grounds I die in front of senators, among burning geese I have strong blood, plenty in stock I grease my mouth with soap to make them shriek if my shadow falls on a shiny metal object I throw myself on it until I warm it I don’t leave it if the sun will pass through the door before the great winters I’m saved bury me at the lonely place, the grave should be circled by crosses let me rest so that the time will be seen my hair and toes should be stored in sealed polyvinyl bags
Christ If I’d eat my mom, the fish would tear her up already in my throat. I’d better post her on the gun. Let her flutter like a flag with wet paws, thought the boy with the small bundle before he fell asleep. For a long time he didn’t dream at all, then he suddenly saw Christ how he eats kohlrabi. Why do you do this? he sayeth. Why don’t you leave kohlrabi in peace? Christ didn’t know what to do, no one till now did reproach him his greenery. What should I eat then, he said. We’ll go hunting said the boy with the small bundle, for sure you’ll catch a rabbit. And they went. The light that poured from the Christ’s belly diminished and they started to stumble on stones. I’m not skilled, said the Lord, I never caught a rabbit. Leave it to me, said the boy with the small bundle, only the light’s missing. And Christ had eaten another kohlrabi and the light was back immediately. You cheat me, said the boy. The light should shine by itself. The rabbit will be just for me if you don’t get better. And it was so light that rabbits were like holidays. And one gave them his eye, the other his nose and this was plenty and nobody died.
Death! Death! Death! The apple opens, dust! The bull drops off the horn. The mirror is the mirrorâ€™s prey. Water washes the dead. Air kills the living. Thereâ€™re seven marbles on the ground. And blue is black, and black is the red basket of berries. Moooooo! The action berths balloons and pours grease on the eyes of the double-crossed. Castles will stick to the gluey. The grain is laughable. Where are you, red hood? Where are you, black plum, white milk? The train rushes among deer, grazing bluntly like the dawn.
Kitty! Kitty! Kitty! The leaf is pierced by a freckle. Blue bird approaches flying.
Grandfather I dreamt a huge monument, that wrapped itself with a red wire. Birds didnâ€™t peck the stone, but the interspaces between the wires. There were no interspaces! The pores, my grandfather! Your soul had always the shape of a pear. You stood on the steep slope above town. You held the torch in your hands. Townspeople started to pour each other with blood, with the buckets. Tacitly we went to buy an English dining room. Everything in the room. The portrait of young mother and the silver chest. The salesman told us thereâ€™s another town beneath this town. The cathedral glitters in the sun under the earth too. Then you fell. You crushed the theater. From your head people started to build houses. Someone carried your right thumb to his garden. And I rushed by car on the dry river. Your huge monument sealed the treaty. I kept taking your stony veins from your belly and kept testing them. I visited your wife in the hospital and stuffed the nurses mouths with five thousand banknotes, the biggest paper money then. You were dying. Not your wife.
Your wife died long ago, before, in the year one thousand nine hundred fifty one, in July, when mom cried on the terrace.
Miners Palms burn. Palm trees burn. Triangles burn. A horse paws on the sand like a girl from the north touching nettles. Gold caves open. Water freezes. Godâ€™s eye swills little brooks and blows on the heart. Fog rises from leaves. Someone in an apron runs across the porch. The whip bursts. The sun falls.
Her Dreams for Her Birthday All at once I was in Russia. I donâ€™t know with whom, with Travitza or with Harriet, we roared with laughter. In Russia, I stepped directly from my apartment which had streets and giant rooms. There were soldiers everywhere. The meat hanged from the shack. So they do have meat we said to ourselves, but it turned out the meat was only for the canteen. We passed them. A certain woman came running, she told us her son in Moscow filed a request and we should see if the request was being processed. We promised to do that, and proceeded through the woods roaring with laughter.
In the Abulafia Clutches Watered by pro domo sua, are my footprints servile? And who is this shelf, the edge of I, the roof above my head concealing the sky. Am I off ? Is in the rarefied air left only a trace of scales’ libido? Scales of sloughs of the terrible cabalist Abulafia, who is in fact concentrated to the mouth, not even to the language. “La bouche, la bouche” in Marais, three steps from Seine, with sun from Haiti. Am I punished by Césaire? We, poets, after a certain fulfillment of years disappear. In the air, in the consecration, in the pandemonic responsibility, in Johanca, home at Vodice. We lose ourselves in the woods, they undo our hands. The horse from the turban doesn’t calm his stretched clients. I blacked out the source. Delight blacked out the source.
Largo di Vitoria Out of milk, out of strong skin jumps the big brother. When the river flows, the berth sleeps. There’s the block behind me. The biggest mango tree in Bahia is a hundred meters away. Spike Lee said this. Where do you rove beneath drying hood? Young greenhorns move by themselves. The tribe sleeps on the bench. Black leg between two seagulls is dressed in blue slipper. No one smells itself better then little hills. The lady with crutches caresses the tired mailman. The child lies with his legs pointing the monument. I vomit, as I’m a trunk. O lumberjack, your woods are feathery. A graft seizes the near. The beak dies in conscience. We hide the confirmation. There’s no flesh from leaves. The rule is from Attica, eye of the post promised
as a witness. The vase drinks his neighbor. Čučo, let’s go to have lunch and talk. There’s no smoke.
Granny “O my Tomilay, come back, don’t untie your hair. Don’t forget the golden doe beneath birch leaves. Shoot only in self defense. Do you always give enough to beggars?” My horse had heard it too. This was the voice of my dead granny. Let’s stop, horsy. I’m really sick probably. Where do I ride after all? The solar discus? What did the phantoms who tire me so really want? Might these skeins be some head offices liking me alone in the mountains? And who will put his body on the paper for Metka’s drawing? I’m bewitched, horsy. Again I’ve done a silly thing. When I open the door, I say don’t ask. Red Hand Brotherhood totally bewilders me, you’ll read in the poem. I choked and I feel awfully guilty that the bull yesterday almost
killed you. Here, my hand! Draw it. Let it be red to remember, although Iâ€™m still furious at those little Martians. And you should know to be thankful to my Granny. We wonâ€™t visit more churches for you to have fun with Christs in violet velvet Bermuda breeches.
Opera House The breeding place for the God’s eye is in the plastic bag. The breeding place for the God’s eye is the inner sandolin. Why does the moss cover my wounded heel? It was deeply cleaved, in the wound teeth were made. With it I chewed the squirrels-traitors. The murder of Aldo Moro rebounded off the white eye only a bit. But not in our lands. Our lands were torn up. In the Opera House Emil Filipčič was beaten. Jure Detela beat him. I became aware of it when the pope set his lips to Agça. I knew it was about Fatima.
Pastorela Swabians have eyes like potatoes. Their mothers are all waiters. A Jew, okay, but with the dead mother of art history said Maruška, left and married in Tübingen. She took with her all my boxes. Tomorrow is Christmas and I’m the boy with the bundle. Noble, right? For the boy with the bundle this was the worst day. He looked under his skin where there were nothing but hookers and gave them some food. 100 hojas de papel bond de primera, he copied from his Scribe notebook and although the hookers were slightly consoled he still didn’t know what he should do in the world. And he took the sea in his hands, looked if they make a door to him and he clasped it to his heart. He walked along calle San Francisco and punched piñata, so bonbons were pouring out. He took a seat on a truck where there was a live Christmas crib. Jesus was made of wood, because no mother would give such a small boy, but all the others, shepherds, little angels, Saint Joseph were his age. They traveled slowly, people sang and threw oranges from their windows and still they were supposed to go to Plaza de Toros to climb on the revolvable stage but it was so windy that they preferred to go home.
Guadalajara Airport Meadows of dread. Birds gently put to sleep among sun rays wounding them so they bleed. The air kills semen. The front of the bird is grass afire. The leaves are strangers with the soaked goiter. With their heavy goiters making holes in cheese. The tribe writes. I donâ€™t drink coffee. The engine falls with snowy silver parachute. Americans have many troubles. The faces, set up in the circle are Dianaâ€™s. Who stretches out the arrow turns round the dawn. Gurgles, he who drowns. Cabmen lift up trunks, putting them calmly on carts. The wheels are tiny pearls. With the knitting needles cut out the eyes on the meadow of dread.
Paul Twitchell Two rocks, marble and granite. The rain, the golden hair is built in. What are the animal joints like, what are the joints of milk like. We don’t know. Thin is the stone’s skin under my fingers. We’re all exposed to the sun in two faces.
The Boats I’m religious. Religious as a wind or scissors. An ant eats, she’s religious, flowers are red. I don’t want to die. I don’t care if I die, now. I’m more religious then the dust in the desert. Children’s mouths are round. My eyes are a syrup, the cold drips from it. Sometimes I think nettles stung me, but they didn’t. I think I’m unhappy, but I’m not. I’m religious. I’ll throw the barrel in the river. If bees would rush after my face, I would scratch my face with my hand and I would see again. I don’t get upset. My soul presses like crowds press the door. When I die oxen will graze the grass the same way. Houses will glimmer the same way.
To Disappear in the Fairytale, To Perforate One’s Legs What happens with the difference in the head? Where does the difference settle? When the beast wickerbaskets itself, the rape sets in. The piglet eats the piglet. Mallarmé budges. The lice, beneath the golden cowslips don’t come back again. The grass stands up, Goethe stands up, here are the miners with their lamps again. Again, the event in Venice breaks out, in the night, in the bus, between vaporetto and hotel in Mestre when an unknown man in the crowd says: I’m a poet, nobody wanted to publish me, all my life I had to be a high school teacher. He stares at me and shouts: Rudolf Steiner! The cult will abduct me. They will eat my fibers.
The sack is delight, the ivory is delight, the sea robbers kill the fly. Thermopyles are small yellow spheres, blue small squares, they eat each other. I lived in the hotel with round walls, with a round lamp. Outside the hotel was ice, it creaked, the soul embraced the storm. Iâ€™m hemmed by black yarn. The sphinx will tear up my black yarn. He uses me like a pretzel. I use him like a pretzel, we make love. We know little how the skin pastes all over flesh, we breathe and beam. Again, the cricket grimaced. I live among hard-boiled corn mush and safes, to give the donkey blue glasses, to make him eat blue straw. Blue straw doesnâ€™t starve a man. Blue straw entitles him. I take care. The fragment alters into the serpentine. My sight, scanned,
changes into crystal. What do we want with our eyes? What do we want with our aprons? Boiling water and a spider. An engine slides in Vremska Valley.
Sons of Darkness There’s no light in the Pythagorean mills. Soda dropped from the numerals. There are pistils on the white turtles. What does Babylon want? And the cyclic sweet milk, breast-feeding these sluggish animals moving from the edge to the edge as in the oasis. Crystals stretched in the sky fall in the bucket. Is Engidu’s tear more salty than the tear of the child waiting for his mom at Prule kindergarten? Didn’t I somewhere see his little coat already? It burned above the fire of the temple where they killed all forty of them. Where are you, Artemis? Wagons are greasy from food. Greasy air falls on palm trees. Greasy are pants of sages. Greasy is the ring turning round our souls like little wagons with their white gluttonous dust. Mourning dove!
After This Night In front of a thin plate with round stones. You say the red pillar appears, the salt moves. That the red flame breaks out if I shove away. Such is the concentration of rocks. To you, to you, water, water between mirrors. You are the new young Prince. Confused. Not yet aware you wetted the cosmos. Youâ€™ll learn gradually by paying levies. Janez Bernik said about AndraĹž: break his beauty, his trap is his beauty. The horses, the carriage, the shawl took care of it. It was given back to him from Hades. Beauty consumes him calmly. Silk walls take breath away.
Take Karma Away from the Flour Satrap, you too don’t know if you’d pull through if I’d cut you out and compress you in the chimney of the locomotive. I’m the inner room, you’re nothing. All my talks are the talks with the loved one.
Long Ago Bullfinch, bullfinch, sap, bullfinch! With the lathe I ripped open the sky, I crawl. He isn’t you, isn’t you, isn’t him. His neck is straight, a giraffe would curve it, a giraffe would carry the luggage on the railway station, it would run. We would touch straps. We would touch straps with our finger and burn. Houses lick each other and move. They creak in knuckles. The flame licks them from the inside, first the lions above the door, finally the lions’ eyes. Remember, the snowflake dropped into my mouth, you wanted it for the title page. I was standing in Central Park. Curtis Harnack wrapped me in a shawl.
TomaĹž Ĺ alamun has had books translated into most of the European languages. He lives in Ljubljana and occasionally teaches in the USA. His recent books in English are The Book For My Brother, Row, andWoods and Chalices