ˇ PRIMOŽ ˇCUCNIK ANA PEPELNIK GREGOR PODLOGAR TOMAŽ ŠALAMUN TONE ŠKRJANEC
A SLOVENE SAMPLER EASTERN EUROPEAN POETS SERIES #22 UGLY DUCKLING PRESSE
ˇ PRIMOŽ ˇCUCNIK
Sonnet [translated by Ana Jelnikar and W. Martin] Forgive me for being so inconsiderate praise from the people close to you matters most love is a rushing homeland on a bicycle and war only frightful news on people’s tongues under coats stone particles crumble these don’t overlook anyone’s weaknesses but try and do whatever makes you satisfied fear is the forger of someone else’s money the body is an inner tube filled to the brim with air the universe an airless prison house of the mind whoever dies won’t say another word is war merely frightening news on people’s lips if only everyone did what made them happy change is a rushing homeland on a bicycle
Our folk songs [translated by Ana Pepelnik and Matthew Zapruder] were our home. We would whistle them while mooching in the kitchen or sitting around after Sunday lunch. Singing of what to love, we loved them, gay or gloomy takes on the world vanishing until we finally forgot it. As we did. We didn’t care any more about domestic fires, those songs weren’t singing to us. But more than about ourselves we worried about what we brought to the marketplace, chicory and other things, winter was hard, but not Siberian. But truly did we love each other, like it says in the song. Our feasts and funerals weren’t cheap. And when one day we went hiking again in our mountains, the folk songs came after us. For a second, we still had them on the tip of our tongues, ready to sing for us what we ourselves no longer could. Not without an effort. We even whistled death away, anything not to grow quiet.
In which case [translated by Ana Jelnikar and W. Martin] I’m sure you absolutely have to Trust imagination and the tracks That language takes in pathlessness. It probably knows — in any case It’s smarter than we are, might be our only support. When you walk through the desert you need water And spare parts for the jeep. So take everything you find in this dictionary, And everything you don’t. You might need it. Even later, even when you no longer are — Apparitions of shooting stars above the dunes, And the stars will shine on.
Bad weather [translated by Ana Pepelnik and Matthew Zapruder] There’s no explanation for what’s happening in tiny drops for the third day now. No prediction. Those long term ones are wrong, but the short ones are late, talking about things we already know. I don’t know why, but that’s how we talk. We’ll never get used to permanent changes and changeability, otherwise we would talk differently. If there’s a world that’s different, we’ll manage. But we’ll never find out, as we know, only by intuition. With its satin touch. If there’s a world like that, we could actually manage. Without lies and threats. Well. I’d like to give you a present I was saving for you, but I don’t know if I’m going out nor if you’ll be invited to stop by, in the form of salty drops or questioning.
à Reverdy [part one] [translated by Ana Jelnikar and W. Martin]
Pick up castaway skates and glide across frozen pavements. Point-blank honed, cut into the surface and let the legs with the skates be one. Skate away quickly, alone, as though it were a race, pay no attention to shouts: “Where is he skating?” It’s good to skate this way, no bounds under skates everything is allowed. You’re the lone skater down here, you see neither marks nor shadows the skates cast. You glide among the city lights, you hold your balance, you don’t fall over backwards. The skates leave a sharp trace of lines, grooves in the shimmering surface under them. So, take a dusty old pair and skate away into a skidding substance, there you’ll feel whole. Skate by yourself and under you, ice will turn to a quickened liquid. Don’t tell people about your skating. Skate as though you weren’t skating alone.
coca cola [translated by the author and Matthew Zapruder] Something scared the butterflies. While they are sitting around tender flowers nervously sipping something sweet for breakfast I am cold. An orange-brown butterfly scrambles on the little finger of my left leg. I don’t know whose heart is pulsing faster. I don’t even know if butterflies have a heart. It is all sensibility. Of flowers. Of butterflies. Of people. That’s why you are moved by every sound and in some extended moment of coziness you could remember the donkey with gloomy white-rimmed eyes. He was searching a piece of shadow and quietness together with you. Though a few crates of coca cola were hanging off his back he was lighter than me. Relaxed. Accustomed. While I couldn’t stop thinking about really how many people are in this world. Maybe that’s why the butterfly was sitting on me. So we could hold our hearts together and stop trembling. So we could rest in the donkey’s shadow and draw some white circles on the sun and postpone it on others. To get accustomed. And drink coca cola.
take off [translated by the author and Matthew Zapruder] It was seven in the morning and I was watching the coffee bean. I put it beside the rolling papers on the windowsill. Every bean and every rolling paper should have a view of the sky. Yet so small. It will get crushed anyway. Dust sprinkles with the speed of the sunlight and it catches in the nook of an eye. You could remove it with a hanky. In my case the smell
of the coffee was left over there. And ended in a pocket mixed with mint. Slightly crumpled but right on time. For the end of a cheap movie with happy ending. Someone brought green tangerines and they were sweet. And because I know I am peeling one in the name of walking into the fictional woods where looking at some rotten logs I murmur: if the peel of fruit (in this case sweet green tangerine) is an illusionÂâ€”tangerine is nearly an experience. And even tangerine was once a bean. If I left it on the window it has all possibilities to become orange. We are connected with longing for light. And speed. Some of it catches in the window pane and shines through us. Tiny glimmering bodies sitting around on the window sill. All so tiny green & still under the moving airplane.
poem [translated by the author and Matthew Zapruder] So far things are named. Assigned like in the poetry of Adrienne Rich in 1971. In their thin harmony they represent a world which doesnâ€™t exclude me. Like the tulip under the window. It got unfolded in the moment when I saw the rain and thought of duties which after all I couldnâ€™t put aside. That kept me calm. Tulip with shriveled leaves and harmony in things around me. Which was here ever since.
suddenly snow [translated by the author and Matthew Zapruder] Today the world gets on my nerves. People are overstrained like buds on a cherry tree. If I write down that I am alone I mean that. I illustrate a bad poem with music between my fingers. All of a sudden the world is ok. The slush was gone through the night and sparrows are having breakfast. I want another postcard with a few lines about how it is with other people in other towns.
13:33 [translated by the author and Laura Solomon] Laura Solomon is going to Paris. Hello Paris. What about Southampton? What about all the unread newspapers, reviews, books, notes? The notebook is silent. Don’t forget the emails. I’m frightened, as if someone had stepped on my feelings. Enough of the emotional weather. This poem doesn’t mention our national barn either, although there is one at the end of Siska, on the left, on the other side of the street. v
Don’t leave this Town [translated by the author and Matthew Zapruder] I feel lost, my hands shake, I don’t speak, clouds drift further to the east, the telephone will explode in flames, too many calls, not enough love, I am writing poems for a New Rome, nearby a hard rain, the old continent underwater in the middle of summer, like someone trying to clean sins, pain remains, you can call me anyway, whenever you are ready, Africa is not that far, I only miss Asia sometimes, I get closest to myself when I am returning, when I’m almost home.
It’s Not February [translated by the author and Laura Solomon] Already a week I’ve been carrying a collection of poems by Tom Raworth, a letter from Paul Killebrew and the light of autumn streets. And summer’s melancholy has ended, the truce has ended. If I say improvisation, I think of friendship. The plan accepted, the destinations conquered. . . . so to fix bitter melancholy neon shine shifty regards and I am AGAIN asking, if they know, how cold and dirty it is. And neither did we succeed in escaping our own regard of the seasons’ turn. This relation to tea is insanely pleasant, next to this sound another sound.
And it’s different from the feeling, when you walk around the city, to watch moving pictures, carefully rummaging the interior, and sometimes you’re only spinning faster the reel.
The Dark Side of New York: Schuyler [translated by the author
and Paul Killebrew] #
I love to watch you wash money in Ron Padgett’s bathtub & he doesn’t love it & calls the police & you’re trying to explain & nobody gets it no I don’t even get it probably John Wieners got it in his apartment where his journal was made along with love drugs magic & madness & if you write like he did it’s the only way to do it & that’s the world you live in & meanwhile you wrote held your breath slowed the tempo met pastoral words found the world of the poem looking in the window living like a dog dying however & the ferry left Hermes has a headache & squirrels are satisfied
Videotape [translated by the author and Laura Solomon] And the second line is silence because today we already know, sometimes it’s better to be silent. Ligeti didn’t lecture, Cage didn’t play. Africa is roaring, slums at the courtyard of history. This is not a political poem. Two thousand stops and not any bases. February pushes on the windows. Now you are just, you say to yourself. You boil the water for tea, turn off the cell phone, open the book. Something is scratching in the attic. The afternoon on its knees. I am in ŠSiska. American poets are still rallying to ŠSiska, usually at the beginning of summer. This poem won’t say anything new. This poem is not a secret. This poem is taking meaning from this poem. It will repeat in your head. Until the end, when you will have ended in any one of these hotel rooms. Mute and drunk as John Wayne. v
Pistoia [translated by Michael Taren and the author] Itâ€™s autumn. Not now. Bob Creeley called me keeper of the flame. Who will domesticate Native Americans if not our horizon. Knock in the nail. Know it. What is more solid jumps into the light of the shade. Times lived through. Woods are clean. In Thesaloniki I stole marmalade on the street. With Jean and Christine we went to a wedding. We wiped ourselves on columns like horses if horses would know how to wipe themselves off. Now somebody tenderizes the meat with a mallet. We hear it. The cook prepares the meal. In May it rains for the beauty of the skin. Izet died.
Demolition [translated by Michael Taren and the author] Was he? Did he stand up? Did he eat the bear? Did he enjoy his meal? Why is he tied in black? The tribe rolls. The tribe collects blue stamps. The tribe picks flowers in the ring. The night marbles the mouth. God is bloody. I owned the drum, I didnâ€™t use it. Love, the pear, the wind, I owned the snow and the snowing, binding dewdrops. I had my arm in your corpse. I watched through spring straps, thin, broadshouldered, wet and made of horn, honey of a young girl. I had to repeat. I had to repeat. Cones, the pain. When will you be, my dear, washed off? Iâ€™ll wait. To desert the eyelid in the edge of the gutter. To cover the day. Caught into hope? Locked up?
Pizzuti Restaurant [translated by Michael Taren and the author] “A phoenix Dante is a vast specious alone.” Therefore you always have to have on you some good colts, or, as Nejc Zaplotnik tells us, take care of yourself. You die too old. You pinch the road like a stupid pretzel maker. Look! All of them already flew away. What do you trumpet? Why do you expose your lungs to the mountains? Wow! He was dense before, not now. Those little balls of crêpe paper, inside the sawdust on elastics, do you remember pilgrimages? Mihelic on Ptujska gora. And after the war. Scouts at Visoko. Who knows if death v
stops anything at all. It seems not. Sacred mushrooms, eaten with Michael now, confirm this.
Black Sun [translated by Peter Richards and Ana Jelnikar] ¶ Inferno happened when Dante explained to us how he functions sexually. Before then, it did not exist. And Petrarch. Who like a green dog on four wet dark green legs sniffs Vaucluse and touches his clothes. He thinks about the the books his father burnt, not about Laura. It has to do with the race. Who is faster. God with his sand or we with our tongue. Sand is the tongue of fire. Tongue is the fire of sand. Fire is the sand of God. I’m falling. I fall like an oak doomed to die, and also women want to be more than metaphor. With their moist, round, soft skin, with their drunken scent of warm mushrooms they drive me insane. Walls of hell, why do you stagger. I miss the smell of burnt flesh. Nature makes me tired. It tires me so terribly that I sink in a cave. Stars move apart. I am the Sun. With no air. Fake fire falls upon the children’s black hair, advancing into their hearts so they burst like buckles. Their mouths yawn open as if they were mummies. They rave in benediction, they gargle my name as I get dressed. When I adjust my collar in front of him – the mirror – everything is already late.
*** [translated by the author and Phillis Levin] ‡ Who lives in the error that color is culture and fish is nature will get sober. The trees are hair on the skin planted by us.
In front of the eyes it is bright, behind the eyes it is dark. Turning the head is a total utopia.
Your hands burned to let you be without hands. You will be charged for switching rails and killing people.
The bird gets scared, the worm gets scared, the brain covers up.
Cinema [translated by Ana Jelnikar] † § a swift and cold walk through history, through the quiet woods, past benumbed deer that only pretend to be fir trees. all along my posture is terribly romantic. my soul is asizzle, being fried. I know about the sweaty interlacing of bodies, and what’s more, I watch the thing on a big screen projection, hiding it in my palms as an awkward and bashful memory. autumn will slowly croak into winter and I feel more and more alone, calm in a funny sort of way. as if each moment water surged evenly into eternity.
Let [translated by Ana Jelnikar] let me go back to the old hardened trees let me scoop up from a lake let me tread the same river twice let my words be as long as a moment let the kiss be like a cold evening after a hot day let my complexion be synonymous with green let sweat drizzle down my nose like a tear drop let deer and rabbits come let blueberries ripen let the city be a small and friendly town square let it for ever let it for sometimes let it for today and tomorrow hold true what we say and let people with names appear in poems let the world wait for a change let our bare feet be tickled by green grass let us grow breasts let the poem have no end let no one ever lose out and let the sea be like the sky the sky like the sea feelings like a small friendly house let the trees be thick branches hard leaves green let all of us be sailors in the night. slowly pushing on the pedals and let there be devilishly many suns and only two traffic roads
let people care about us and know why they do let small remain big let skin be tense like a horror film a hand still like a rabbit and let the eye be full of clouds.
Calla lilies [translated by Ana Jelnikar] * ยง I said nothing, not a word. I just sat there, put my arms behind my neck and took off flying. I cut through the softness and further into the silence. my soul hurts because it leaks. it drips like the kitchen tap. the drops, putting their arms around each other, kiss and giggle until a puddle forms, which pretends to be a sea. I look at myself in it and out of my eyes two white-headed eagles come flying. from the other direction a piano piece comes pouring. they lie to everyone. to fish as well. I brought you calla lilies and a roll with cheese.
Catching the Rhythm [translated by Ana Jelnikar] With a good deal of almost god-like patience, we should be dealing with more serious issues. Those whose contact with reality is undeniably direct and proven a hundred times over. Which carry a symbol or two, a whole hoard of them. Which, in moments of uncertainty and dilemmas of the heart, will whisper to us big and serious names normally not spoken out loud and most certainly not in public.
All those unclear, in fact, those never quite explained rules need to be seriously considered. And we need to lend our ears to the wise, so we can then act against their advice. Also we should swap our skin for a new and clean one, one not yet drawn or written on, reprogam our eyes and visit a few unexplored regions deep inside us. (Remember, though, donâ€™t search in your head for whatâ€™s hidden in the eyes.) At bottom, we also need to accept that this summer will be as hot as hell, even if most probably short, and the evening siesta over cool beer will once again become a useless though pleasurable habit, like flirtation or catching sight of naked skin. Weâ€™ll try not to get upset over trivia, but sit on a rock, straight-backed, with twisted sunglasses, and a prolonged stare into the same spot of concentrated nothing in the middle of nowhere, totally pulsing in the subtle rhythm.
Ana Jelnikar Paul Killebrew Phillis Levin W. Martin Ana Pepelnik peter richards Laura Solomon michael taren Matthew Zapruder
SOME OF THESE TRANSLATIONS PREVIOUSLY APPEARED in the following periodicals:
Circumference [*] Fourteen Hills [†] Grand Street [‡] Hunger Mountain [¶] JUBILAT [#] The Prague Literary Review [§]
This chapbook was printed in an edition of 440 copies on the special occasion of the slovene poetry weekend in september 2008 during which the five poets presented here brought their poetry to new york city in a public program PRESENTED by ugly duckling presse in collaboration with literatura magazine (ljubljana) AND the CONSULATE GENERAL OF SLOVENIA and with the generous support of the Ministry of Culture Of Slovenia at venues including the poetry project at st marks church the bowery poetry club THE HOUSING wORKS BOOKSTORE and melville house
A SLOVENE SAMPLER first edition, first printing, 2008 eastern european poetS series: number 22 ugly duckling presse design by donâ€™t look now! INTERIOR PRINTED at G&H SOHO iN hoboken coverS printed letterpress at the udp workshop at the old american can factory in brooklyn for more information about the poets and translators who contributed to this chapbook please see our web site:
first 40 copies were BOUND IN BROWN COVERS and numbered and signed by the poets