poetry

Nikola Šop: Poems

Mathematical concepts and geometric bodies, from being external become inner poetic symbols, and cannot from now on be subjected to the logos of the poetry, yet – from a completely principled point of view – the latter is not essentially opposed to mathematics.

Višnja Machiedo, The vivacious geometry of Nikola Šop



Poems of an Impoverished Son  (1926)

 

 

A Panegyric to Roosters

 

I

They call out...

 

Do I know

What the time is now

When in the far off solitude of the forest they pray.

And when I, by chance turning to my empty bed

Think with a smile:

Sometimes it is really very hard

To go to bed alone, completely alone.

 

Silence.

All at once a cry, lonely, far away, bleak and full of freshness –

I don’t know in front of whose house, I don’t know who.

It breaks into my thoughts and the endless, black, flat silence

As though a pearly cup had fallen.

And then as though by agreement, from innumerable invisible places,

Anchored on the open sea of the night waiting for the day,

The response rings out, strong in unison.

Sounding dewy like a flute from a young willow.

 

What is it? Maybe an evil ghost of horror is haunting someone

And stronger and stronger coming nearer

One after another, strange, lonely sounds.

And as they come near, they diminish

As though, terrified by the light from my room

They are extinguished in the still water of the dew.

 

And just once more suddenly, right under my window,

They cry at the top of their voice, and I shook you

They cry out with a victorious bellow

After which only a flicker of warm vapour remains

Like an echo of silence.

 

I know, I know. They are lonely roosters –

I recognized their voices under my window.

It is the time when they call out on their eternal path,

They call out to one another, so they don’t get lost,

Those despised and forgotten guardians of the suburbs.

 

There are many of them. Invisible, numberless ranks,

All over the country, lined up in secret,

By broken down fences.

With the eternal question: Why every night at midnight,

When the moon reaches its zenith, unseen,

Are there no more shadows on the earth?

 

Then deepest peace comes to earth

For at that time each rooster

Is wandering, looking for his lost shadow.

 

We know nothing of this,

But through the open window, we feel.

 

They then return with no comfort from their journey

They watch as the moon sinks

And gaze so long in silence.

 

Then all at once joyful cries ring out over the earth.

One has found his shadow again.

And another calls out to him in communion from afar.

 

It is one hour after midnight.

The moon is sinking from its peak up there, and as it sinks lower,

The roosters are heard less and less.

They watch with a grief we cannot fathom

As their shadows move off, far down the hill,

Together with the shining trace of the last light of the moon

And then again darkness and silence. And a long wait.

 

II

Panegyric

 

Oh marble roosters, stiff, gazing at the fugitive moon

As it leaves, taking your shadows,

Tell me has ever an earthly fool

At a late hour gone out to the field

To sing your praises?

I am sure, not one, but me.

 

So listen, so your vigil won’t seem long,

Until the dewy treetops shine on the edge of the far off forest

 

You noble souls, defeated kings,

With a throne of street refuse and broken glass,

Eternal guardians of wandering houses and the night,

Drunkards, drunk to insanity with the dew,

I greet you in this endless solitude.

 

O roosters all, from the ends of the bleak earth,

And you far off are close to me,

And you close to me, far off.

How magical and mysterious is your ministry.

 

You stand remote in the evening shadow of the fences

And to the weaker sighted you look like stumps of young trees

You watch lovers embrace, burning with passion

And full of assurance that no one can see.

You wise ones, not yet recognized by man

Full of patience, which these people

Are seeking impatiently and are unable to find.

Tell me why are you also men?

 

How I would love

To load you into some new, unseen ark,

And sail off with you over the seas, the seas, the seas,

To a land only you have deserved.

Winged magicians, rulers of all intuition

What is the power in your far away voice?

When the dead lover comes, full of vengeance

On his icy black horse

Under the window of his faithless love, takes aim and –

Your voice blows the horse and the rider away.

 

I do not know.

But I am afraid to ask you,

Why do you wear that bloody crown on your head?

It always trembles and shines with the fresh dew.

 

Perhaps it is from that morning,

When you crowed three times with joy,

For Peter, trembling before the women,

Denied Christ three times.

 

You say nothing, endless ranks.

Solitude kills you and you wait for your shadow.

Before each dawn, behind the red curtains,

The worn-out adulterers curse you,

For after your voice, they see more clearly

Their withered bodies in the mirror

And they cover themselves as though ashamed.

 

But you don’t care about that heavy anguish

Which you arouse in the souls of the unloved.

Even the condemned man can no longer be saved.

Killed by your sharp cry,

He goes to the gallows unaware and with no voice

That he a dead man, is dying again.

 

The traveller in an unknown land, on the lost paths,

Falls to his knees, surprised by your call,

He listens and feels the village is close.

 

Oh enchanted rooster, how many times has your sound from afar

Astounded us in the watches of the long night

And we two

Only then notice each other and shyly look

Revealed by the first rays of the sun.

But no,

I will confuse you no longer

As though I heard you wake in secret

I move off, run away,

Like a shadow,

Like a ghost.

 

Vijenac, 1925.

English translation by

Janet Tuškan

 

 

Evening in the Field

 

I

A bent over willow, like an old mother,

With thin hands praying gives a sign

And the sounds of the grass and the chatting reeds are stilled

 

Then the oldest cricket pipes up from a bush

And leads them all in the Our Father.

And the woods and the grass piously respond

With his brothers kneeling in the grass

 

And I, a refugee from the city, alone,

Listen to the humble sound

With my head bowed and filled with the sacred evening,

I don’t know, maybe I even folded my hands.

 

II

When the quiet prayer is done, they all go back

To their evening tasks

The dewy treetops rustle overhead

And the forests, having prayed, are silent in deep slumber.

 

The bushes on the hillsides are gathered in by the dark

The moon’s bright saucer shimmers

Thistle to thistle go on with their tales

And the old willow over the water conjures moist magic.

English translation by

Janet Tuškan

 

 

Nocturne  (1928)

 

VIII

 

Why, grandma, do my hands glimmer so?

And why are they so pale?

 

  • My child, it’s the shadow on them

From the window of the village chapel

 

What is it that cools my brow

Like the hand of Jesus Himself?

 

  • My son, it’s the shadow falling on you

From the dewy hills and haystacks

 

But listen! I can hear singing, coming close

And one voice in the choir is the pain of my heart

 

  • My son, my son, those are the girls

Coming back from the well far away.

 

English translation by

Janet Tuškan

 

 

 

Jesus and My Shadow (1934)

 

 

The Roof

 

From darkness and soot, the stooping roof

Rocking and creaking and screeching

Bending over me and above my sin

All night long, something dark from it dripping, dripping.

 

Beneath it ends my daily path

Beneath it, one little life concealed

Oh, and every day I bend a little more

As though the roof were lower and lower

 

But every time, in the dead of night

A breath of air wakes me blowing through

This roof of darkness over me, creaking dryly,

And sprinkles me with stars through its cracks.

 

 

The Door

 

Behind it is the sorrow of the loner

In front the night and dawn

On one side the shadow of my stooping form

On the other, darkness and branches dying

 

At midnight the rusty creak tells of those who came in

Long ago, under the overgrown roof

I feel then the cold hand of strangers under my arm

And my steps grow quieter, quieter behind the door

 

The door is heavy; heavy is the door to my home

Behind it even the fall of fruit is not heard

As though it were made from pain

And molded from the wax of solitude.

 

When I lean my warm face on it

I can hear the ivy creeping across it, rustling

Through the keyhole light flashes on my forehead

Behind it, like a saint, I glow in my sorrow.

 

 

The Bed

 

Under the window it shines white, spread out

Where with no sound the dawn’s bright flow streams,

The weight of this world knocks me down on it

And I sink deep, like a giant.

 

The cry of a rooster wakes me from it

A secret mystery clouds my sight

As though my neighbour’s daughter is hovering above me

I cover myself, covered in shame.

 

The bed is still at that time

I weep over its ruins

O Lord, strike me with leprosy like Job

I will moan in sin, begging in silence.

 

And then the sharp straw rustles beneath me

As on the night of Jesus’ birth

The zeal for purity comes to me in sleep

And heaven descends on my roof.

 

 

To the beggar who wears my hat

 

Take it, let your poverty have it

Sitting, hiding you, let it sail out

On Sunday at least, amongst other hats

That are almost or completely new.

 

Holding it in your hand before the church door

The shine of coins will drip into it more than otherwise

And thrown off into the dark, under the candles now drowsy

You will so, so want to weep.

 

In that hut of yours you will think that someone is coming to you

Someone with steps of cotton

Drawing closer, tapping the tip of his stick

Your thin hand will cramp unconsciously.

 

Then you will see at the useless lock,

A hat hung up so bent and dark from rain

Ah, how the damp shines and drips from it

Like the echo of secret footsteps, those drops diminishing

 

You lie awake long, as I do, I cannot tell you,

O listen to those drops, O how they sounded

When that hat lay beside her feet

It was late – the time when she would get undressed

 

We made no sound, as though not alive

Instead of words we heard the dripping from the rim

At last I grabbed the stick at its crooked neck

Leaving, dejected, I hardly dragged my shadow from the floor.

 

 

Midnight supper

 

In the late glow now I warm my dark supper

The window is bright, the plate shines white

I remember that night and smile sadly

That night, when we ate from one plate together.

 

On the wall our tall shadows reached up

The glass in the windows grew darker blue

I noticed then that from her silk

The light reflected and shone on our humble meal.

 

Our spoons made no sound

To confuse the warm whisper’s flight

The bread on which her hand lay

Was translucent and holy

 

The supper is steaming by my face

The dark wraps my things in mysterious letters

And the ears on the cat over the glow grow longer.

It seems to me like an ominous owl crouching.

 

 

Dead Mills

 

 I

What hinders the rocking of my mill?

The spray is frozen like a silver fan

The silence awakens me from a deep sleep

Not a drop will fall into the gulf.

 

What is that burning before my window?

I open the window. The pines guard the night

All is bleak and white, and solitude wearies me

So long, so long, no one will come to me.

 

 II

Before dawn, I thought I heard angel song

I went out into the dusky silver dust

Before my door a heap of straw and scattered oats

And further on, as far as I see, footsteps in the snow

 

Who this night, without coming in

Passed unseen by my dead mill?

Who was it, that still now

The birches are bent and the silence so awed?

 

 

An invitation to dear Jesus

 

Oh Jesus, how I would love if you would deign

To come to my home

Where perfectly ordinary things hang on the walls

Where the daylight is extinguished early from the windows.

 

I would tell you how I light the dim lamp

To lengthen this brief day

How I live such a little life

Full of bitterness with the brothers I serve

 

I would tell you of the human house

The windows, which are sometimes blue

The door you have to stoop to enter

The lock, which locks up tight.

 

I would tell you, by the smoke of an ordinary cigar

About everyone, and their names

And how some always wear old clothes

And how some always wear new clothes

 

And how there are seven days of care

O Jesus, and each one like the day before

And about how when the pain is bad

I pull my hat deep, deep on my forehead

 

I would talk so long, until we hear

The dew running down the window

Then I would say to you, mutely, with no words

Jesus, you are tired, you want to sleep.

 

O lie down, sleep on this bed

Which redeems this man daily

I will bind your sad forehead with a band of comfort

Just sleep, my bed will be the bench.

 

 

Jesus and I before the town’s rooster

 

His call is now not so crucial

Nor the thumping of his wings

The high chimney, broken through the roof,

He used to wake us with his screech.

 

Look, how his wings are now cut

And blunt, all blunt his spurs

The dawn of days awakened by his trumpet

Are all unknown to him.

 

How his voice once had a prince’s pride

From it the dawn shook the dew on the corn

Armies were shaken with fear at midnight

Before the battle his anger proclaimed.

 

And now from the city’s soot

Blacker and blacker from day to day

A little more, and no one will know

If he is a rooster or a raven.

 

So please, just let his wings

Grow tall and long for the road

So that he may mingle with the swift swallows

And fly with them to some southern clime.

 

 

The donkey’s dream

 

Jesus, at this late hour

We will go to all the barns

And gently, you will pull the ears

Of all the donkeys.

 

And when you leave, in the dead of night

They will talk amongst themselves:

Whose ears did you hold

For the longest time?

 

And each will fall back to sleep

With the best dream in his soul

As though your soft hand were still

Stroking his ears in particular.

 

 

A prayer that I would no longer be a poet

 

O Lord, please let me be like all other people,

So I could walk quietly like everyday passers-by

That my heart would long for the most ordinary things

Take away the word that rings to me in vain like an image

 

Take away my power, by which I conjure up for others

Everything the poor man could not say himself

Extinguish my vigil in the night when I humbly create

Joy and pain from which I droop by candlelight

 

What is that noise I hear around my head?

Is the laurel wreath being woven by secret hands?

O may the herd of goats from my poor village

Eat it with relish, hungry for food.

 

English translation by

Janet Tuškan

 

 

From Early to Late Roosters (1939)

 

A song to the smallest man

 

You are somewhere, somewhere, small and bent,

You the smallest in the whole world

Forget the greeting and break off your journey

So I may touch your feet with my forehead.

 

Oh, I know that even ravens

Can pull the food from your mouth

And children tug your legs

When you pass through a village

 

Tired, do you sometimes sleep in the shade

Do they bend a wreath of nettles around your head?

And give you a beard of hemp

And place a burr on each shoulder?

 

Do you hide your naked feet

With your precious straw, since they are always bare

Or carry a butterfly’s wing on your breath

Breathing, you draw it into your nose.

 

They stick a corncob in your hand

And play and shout stronger, harder

And then merrily, hop, hop

They jump over you like a stump

 

You stay still and take your bag

The hat, which someone gave you

And they chase you, step by step

Until you’re gone, beyond the wheat field, far away.

 

 

A song to a blind newspaper carrier

 

My soul is chilled from meeting with you

Alone, with your stick as your faithful companion

Walking along, you wave it around

In a mysterious hoop, an invisible circle

 

At the thought of sight, your will for life is gone.

It is a dream that just saddens your heart

So heavy that the hat on your head sits awry

And grows much longer from pain.

 

Sorrow overcomes me so I cannot speak

When I think how long you search for your keys

Or put your right shoe on your left foot

Like yesterday, your left one on the right

 

You have become so beautiful from blindness

But the noisy passers-by fail to notice

Around your chest a sign says “Blind”

Newspapers, Newspapers! Your painful voice cries out

 

From your bunch the minuscule words speak out

Headlines, which stop the walker in his tracks

Columns solving urgent problems

How Europe would take off its old mantle

 

Your customers are few

No one hears your dull cry

Then you feel like shouting out to the crowd,

“News, news, sand found in the Sahara!”

 

 

The umbrella

 

I know a man as lonely as I

Who steps out in solitude through the day

Who even after the rain, when the sun comes out

Still carries his umbrella spread wide.

 

I would like go up to him and ask “Hey you,

What is it with you, where are you going and where is your home?

Look how it’s clear all around; the sun is bright and hot

Put away your big, black umbrella”.

 

But I keep quiet and follow him through the bright day

People stop and laugh at him in secret

And I can hear how on his heavy umbrella

Something rustles, the long gone frozen rains pour down.

 

I follow his path, after his dark shadow

I listen to his steps and his old cane

And I feel something falling on my shoulder too

Pain from long ago, leaden, drip by drip.

 

It is raining again and the withered wreaths around my hat rustle

It is pouring, pouring, I walk faster

With jets ever heavier the ancient pain pours down

Under the weight the rim of my hat breaks and falls.

 

They flow from me, and that man, unknown,

Quietly, under the umbrella, walks to his home.

They pour down from me, oh where, where are my bright days?

Pour down, pour down, where is my umbrella?

 

 

A late visitor

 

If the stars keep me awake one night

And I fall asleep in the deep hours

In my bleak home, as long ago, he will come again

Under his heavy halo, darkened.

 

Are you bringing me secret news of the stars?

Or are you looking for some good news from the earth?

My Jesus, the still bleak and empty screech of roosters!

It seems your hair is already turning grey.

 

Lock by lock the grey shines out

The lines on your forehead deepen, woven thicker together

The divinity of your head bent lower and lower

My, my, you will have to take a stick to walk to the world

 

I will come with you in place of angels, you know,

I will carry your bundle through the cascade of twilight

From town to town, village to village

And when you need, I will carry your stick

 

They will talk about us everywhere, the whispering locals

And look long into the smoke of twilight

When late on their way two travellers passed by

Some heavenly old man and one man with him

 

 

We were quiet, so dark

 

I am dying now alone in my pain

I am now a great and honest friend

To this bush by the path and to my ox,

Who pulls behind him the heavy old plough

 

We return to the village, leaves rustle by the path

My head is bowed, he is silent

His deaf words, his animal language

I can sense, I now understand

 

We kneel by the Cross, on which alone

Long ago the forgotten God hung

And as before Him I take off my hat

The ox modestly bends his horn

 

We were quiet, so dark in the blue twilight

From the village hearths black smoke rose winding

And he as though he carefully nodded his head

Nodded once more and I after him.

 

English translation by

Janet Tuškan

 

 

Late Round the Table (1943)

 

 

Horror

 

From the cottage pure fear steals out,

From the shadow a dank breeze blows

And mingles, awakens your young hair

Your slumbering locks

 

Why do you shudder and look at me

With eyes full of doubt and fear?

Your wings flutter in horror

From the closeness of my breath

 

Do you see an enchanted ring around me?

Have I become a scarecrow in the night?

My eyes wide, my ears stick out

My nose now beaklike and long

 

No, I will not fly off to the cursed wood

Do not be afraid, calm your fears

Be my quiet, heavenly friend

Do not fear, it is I, this is my voice.

 

Your wings are fading whiter away

Your scream sticks from fear in your throat

O calm yourself, do not fear, my angel

That my form is so human.

 

 

News

 

Someone on his way turned his midnight coach

Under my window, when the roosters are mute

Looked at me sleeping deep by the table

Let down the reins, stopped the horse’s trot

 

With his finger he drew secretly, embroidering

On the window so deeply asleep

What a magic picture, what exultant news

For a shining tomorrow

 

At dawn when the last triumphal arch of the stars has gone out

And the old clock awakens me dully

On the foggy window it is written in black:

I was here and am gone, forever farewell.

 

English translation by

Janet Tuškan

 

 

The Mysterious Spinner (1943)

 

The strangest visit

 

I

It was just a deserted afternoon, when in passing I noticed in a frame on the street an unknown, solitary figure, creeping next to me, mimicking my bearing and gait. I shuddered and looked around to observe the stranger. He had already gone. Or perhaps he had never been there. Perhaps it was a hallucination, I whispered to myself, and continued my walk.

 

I thought, “What an unimagined similarity!” Such a familiar acquaintance, yet completely foreign. Never closer, yet never less-known, passing beside me. Flitting between that frame and me. And evaporating into thin air. All that remained were the echoes of his footsteps. If I stop and look round, they fall silent. I thought the apparition must be the result of my unappeasable desire finally to meet a stranger. But they are all far away, or there are none.

 

I long for conversations – warm, divine and wise. So deep that things inclined upon them become a sense of hearing. Perhaps that casual passer-by could fulfil my desire. His character attracts me. I seemed to catch in his expression particular wisdom and deep feeling. And he is just as solitary as I am. Perhaps more, for I noticed his step was devious and cautious, and he moved out of the way of others, avoiding all encounters. Yes, he seemed to avoid me too, as soon as he saw me. An interesting, unusually interesting passer-by! I must go back and catch him up.

 

He will be my first, perhaps only acquaintance in this little town. I sense that my conversations with him will be of unimaginable solemnity.

 

I hurried to catch him up and quickly reached the spot where I had first caught sight of him, where that strange meeting had so moved me. I stopped. There is the frame on the street which I passed earlier. Now I can see even better. It is a wardrobe door, from which a shining panel or decoration has been removed...

 

I collect the misty thoughts which have suddenly overtaken me and quickly move on to look for the strange foreigner. Of course I will find him. It would be ridiculous, but sad, to lose him in this little town, where there are no crowds and no teeming streets. In any case, it would be his loss too, my future acquaintance, no, my future friend, perhaps the only human soul who is surely clever, sincere and exciting.

 

II

What a puzzle that runaway passer-by is to me! Meeting him was the strangest thing. Why did I walk past him so negligently, paying no heed? He would surely have turned round after me. We would have stopped and then moved towards each other, drawn by a secret affinity.

 

I remember how he glanced at me from under the brim of his hat. I will never forget those eyes. All the grief and pride of a lonely person shone from them. And how his hat looked! By its shape and tilt it was immediately clear to me that the stranger was completely alone. Even its colour betrayed the stranger’s solitude, for it was an earthy green, not recently, perhaps never touched by a gentle hand. Under the weight of that heavy colour the brim was bent, veiling the stranger’s eyes, fluttering as he walked, as though it would fly off. I can recall that sight exactly. Comic and sad at the same time.

 

All in all, the more I think about the stranger, the clearer it is to me. Although the afternoon shadows are lengthening, the mysterious stranger must not get away. I have searched almost the whole town, down every street, but I have not yet found him. Still, there is still hope and I must succeed. I won’t let the coming dusk disturb me. Perhaps just then an unusual light at his window will give him away. It seems to me that the odd fellow has his own special sun and his own night with the light of its own moon and stars.

 

III

Now my steps are deadened by the softness of the path, which winds through a small, deserted park. How has my searching and wandering after him brought me here? Do we two not already have a mysterious connection; are we not looking for each other? I sense that he is perhaps looking for me. He is wandering down deserted footpaths and will end up here. That is why I have sat down on that abandoned bench by the church, which I noticed through the branches a few minutes ago. I chose just that hidden place, because I am certain that he will come this way and sit down on this or another, nearby bench, to rest. To rest from what?

 

If he is as close to me as I feel and sense he is, then he will sit down to rest because of the same longing and misery that I have.

 

You see, I don’t know how many years I have searching for that unforgettable girl, who floats before me, eternally young, and whom I have not yet found. Not even a trace. Her name is Narcissa. And what else is there to say about her? She was lost from my sight, wearing a flowery hat covered in strawberries and from my past, which only she could give me back. Because of her I have come to this little town, just as I will come, cursed, to innumerable others, for there is no end to my wanderings on earth.

 

Would I surprised to discover that the stranger came here on the same day, troubled by the same pain and longing? How he looked as me, as he passed by that frame in the street! He turned around and smiled in a friendly way, as though he wanted to ask me something. Yet I didn’t respond. I walked rudely past and made the newcomer’s already bitter days even more bitter. As soon as I find him I will beg him to forgive me and to tell me what he wanted then. I must, must find him.

 

IV

While I have been musing, twilight has already woven itself into the branches. Blossom everywhere, intoxicating scents. Only now do I notice the splendour and the abundant flowering around me. A girl passes me, hurrying to church, from which echo voices filled with bright piety. But of course, it is the May festival! Everyone is singing to Mary! All the flowers smell only for her.

 

Moved, I stand up and walk towards Mary with a humble flower in my hand. “O Virgin Mary, accept this flower, poor in colour but rich in the tears which shine upon it!”

 

I gazed at the heavenly beauty without blinking. It was as though her face came to life, smiled and her lips whispered. Or perhaps it was just the flickering of the candles, which flared more restlessly higher as they burned lower.

 

The bright voices of girls rang from the choir. Living bells of crystal source. Unexpectedly, the solo voice of the leader winds ecstatically from the song, making my whole soul shiver...

 

It is not possible. No, it cannot be possible. Is that Narcissa’s voice? I listen carefully, holding my breath. Yes, it is her voice. Really hers. But no, it is not true. It’s just a delusion. What is the matter with me?

 

I cautiously went out and listlessly yielded to meandering along the park paths. Life is full of wonders, but this mysterious, invisible encounter with Narcissa astounds me with the horror of unimagined joy. My ears are still ringing with that dewy voice, full of clear azure and luscious, imperishable youth.

 

So many years have passed, yet she has remained the same, eternally youthful. May the bread on the table turn to stone, if it is not so!

 

V

Trembling as a result of these new experiences and some unfathomable sweetness, I wandered farther and farther. I was just about to sit down under the darkest tree canopy when I caught a strange whisper, voice or warning. I must go back! I must wait outside the church. Narcissa will surely come out. I will meet her, as I used to and sidle up to her quietly, unexpectedly, when she is surrounded by her friends perhaps, or alone – with only one companion. Only the one.

 

Impatient and flurried, I reach the church. The doors are already locked and the flowers and hues in all the windows extinguished. The crunching of gravel at the end of the path has gone silent.

 

The calm acted like a balm on my troubled soul. I started to think reasonably. It had all been just a dream. There are miracles in life. If they happen, they are possible. But Narcissa coming to this town? Hearing her voice, seeing her, standing next to her, dumb with happiness; that is impossible.

 

No, no! I will no longer be haunted by delusions.

 

The floral May festival was the greatest holiday for Narcissa and she never missed it. Many days have passed since then. And now, somewhere she sings to the Mother of God, devoutly ecstatic, as before. That is why Mary gave her in return eternal youth. In spite of all the rushing years, Narcissa is always seventeen. I am sure that the clock upon her little table never ticks. For why would eternity need a clock?

 

Almost completely cheered, I wander again among the paths. I walk, walk, floating in the blueness. Dewy scents rise intoxicatingly from the bushes. The stars burst into flower across the sky.

 

Meekly I walk through this beauty, no longer thinking of the impossible. To everything lost or missed, beauty is everlasting, for it is made of the eternally unattainable. And I will be calm.

 

VI

As I walked I heard something in the darkness, “...cissa, cissa.” Surely the “Nar” was lost in whispering. Somebody breathed in, “Narcissa, Narcissa.”

 

I stop, amazed. I have stopped breathing. Yes, yes, it is true. It is horribly true. I can hear clearly, “Narcissa, Narcissa.” As though my own voice is whispering to me nearby. The same voice which used to excite and intoxicate her.

 

So, she is here after all. The dreadful, sweet truth. My forebodings have given me away. Sombre, joyful forebodings. Why did I not believe my own heart? Why did I falter, not believing in the wonderful possibility of a miracle?

 

She is in the town. Here, nearby. Here, really close. All that separates me from her is that bush.

 

I can control myself no longer. I must see whoever the lucky fellow is who is seductively whispering to her, using my voice, deceitfully mimicking me. I remember, though it was long ago, how she said to me when we parted, “You have never loved me. But if I ever find another you, and if he loves me, I will love him back with all my strength forever.”

 

That’s what she said. I can remember her every word. It is all past, yet who will comfort me and persuade me that nothing happened?

 

Where now is my stranger, my unordained friend? If I had found him, I would not be going through these terrible moments which rend my soul and tear at my heart. I would probably already be in deep conversation with him, overcome by the beauties which his wise, fervent words would have revealed to me.

 

Something draws me irresistibly towards the sneaking lover on the bench, at the base of darkness.

 

I creep closer. The gravel path makes a crunching sound. Quickly I leap onto the grass, to deaden my footsteps. I advance cautiously. Flustered, I steal between the bushes. Whenever something snags or rustles, my heart beats in my eardrums.

 

I wait and listen. Again, the whisper, “Narcissa, Narcissa”, but I do not hear her voice. Surely she is whispering in return, or perhaps embracing him, which cannot be heard. How has she changed so suddenly? Her glowing purity has been extinguished in the intoxicating night. That is why it is so dark in the undergrowth.

 

If only I could leap out at them like an avenging spirit. How they would both scream and be terrified into silence! But I cannot push through these thick, thorny bushes. I must go around and creep up along the other path, which winds down to the very same bench upon which the lovers are sitting.

 

Deftly I avoid all obstacles, hindrances and the noise of the sandy turns. Unnoticed, I reach the bush which rustles immediately behind their bench. They cannot see me, nor I them. Just another step and I will be in front of them. I listen hard, but all is silence. Perhaps the two are now as one. That is why it is so quiet.

 

After hesitating and waiting for a long time, I pluck up courage and bravely step out in front of the bench. What is my surprise when I see no-one there!

 

Cheated and confused, from close by I hear footsteps moving away. It is they. They must have sensed someone and have run off to hide. I hurry after them and catch sight of them through the bushes, leaving the park and entering the town.

 

The companion turns around cautiously, only once. His face is illumined by the moonlight and to my horror, I see that he is that fateful stranger, whom I have been seeking all day.

 

Shaking all over, I barely manage to keep pace with them, at a distance, to prevent them noticing me. No, they will not escape my keen sight again! I discern them quite clearly – the stranger has his arm around her and she is clinging to him.

 

They slow down at the entrance to the high street. They have stopped. A flash of moonlight pierces through the leaves and illuminates the girl; it is Narcissa, it really is. Narcissa herself. The same, imperishably youthful.

 

She gives him her hand. Suddenly it goes dark. My eyes are clouded. Am I deceiving myself, or is this cold, hard reality? She lowers her head onto his breast...

 

Embittered, I run towards them. Now I have had enough. But in that place I find only a wisp of fog. Only a black shadow which moves away from me into a deserted alley. The faithless one has fled who knows where. It must be by agreement, for they must have noticed in time that someone was following them. And the stranger flees before me, agile and fast. Nothing helps him now.

 

He can no longer escape the inescapable; me.

 

VII

The night breeze refreshes me. While I search the darkened streets, my doubts about the stranger calm and brighten.

 

He is after all the closest to me. See, Narcissa’s words from long ago are coming true, “If I ever find another you...”

 

And she has found another me. She has met him at last. And no-one will ever part them again. Their unconcealed, eager lover. Their dream of a ring, which they dream when embracing, in that dumb prefiguring of a lasting, mutual future. Their waking shyness, which still tells them in a whisper that the moon and stars are watching them. All these delights I have let slip, and the stranger willingly accepts and generously returns them now. I must come to terms with it. I must understand it all. This is my destiny. When, after all thiswandering, I find the stranger, I will approach him with a smile. So we will get to know one another. And after a few days, not straight away, I will ask him about Narcissa. Then I will share my secret with him, in quiet words, which he will hear aghast, as an echo of his own. Perhaps we will go then to Narcissa, together. Will she not be lost in wonder and amazement, thinking that she sees only one person and hears only one voice?

 

VIII

Occupied by my search for him, I have not even noticed that midnight has passed. I have been cruising the streets and waiting in the place where I first met him, but all in vain.

 

I was already on my way home, deeply regretting the wasted day, when I noticed in the high window of a nearby house an unusual light. Finally, joy at last! My wanderings are at an end. I have found the stranger’s hiding-place. Surely he is there, behind the curtain, illumined by an unearthly light. There he waits in solitude, musing beneath his stars.

 

Although it was already late, the gate was only on the latch. I go into the dark porch and groping cautiously come across the right-hand side of the staircase.

 

I start climbing, counting the steps carefully. Ten, four, ten, four. The flights alternate thus. And the stranger lives on the top floor.

 

Here I am, I have arrived. I try to calm my overwrought, exhausted breathing as I stand before the door, which bears no nameplate. It anonymity only serves to prove to me that I have not erred.

 

I cannot remember touching the lock, but the door opens. He has not locked it. Does he always leave things open like this?

 

I think about how I shall approach him, as I stand in the hall. How to address him. Of course, first I shall ask him to forgive me for entering without knocking. Naturally, I knocked several times, but no-one answered. Only the pale reflection of nocturnal blueness reveals things to me which I would not have imagined in this dark hallway.

 

There, at the end of the hall, a muted flickering moves behind glass doors. That is the stranger’s room. I am sorry to disturb him at this late hour. It is not civilised, but who cares? Tomorrow I might lose him altogether. And what would that mean to me in my arduous loneliness? Gloomy, pointless vegetation – then death.

 

He, for the time being only he, and later, my most sincere friend, the creature closest to me, has saved me from thorny wandering. I will always pay him back with the same sincerity. I will never mention Narcissa’s name first. I have decided.

 

If he ever breathes a word of her, it will be our last joint breath.

 

IX

Bewitched, entranced, I walk down the deserted hallway, leaving eerie, echoing footsteps behind me. This is the last moment for someone to appear.

 

I stand in front of the door, confused, dumbly horrified. The waker is in this room, sitting at his desk, perhaps deep in thought. I lean forward and listen – I seem to hear the rustle of paper and the scratching of a pen. But no, there is nothing. My overexcited sense of hearing registers even the silence.

 

I don’t know, it is as though someone else has knocked on the door using my hand. It happened without me being aware of it. I open the door cautiously and go in. In the same moment, on the other side of the room, the stranger appears, standing at another door.

 

He smiles and lifts his hat, as though to encourage me to lift mine, which I am already doing. He approaches me silently, mimicking my behaviour and gait. Just like this morning, when he flitted past me in the street.

 

He does not put out his hand, but puts his face nearer, regarding me dismally, wisely. Perhaps he wants us to greet each other in his mysterious way.

 

And while he leans his head and forehead towards me, almost touching me; while he gets nearer and nearer and my breath is lost in his, my eyes welded to his, I feel the cool of the mirror on my brow and recognise in him – myself.

 

English translation by

Janet Berković

 

 

Diary of the Child Aël’s Abduction

 

8th October

If I had taken the child tonight. If I had bewitched him with magic words and taken him further and further away, beyond the boundaries of our usual walks, that would have been a terrible journey.

 

For this night, drowned in moonlight, shines icily. It carries the thorny reflection of marble tombs. The emptiness is dreadful.

 

9th October

I have been practising my words secretly. Secretly I choose the rarest, the most attractive. I speak them aloud, softly. Then louder and louder. I test their sounds.

 

Truly, some of them sound unusual, exultant. I make little stories out of them, intoxicatingly entertaining. They are powerful enough to stop the hearts of little ones in an instant and smother their breath. This is how I spent the day today.

 

10th October

Yesterday I tried out the winding route by which I shall take him, when I decide on the abduction. It should be as soon as possible. Tomorrow, or the day after. I am just waiting for this moon to wane, for it turns everything into a fright.

 

13th October

This evening I took Aël for a walk again. We went as far as that little hill, our resting place. I spread my coat out on the grass. We sat down. The darkness wove itself ever more thickly into the nearby bushes. The child snuggled close to me.

 

Suddenly, his eyes looked at me, filled with fear. I remembered – the moon suddenly sailed out from behind a cloud. Its pale light shone down on me and changed me into an phantom.

 

The child shook in doubt and terror until the moon withdrew behind the cloud again.

 

I showed my true face. The child smiled.

 

14th October

Today I am staying at home. I will not see Aël, nor his house, the Seven Poplars, with the blue fence.

 

Nor Lea, his young mother, always bent over her knitting.

 

I listen. There is only the silence of the holy, local twilight. And the occasional clicking of needles between her fingers.

 

16th October

The sky is low and grey. Do the stars speak through the fog? Are they there at all?

 

Darkness has already enveloped me, as I entertain myself thinking of Lea. I always visualise that same scene, at dusk, when she was coming home from school modestly, carrying her bag in one hand and her violin in the other.

 

“O maiden, my chosen one!” – even now I hear my own past exclamation. Why does it only resound within me? Why was I unable to find the right, fitting word which would have stopped Lea in her tracks and kept her always by my side...?

 

I walked past her dumb and unnoticed, so that I would not hurt the face which will not depart from me.

 

So that I would not hurt – Beauty.

 

18th October

Let these words be written in my secret diary:

Beauty, you shining, divine light. You unseen light, kindled in blueness! How many earthly joys have I sacrificed on your insatiable altar!

 

 

But, enough. No more. You will not take from me that which is most precious. I will not give you the child Aël. Because of you, icy beauty, I did not make Lea his mother.

 

Did I err? Aël is here, in this world, In the house of the Seven Poplars. He is there, with his parents. Yet he is mine, only mine. The child who was taken from me, secretly, unexpectedly.

 

He was taken from me in a moment of pain, when I discovered that my wonderful, unrestrained fantasy of a child was in fact based on him.

 

Since them, I have had no peace. No dreams.

 

19th October

I did not go again to the house with the blue fence. The child Aël skipped to the little door and listened. The footsteps of him who usually came at that time were not to be heard.

 

I feel as though I have already wavered in my decision to abduct him. What is happening to me? Perhaps the moonlight, still full of shadows and phantoms, is affecting me?

 

20th October

Now I can see where my hesitation lies. I no longer believe in the power of those magic words with which I was to bewitch the child and carry him off. They are feeble. I seek some other unheard of, unseen skill.

 

Inspire me, o Love, which sets me on fire for this child!

 

22nd October

Today, after so many days, I was with my wonderful, little darling again.

 

As we returned from our walk in the evening, I was deeply moved. I pondered on the amazing trust the little one’s parents show in letting me take him for walks.

 

They cannot guess that they are entrusting him to the person whom they will shortly call a wicked abductor.

 

What is wrong with that? I will gladly forgive them, for they do not know, and never will know the secret of my heart.

 

23rd October

I am still thinking about our walk yesterday. While I led Aël along well-known paths, he was calm and looked at me trustingly and happily. But as soon as we turned aside, the child became distressed, asking fearfully, “Where are we going?”

 

I could not calm him with intoxicating words or alluring stories.

 

Then I was overtaken by a strange fear. I noticed that the moon was dissolving the veiled clouds and threatening to pour waterfalls of cold light upon me, turning me into a fiend.

 

Just in time, I hurried home, carrying Aël in my arms. As I reached the threshold the idea of toys hit me. Never before seen, magical children’s toys. Wonderful!

 

25th October

My secretive apartment has suddenly changed. It has become a secret workshop. Lean, agile tools shine and sparkle on the walls, table and floor.

 

O stranger, bend your ear to the dark blinds of my window, late at night! The heavy blinds, between which the bright shafts of my waking lamp shine.

 

You will hear the toothy sound of the saw. The dry hissing of the plane. Knocking, tapping and many other sounds belonging to mysterious, inexplicable, alert gadgets of which you have no knowledge.

 

What kind of work is this? For what do I remain awake? I am inventing and making ever more amazing toys. Ever more alluring. Ever more addictive.

 

Toys which will seduce Aël away from his little house and lead him to my unfamiliar apartment.

 

30th October

Already in the secret workplace here and there I hear a toy come to life. Some of them came to me in the strangest dreams and I am now creating them with my own hands. And so quickly, that it seems as though a divine or hellish skill quickens my fingers.

 

8th November

A sombre, foggy day. The extinguished paths lead into dark greyness, then darker greyness. Somewhere I sense the presence of the new moon. It barely shines. Perhaps it will go out before it waxes full.

 

I have been standing for a long time in front of the little house with the blue fence, now black with the dampness.

 

What did I want? Perhaps just this, to walk past. I go back. And walk past again. Nothing more.

 

10th November

Finally I have succeeded. The last toy is finished. Its heart has started beating. From its throat a seductive, magic voice rang out, “Aël! Aël!”

 

12th November

Today I spent the whole day looking at toys in shop windows. I wanted to see if there was anything more beautiful or wonderful than mine.

 

I came home calm and satisfied. I cried out involuntarily; “What is their inventiveness, compared to mine?” Most of those toys in the most expensive shops have dull, waxy faces. If you press them, they make an awkward, squeaky noise, more frightening than funny.

 

15th November

An enchanted, solitary full moon. The woods are black in its yellow, dead glow.

 

Tonight is an unusual night. A warm, autumn night. A feeble breeze blows from the valley. I think it is the breeze which makes the first snowdrops push through the cracks of compacted snow.

 

This is a strange night. This is a night when Spring has wandered astray. But my heart is seized by coldness and blizzards. By the whistling of bending whiteness, blowing diagonally in fans and drizzling like needles. And after it the white, wavy wasteland shatters like a tomb.

 

This is what I think of, while the warm wind rustles the dry leaves and the darkened almond pods rattle...

 

16th November

There is no more hesitation. The days are passing. But the moon is still floating with a dry, yellow glow.

 

It is like my toys. Like a round lantern, within which burns a ruby flame.

 

When I lead Aël away, I will keep one hand lifted up. If he is frightened or weeping, if he asks me why I have lifted up my hand, I will tell him, “I am holding the string to which I have tied that golden ball in the sky. You will have it, as soon as we reach home. Just calm down. Calm down.”

 

18th November

O Inspiration, which has to deftly guided my fingers, so that inert matter came alive beneath them, walked, talked, and was moulded into forms more beautiful than dreams themselves.

 

Do not abandon me now. Whisper to me, tell me how to best place my toys so that they will be the sweetest bait to my unexpected, undreamed-of child. My wonderful Aël.

 

19th November

I have thought of everything with a devilish cunning. All will be well. I just need to find a cart in which to carry my toys tomorrow to the appointed place.

Tomorrow, tomorrow.

 

20th November

It has clouded over. It is starting to drizzle. Aël is playing with the droplets on the window.

 

21st November

It is getting darker. Rain.

Aël brightens the misted window with his little hand...

 

22nd November

Darker and darker. Rain. Rain. Rain.

The windows are extinguished. Aël is not there.

 

23rd November

A dark foggy veil, woven of droplets, falls unceasingly. What a good job I had not already moved my toys into place! They would all be sodden, blackened and hoarse.

 

When will this rain stop? When will it clear up?

 

26th November

What a joyful surprise! Has this deceptive, changeable weather really brightened up?

The sun is warming. The cart is outside the door.

Now I will take out my wonderful toys, each wrapped up. The quick, agile pony will take them to the place ordained for ambush. Each will play its part deftly and worthily.

 

This afternoon, as twilight falls and I take Aël for a walk, when we pass the bounds of our usual walks, each will jump out from its prearranged position.

 

They will amuse him, delight him, draw him further and further on. Deeper and deeper.

Until we disappear in the mist of faraway, grey vistas.

This very day, this afternoon.

All is ready. The toys are in place. Each in its ambush position. They are waiting. They are preying.

 

How I trembled all over with fear, as I arranged them this morning along the path, all the way to the roadside crucifix, where the silence is filled with deep moss.

And beneath the crucifix, at the foot of a steep slope, the path is white, bending away into the distance, a faraway world...

 

Now I am going to carry out the abduction. At the door something inspires me and I stop.

 

At the last moment I fasten a piece of paper to the door, beneath my name, and write boldly;

 

GONE AWAY. DESTINATION UNKNOWN. DO NOT SEARCH.

DO NOT WAIT. KEY HANGING ON THE NAIL ON THE DOOR-POST.

 

English translation by

Janet Berković

 

 

 

A Discourse on Smoke

 

I

I am talking about smoke. About the wonderful, fateful shapes whose soothing is only in evanescence. I am talking about the bright and dark moments in which they appear, about their aromas and colours, the final expressions of consumed creations and things.

I am talking about the sounds which do not precede them, which suppressedly roll around together with the smoke or arrive after it, in cries, moans, or joyful shouts.

I am talking about soundless sounds. About sounds which betray themselves only by smell.

I am talking about smoke...

 

II

Firstly there is the sort which pours up to the windows of heaven through mouths built of bricks, through mouths called chimneys. These chimneys rise up from human habitations. From castles, houses and cottages. We see them every day and they are normal to our dulled sight. Yet there is a secret within them. Smoke which blows from castles falls down grey and helpless as soon as it leaves the chimney. That is why castles are always surrounded by dark prospects and the glow of riches shines weakly through their wide, crystal windows.

 

Smoke which blows from humble houses and cottages gambols out of the chimney in blue flutters, like the quivering of angel down, when the presence of God wafts upon it.

These fronds of smoke arise from pure embers in plain hearths of earth. Tapering into an invisible thread they wind up to heaven. They pass through the keyhole of paradise, filling heaven with the aroma of savoury cakes baked in the poorest of cottages.

At twilight, these fronds of smoke are that blue meandering seen while the Angelus rings out to Our Lady, causing bright tools to quieten and be silenced. It is time for gentle conversation. It is time to dream.

 

III

There is smoke which is not. So invisible and impossible to sense. The smoke of evildoers, concealing destructive fire and deadening its explosive crackling. It makes a stifled fire suddenly burst out again.

Alas, one only knows it was there because of the scorched area.

 

IV

There is smoke which evaporates out of things. It is the breath of these things. It floats around them, wrapping them in a net and revealing their original shapes to us.

Then everyday things change. A cupboard is no longer a cupboard, a bench is no longer a bench. Nothing is what it usually is. Evanescence shimmers around them, which is their soul.

The moments when mysterious smoke reveals the life of things are rare. Once, happily, I experienced this wonder:

Once at daybreak I noticed that the ewer by the door blinked twice or thrice in the sunlight and its contours filled out.

Did it have eyes? Had it just woken up? Did it widen its hips to take in more of the spring whose sharp stream babbled nearby, smothered by the softness of the moss?

These are secrets.

 

IV

There is smoke which appears in clear places. Somewhere in solitary clearings, which no one has disturbed and through which the slenderness of deer has only once rushed.

This smoke is always as white as wool. Its edges shine with the gilding of the invisible sun and it smells of burnt down.

It hovers eternally in the heights above unextinguished fires, which can be divined by the crackling of invisible sparks. Angels warmed themselves around these fires, when they walked on earth, to knock. To awaken. To give warning of coming danger.

That is how it was.

 

VI

There is smoke of which man is the sombre creator. This smoke appears in seductive colours. Many-coloured, somnolent and intoxicating, it creeps close, concealing within its lazy meanderings sweet poison, bitter intoxication and – death.

When it floats nearby, it unexpectedly turns into pictures of marble castles, the land of dreams and stories.

Its enchanted victims throw themselves into it. And die, smiling...

 

VII

There is smoke which stealthily blackens on the edge of sight. Swirled into threatening shapes, it glares down on the surroundings and is lost to sight.

It is bad for those who never notice it. It is even worse for those who notice it and think it has dispersed for ever.

Creeping fatefully along the edge of sight, it leaps up again on the opposite side, close at hand. The whole area flinches. The wheat rustles eerily from valley to valley. Poor wheat!

 

VIII

There is smoke which has wandered in from space. It is usually light blue, sprayed with the sparkling droplets of extinguished stars.

At dawn it hangs above wells, on the ground which shimmers in icy silence, frozen in green transparency.

 

IX

There is smoke which only hovers in ruins. Where it comes from is a secret. It is hard to glimpse by day.

Although I have spent many days and nights in solitary walks, listening everywhere carefully and divining, even I have never seen it by day. Just once, during a moonlit night which rang with the chirping of crickets, did I spot it, lying among ruins overgrown with moss.

It was milky-coloured, fluttering with delicately streakings.

Later it played around the abandoned windows of the tower, disturbed by the strong jets of moonlight.

It was as though all had come back to life, for everywhere the shadows moved and glittered.

At dawn the windows gaped again with a horrible emptiness.

 

X

There is smoke which only moves along forgotten paths and alleys. It is greeny-brown and easily changes into newer and yet newer shapes.

It can transform itself in an instant, now into an old travelling costume and walking stick. Now into a dusty hat and pouch.

It usually hangs around for ages at crossroads. Or, perhaps, leans on the fence of some garden and gazes into the distance.

In warm houses it creates a sense that someone is coming.

And so the door is left on the latch.

 

IX

There is smoke which floats in grey nuances and winds itself into shapes which are the deceptive realisation of solitary longings.

Solitary travellers know the secret. They know why they sit for hours on blue mountain sides, on craggy peaks, on the edges of abysses and the floors of valleys.

Such smoke passes in a given moment. It steals up unawares. It overpowers the watcher and possesses him:

An enchanted, dear form appears. The echoes of long-ago words return. They are here. They ring. They coo. And the smoke winds around. Its windings intertwine ever faster. Circles move and mesh.

The sweet apparitions sink, sink away...

 

XII

There is smoke which is compressed silence. It has no colour and can only be sensed by hearing.

Our hearing leads us in search of it to the highest peaks, where we almost float. Here the mountain ewers spill over with a silver horror, filled with compressed silence, which settles in them from heavenly azure regions and earthly depths.

Should a smoky wisp of thick silence wander out of them, endless, inexpressible hush prevails there where the wisp catches and falls. Then a mysterious rumbling begins, with the tiny, delicate chime of invisible bells.

One can hear the trees and flowers growing...

 

XIII

There is smoke which only tangles and weaves around holy pictures. It usually appears in endless emptiness and wastelands, when a devout worshipper is overtaken by indecision and exhaustion.

This smoke has a wonderful, simple colour, impossible to express in terms of other colours. Such colour is not found even in the rainbow made of all rainbows.

Perhaps the colour of this smoke is like that which flickers when heaven gazes on a momentary fissure of blueness.

 

XIV

There is smoke which appears on spreading plains in the shape of countless herds, clearly illuminated on one side, covered obscurely on the other.

While it plods lazily, the wind catches it unexpectedly and whips it into massive pillars, which sail away into the misty distance in a magnificent procession.

It surprises the sleeping poet, dreaming of the great souls of his people, his eternal people

I will never forget one secret moment, when I leaped out of bed, honoured by just such an unanticipated sight: those tall pillars of smoke were passing by my window, wide open to the rosy dawn . Powerful, silent, lit up.

A voice whispered to me to join them, but I remained by the window. Too happy and too sated with wonder.

 

XV

There is smoke shaped like a beak. Like living, moving little tongues, darting arrow-like in

swarms. Finally falling on dark windows, melted in unusual dew.

 

It glimmers, unextinguishable, and radiates in the darkness of tiny, tumbledown houses, in which live those who carry this world on their shoulders.

Such smoke only appears at midnight and before dawn, dark around midnight and rosy around daybreak.

I have long wondered why it looks like a beak. And I have discovered the secret. It issues from the beaks of roosters and that is why it has this shape. It is the echo of roosters’ cockadoodling. Powerful, stirring screeches. Exultant awakening. Mysterious calling.

This smoke is the covering which rings and shakes on the severed heads of roosters. Above their dead eyes, veiled by a fallen, darkened crest.

Ah, now I know why my people tremble, why they awaken from hard bolsters, when they sees the glittering of that mysterious dew on their unlit windows.

Now I know.

 

XVI

There is smoke which is called Maelstrom. It is only the poet’s companion. It unceasingly tangles and unravels in wonderful circles above his head, changing colour and flickering.

It darkens only when the poet’s vision is dimmed. Then the sun itself cannot brighten it. In moments like these lightning flashes through it.

The poet’s eyes are terrible and mild.

 

XVII

There is smoke, woven of colours distilled from heavenly rainbows. These divine colours have floated through the sleep of holy painters, dreaming of painting the Presence of God. But whenever they drew the brush across the canvas, each colour would evaporate into smoke.

These wisps of smoke are now wandering, separated, looking for each other. Somewhere far away, high up in the clearness, where the springs of brightness ring like crystal, they sometimes find each other.

Then in their interweaving they blossom, shine and burst into the most wonderful flower, which conjures the Presence of God by shaking its petals.

Then they unravel and creep away along the silence...

 

English translation by

Janet Berković

 

 

 

Cottages in Space (1957)

 

I

Each one sways on the azure;

They approach one another, then drift apart,

Meeting at random, floating on the wind, knocking against each other.

 

When they touch, they rattle like shaken nutshells,

When windows come together, two neighbouring faces touch.

 

All is momentary, the kiss, the clasping of a loved hand;

Then good-bye till they meet again

After an age of moving in circles.

 

 II

Cottages in space, and windows

With a breath-taking view into fathomless abysses.

Open your door, and from your threshold

Descend to the next cottage,

Swinging through space.

 

You’ll leave no foot-prints, you’ll find no traces.

 

Go, go,

Draw nearer, stumble, totter:

Fly to your neighbour’s embrace.

 

In sheer delight you will toss each other up in the air.

 

 III

Settling down in space,

All things are still on the move,

Knocking against one another,

Edge against edge.

 

Where shall we hang our favourite pictures from earth,

Our souvenirs?

There are no walls.

 

Unlock your trunks with caution,

Lift their lids very slowly,

Or everything will fly away:

Our little earthly things are out-of-date here.

 

Things of another substance are needed,

With another point of balance,

Weightless, unpossessive, in concord,

Things that don’t get lost.

 

 IV

How delightful, this first feast,

With objects settling down quietly,

Getting used to a new order,

 

The guests, however, have not yet arrived.

Have they lost their way in the new situation,

Do their feet still slip, is their step still awkward,

Does a level space still look to them like an abyss?

 

Peer through the window and listen,

Listen for something that flies in circles.

 

 V

All is in order, ready for the guests.

 

Slender threads tie the plates to the table

And the food to the plates,

To prevent them from flying away,

Because, in the lightness, all things flutter,

Are breezy, blue, like feathers.

 

But the expected guests; where have they got to?

Where has their lightness carried them?

 

Round the table, attached to new spaces, armchairs

Wait for the invited ones to hold on to them,

Lest their lightness suddenly snatch them away.

 

 VI

Everything hereabouts has lost its weight,

So you must tie it down lest it fly away.

 

Every object is a winged bird:

Let it flutter in its cage.

 

How wonderful it will be when, deeply moved,

He raises his glass to propose a toast in the language,

The voice we still remember so well.

 

He will weep, but the tears won’t fall,

Won’t slide down his cheeks.

Instead, shining and twinkling, they will remain

A necklace of tears, afloat in the air,

Strung on an invisible thread.

 

 VII

I keep forgetting that all things are weightless.

 

I open windows and, suddenly,

All my things fly out into space like birds,

Out and away, and I fly after them.

 

We find it so hard to arrange the things in our rooms

In the new weightless order.

How long will it take us to learn

They are things of another substance, with another point of balance,

Things in concord that won’t get lost?

 

 VIII

Make no mistakes, my guests,

Things no longer stand in their old relations,

Ownership has become vague.

 

When you have learned the new point of balance, you will be light,

You will sleep peacefully

Over gulfs and abysses.

 

A long life to you all, my first guests, in these new spaces,

Remembering forever the old reality.

 

Gravity is deadly:

It lowers things into human hands

That make them their own.

From gravity ownership was derived, the desire to possess was born.

 

But here things float, they belong to all;

Each one seems everybody’s, as it circles in an unbounded calm;

It doesn’t belong to a limited space,

It detaches itself from an owner’s catalogue.

 

 IX

Yes, it is from gravity that ownership was derived.

Gravity bound things and tamed them: caged in,

They served man gladly, liked to call themselves his,

Wherever they were, inside the house or outside, or on the roof.

 

At night, exhausted by service,

They fell asleep on their shadows:

All their dreams were about smoke.

 

Oh, to be suddenly set free,

To be with it, to be it,

Detached, fluent, light, up there,

Smoke.

 

 X

 

Meanwhile, my guests, you have gathered here,

Swaying in concord, I see, with a new point of balance,

Ready to clink glasses;

None will get cracked or broken.

 

How jolly it is to see spilled wine

Floating like a red cloud.

 

We marvel still at the phenomenon, forgetting

That forces, unknown hitherto, are keeping it afloat.

 

 XI

Well, my guests, now we have clinked glasses.

Good health to you all.

But please stop talking. Silence, please.

I hear something ticking somewhere.

In somebody’s pocket, an earthly watch must be ticking.

Somebody’s hiding one,

Somebody’s measuring time after the out-of-date manner.

Whoever he be, what’s the use of the gadget to him?

 

There’s no more getting up or working by it,

No more sleeping according to its whims;

Not since we dropped anchor in space.

 

 XII

Let us consider this gadget.

 

A ox into which, it is said, time pours,

That records in advance hours and seconds

On a small round face of glass.

 

But no: time does not necessarily move when the hands move:

No, it’s a spring inside that moves the hands.

Time stops or rushes past the watch,

Takes away, destroys, renews.

 

What’s the use of a clapper striking,

Or the cuckoo of an earthly cupboard-clock?

 

XIII

In the cupboard all things have become transfigured.

Nobody guesses that what we used to call wormholes

Are in fact the beds of new streams.

 

Inside a grinding goes on in secret,

Not the dry exhalation from a time-worn interior,

Like an old library, where on entering, we behold

The crumbling effect of worms on old grey letters,

And leaf through the past, hardly daring to breathe,

Lest everything should crumble to dust.

 

 XIV

No, it’s not the dry exhalation from a time-worn interior,

But a transfiguration.

 

Filled to overflowing with new things that breathe

The old cupboard bursts open;

At the pressure inside

The key is ejected from the lock.

 

Inside the cupboard a clock

Desperately cuckoos the old time,

As new things fly out of it,

Unfamiliar objects with enchanting edges.

 

The purpose of this, the name of that,

Has still to be learned.

 

 XV

You’ll have to stop each object and ask it its name,

Holdt it close to you and listen

To its unfamiliar pulse,

Or, perhaps, with a child’s curiosity

Turn it over, prise it open and peer inside

To learn what its hidden secret is,

What is inside, serving a new purpose,

Shake the object to hear it tinkle.

 

 XVI

Look, my chance-come guests, what do I see?

 

One of you feels like sleeping here in the earthly manner;

His head is nodding.

He must be the one

With an earthly watch concealed in his pocket.

 

Look at him! He’s fast asleep:

Some of his midnight hours must have struck for him.

 

Be quiet and listen. He is still talking nonsense.

How strange!

How did this late-comer ever reach these spaces?

 

On Phaeton’s chariot, you whisper to me,

You, the girl who sways on my right.

 

 XVII

Yes, that must be it. The uninvited guest arrived on Phaeton’s chariot,

Which he must have found in some corner,

Shattered to be sure, but still winged.

On it he soared,

Bringing all his old things with him, his earthly furniture,

With those bygone weights of his, those shapes

and possessions, he expects to sway, to balance.

 

Speak softly. Look, the sleeper is starting to sway: the new harmony

Is gradually taking hold of him.

 

Hush, hush. In silence gather his things together,

Load them on to the chariot and himself with them.

Send him toppling headlong to Earth, to Hades.

 

English translation by

B. S. Brusar and W. H. Auden

 

 

Space Visits (1957)

 

 I

Miracle, miracle.

 

We are leaning over and looking

At the night overturned.

 

What used to be above us, high up,

A soaring vault,

Is now flying, moving, swaying

Deep below us.

 

Already we have forgotten clouds and winds and rains.

Here, at the summit of overturned space,

Are we not ourselves –

Our own breath?

 

 II

Here is the ridge, here is the end.

Another jump – and you will start afresh.

But no playing tricks here.

I see, my companions, that all of you

Have already learned to stand upright.

You can even walk.

Let’s climb down from the balcony and take a stroll

To the edge of the universe.

Not far away is Phaeton’s path.

One single mistake – and his chariot

Fell and was irretrievably smashed.

 

 III

This is the top where the path ends.

Once, in fact, the sun stood here.

 

Now it shines below us, unfamiliar, upside down.

Our shadows no longer spread their carpets below us,

But stretch up over our heads,

Swaying like curtains,

Stretching up further and further, into infinity.

 

Stop. Look there. All of a sudden

Our shadows are beginning to disperse.

 

Hush. Look. Imagine.

Here space comes to an end.

 

 IV

There, rebounding from something, our shadows

Are growing longer and bending.

 

Something up there is dispersing our shadows,

Turning them back, bending them into arcs.

 

Look. Look.

Stay where you are.

Say what you think. Our shadows are rebounding from something.

What are you thinking?

 

This is the edge of space, not its end,

The edge of space, infinity

Bending itself into a circle.

 

 V

Here you can enter yourself,

The shortest path, yet an endless maze.

However, let’s go and see what’s over the edge,

A most perilous adventure.

 

Is everyone holding on tight,

Has everyone a secure foothold,

Every tourist, every guest?

 

Now, what’s the matter? This single word of mine

Makes some of you faint,

Fall over backwards, fall down, shout for help, seek repose.

 

 VI

Calm yourselves, calm yourselves, say nothing.

Breathe quietly and easily,

Leaning for support on the void.

 

But you, you indomitable mountaineers, staggering under

Your heavy packs to no purpose, put them down.

How often I’ve told you not to carry such things,

All that climbing gear.

 

In this emptiness, on this plain which is its own summit,

What use are ice-axes, or the rope

Coiled round your waists?

 

To what further heights do you wish to climb?

 

If you like, you can scale your own statures,

Your own shoulders and heads,

And get a boundless view from there.

 

Only from there is disclosed a still wider vista,

Only from oneself.

 

 VII

It’s like field-sports.

Like an athlete jumping from one shoulder to

higher and higher shoulders,

From this shoulder to that, ever higher and higher,

From himself to a higher self, from himself to the summit,

Where, looking down from himself, he turns pale with fear,

Overcome by the icy precipice.

 

And then, slowly, you have to descend from yourself.

 

From shoulder to shoulder,

Toiling down yourself, lower and lower,

Nearer and nearer the ground,

Until you reach your own stature, that little height of yours,

From which you jump to the ground and resume your stride,

Start walking and whistling through this world,

Smoking your usual cigarette.

 

 VIII

Phaeton crashed right here.

 

Here the path slopes down, steep and abrupt.

 

Some lack of balance, some giddiness, it seems,

Is still bothering you.

 

Keep away from the edge, the further the better.

Don’t lean out too far over the bottomless gulf.

You might lose your state of weightlessness and,

Suddenly cumbered by your bodies,

Topple over the edge, crashing down into weight

As Phaeton crashed.

 

 IX

He was driving a weightless thing,

Pure sunlight.

 

Filled with sunlight, he longed

To soar higher and higher,

But because of his light, waxing ever brighter and brighter,

The earth below began to teem with shadows.

The brighter he,

The darker and heavier they.

 

 X

New beings will call on us for the first time

Without knocking,

Faces unseen till now, though once well known.

Push the things aside,

Let them enter freely.

 

 XI

The come walking, flying, walking, walking,

These unarriving uninvited guests.

They come walking,

Their speech incomprehensible, their words soundless,

 

Bearing gifts which ring, if you can hear

Their insides echoing against their centres.

 

The echoes fade. The centre of new things.

 

Watch carefully, prepare your hand

To receive their gifts in the proper way.

 

Don’t stretch it out, don’t stretch it out,

But bring it down in an arc

And cover the gift from above,

Feel its upward pressure

Pervade your palm.

 

 XII

How near, how remote are the places

From which they have come, you ask them.

From what depths, from what heights

Have they alighted here, you whisper to them.

Your words, composed of the ordinary letters and sounds,

Cannot reach their ears,

As they float around you on various orbits.

Everything abour you is strange to them:

The only thing they recognise is bread.

Bread they know, bread they break and share:

But your face is strange to them.

 

 XIII

On our way to you we passed through the void

Once filled by your earth.

Now there is nothing there, just a horror of nothing.

 

There time plods on

To no end, to no purpose:

Minutes and seconds go by there,

But for whom and why?

 

Only the imprint of your globe is left,

A dreadful hollow in space,

Where the echoes of the clocks die away,

Ticking in vain.

 

Into that void keep drifting

Fragments, chips of the demolished globe,

Into that state of dispersion,

That unending disappearance

Of things which once were.

 

There, from time to time, during wild terrible storms,

Ruined cities come into view,

Swaying uncannily in the void.

 

There you see living rooms

Cut in half.

 

You see raised hands, hear the sound of clinking glasses,

Lonely murmurs of toasts,

Incoherent broken words.

 

XV

And if you bend over a little closer, prepared

To lean further,

You will spot some gloomy bays

Where shipwrecked vessels crash into each other,

Ad momentary gusts

Re-mould them into their former shapes.

 

Now, though, I remember nothing,

Nothing except the stick

With which I rapped at someone who was hard of hearing

And said:

 

When you leave, don’t forget your bread.

 

 XVI

Oh, only from bread do I know

That the earth once turned in this void,

Only from two pieces cut for somebody

During some human feast.

 

Since the universe touched them, they are quiet,

With a delicious fragrance which for a moment

Made me halt in my flight towards you.

 

Two pieces, two slices, still salt

With human tears:

Because of the salt, they say, we know that mankind

Found delight in bread.

 

 XVII

And how did they break it, divide it, eat it,

You ask me thoughtfully.

 

Let the question remain unanswered.

 

But I know for certain that they divided bread between them,

Divided and divided and never

Stopped dividing it.

 

During that inconceivable division

An explosion shattered the earth’s crust:

What you see on my shoulder is its dust.

 

English translation by

B. S. Brusar and W. H. Auden

 

 

Astrals (1960)

 

Before New Realities

 

From his evening window, where he watched every night because of the stars, aghast at the inconceivable, endless dread and having no-one to help him bear the horror of his discovery, the seer stood motionless at the window:

powerful Arcturus approached the window with his immeasurable, green, shining bulk, at a speed incomprehensible and immeasurable, for such had never before been measured:

every interval and distance every moment transformed into the moment of arriving.

The thought disturbed him. It meant that Arcturus had passed, in all his enormity, without being heard or seen, because of the speed which made him but a momentary apparition.

They still regard him as reality on that side.

They have calculated how long it takes him to reach us. Yet will he not then, as now, rush past us, like the glow left after an extinguishing act.

We are not conscious, we have never thought about how part of the universe is merely an illusion, formed from countless orbits and refractions:

a cosmic Fata Morgana.

The thought was a great comfort to him at that moment. So he remained calmly by the window. Especially when gazing ever further into the heights, he felt a quivering shimmer. It seemed then to the seer that the universe was drawing in from above, like something which only then began to surround us from all sides.

All this is clear to us, for we are used to visions, which come to us at the same intervals, on this our unmoving, earthly stage.

But we will not be afraid of new things. Of the truth that in space, everything is finished, completed, done.

We are not called upon to create anything, but only inspiredly to reveal, discover, for, whatever we may think, reality already exists, though invisible and divided, scattered into pieces which will come to life again as originally intended, when we re-assemble the pieces creatively.

All this is a warning that the decline of classic space, to which we have long been accustomed, is coming:

space which is bounded by mankind’s daily usage.

Classic space is static, unmoving, divided into appropriate parts, which are filled with various daily business. This space extends as far as the things we need extend. If the boundary is crossed, a lack of resourcefulness, wandering and aimlessness result.

Things disappear unnoticed, things which a person in a familiar space keeps close to hand and which enable him to move around at ease. We live in times when mankind has succeeded in crossing that boundary, yet still he measures things in terms of former references, still unprepared in reality to master the revelations of imagined spaces.

Relying on those old references man is trying to reach out (as far as possible) into so-called space with the help of cosmic ballistics, but in fact he is only reaching the first antechamber. Far away, even from the slightest astrophysiological adjustments, he dares not peer (into space) even (for a moment) briefly, through the opened window of his cosmic tube. He is satisfied with the possibility of going as high as he can, crouching behind the glass cover, breathing through artificial lungs, in an artificial Earth atmosphere, like a person training in an aquarium to swim across the ocean.

But for now, his greatest goal is to go as far as possible successfully and arrive back safe and sound. That will be his finest hour, regardless of the fact that he will have to keep on answering, to the point of insanity, curious humankind:

Ah, nothing, nothing. For the first time we have nothing with which to thrill you.

There will be plenty of sombre meditation about that, if it is not understood that it was all only cosmic ballistics.

However great the triumph and effort to travel as far as possible and back again, each such return will in fact be a failure.

Man’s launch into space will only truly begin at the moment when he manages to find a firm foothold somewhere up there.

Then, adjustment to new conditions will begin and continue until that final transformation, which will enable the colonisation of space. Then suddenly, these words will rupture the regions of Lower Earth:

He has stayed.

Inform all space orbits and paths.

He has stayed. He has settled up there.

After an exhausting, creative vigil, he has stayed.

After dreamless waiting for his great transfiguration, he has stayed.

After failure, ruin, useless, empty return journeys, he has stayed somewhere up there, in full swing.

The seer would speak the first words of the universe to such a first newcomer. If he could see that newcomer well, or at least glimpse him, he would be prominent above all others.

He is now settling himself internally, while the external is being transformed.

Becoming more settled.

More prepared,

more resourceful,

and ever more ready to ensure his survival up there.

See, the seer, bent towards him, is already incanting.

 

English translation by

Janet Berković

 

 

While Universes Wither (1975)

 

New Ars Amandi

 

 

The First Knock on the Door

 

More and more often, I stay away from your

divine teachings,

I cannot even glimpse those mysteries,

which you reveal to me in the void.

 

Ah, it is vain to repeat, that universe is new,

the path is new, the stars are altogether unattainable,

in vain you repeat the tangle of new bounds to me,

you reveal and in vain entice me

into new promises.

 

I cannot again repeat your discoveries

nor by means of your signpost reach

new unfathomableness.

 

 

The Second Knock on the Door

 

What is all this, when I do not yet know

who you are, urging me towards these mysteries,

who you are, what you are,

nor what you promise me.

 

What you whisper and teach me,

you, o new being,

you, whisperer, you, revealer,

who are only a whisper to me,

only a touch.

 

By which you reveal to me

the inexplicable beauties of sound,

from mysterious shapes which awaken

and soar

 

and at every moment my hearing

runs over with them,

so every moment

I incline toward you, deaf.

 

 

The Third Knock on the Door

 

And then I attend your lessons in vain,

for I cannot repeat what you have said,

not for a single moment,

not even with your helping touch

unriddle what I have grasped,

 

enticingly you whisper to me – be alert,

be still –

and carefully upon new discoveries you lower

my hand.

 

Barely, barely can I stir,

for on it yet remains

the treasure of former earthlings.

 

 

The Fourth Knock on the Door

 

You admonish and I obey you,

I shake from my trembling hands

the old, dried-up solids.

that I may rise to another existence,

which, following your direction,

I approach with trepidation.

 

No, you will not be able to reach me,

until I reach that being,

for it is not of the night,

of soft pillows,

 

no, it is not.

 

How often do I start

at a whisper excited by old love,

 

and it awakes

and smiles at me sadly,

 

so you must approach me,

praying him to forgive me,

 

and see, then it comforts you, comforts,

comforts all night long

and just glows rosily

and just smiles again

 

and smiles.

 

 

The Fifth Knock on the Door

 

Now at last I want to see you

or at least try to guess a little,

to know to whom I am listening,

who it is who continually entices me into new things

 

or who it is who asks me

to repeat finished movements,

movements by which I reach the unreachable,

Lo, reveal yourself to me

 

in this unappeasing instant.

 

 

The Sixth Knock at the Door

 

Who and what are you

whose mere shadow I now discern,

as proof of your inescapable nearness,

you exhort me only to listen to you carefully

 

and not miss the secrets,

which you are bringing within my reach.

 

Now there is nothing,

nothing

 

not even the void.

 

 

The Seventh Knock at the Door

 

Hidden behind the door I wait for you

to leave, for your pupil has not come,

neither have I

and you yourself are hiding behind the door,

 

waiting to surprise me, stalk me,

you on that side, I on this,

the door ajar,

you eavesdrop on me, to see whether I know

 

and I only know I am silent.

 

 

From the Other Side of the Door

1.

Why are you gone so long,

Come, breathe for me, do

new discoveries torture you with boredom,

is it boredom,

or is there no hope that you will learn

to discover wonders.

 

What joys, what new blessings

have you now let slip,

imagining that you were present and fully attentive,

and lo, I only whispered

 

dust into nothingness.

 

 

From the Other Side of the Door

2.

Where are you now, surely Earth has called you,

surely you have not yet been bewitched by this art,

you shiver, when I try to reveal to you

just a tiny mystery.

 

You cannot yet repeat anything,

how often have you, like a proper little schoolboy

hesitatingly touched

the fold, troubled,

 

and I wanted you let you touch it,

to whisk it aside in an instant

and glimpse mysteries.

 

 

From the Other Side of the Door

3.

If you but knew the divine

realities you have let slip,

if you but guessed,

you would be horrified by the deceptiveness of earthly things

 

and penitent you would arrive at this door,

waiting to be admitted,

would I not whisper, would I not

reveal only to a deaf man,

to a dreamer of empty earthlinesses,

to an awful drowner in everyday things,

just wait, watch before the door,

overhear what you have missed, that you may not faint

from emptiness.

 

 

From the Other Side of the Door

4.

I am already waiting, ready for you

negligent earth being,

I want to repeat to you the lesson given

about mysteries which you have

begun to comprehend.

 

Just wait before the door

until I manage to whisper something to you,

something which it would be worth repeating forever.

 

Wait here, before the door

for me to start repeating

 

stand before the door.

 

 

From the Other Side of the Door

5.

Stand before the door

so you may be entertained, calmed

by deception

only wait for me before the door,

 

to feel how I have instructed

you wrongly in all things,

only wait before the door,

thus you will wait here for me,

stand here, stop here

so that the door does not close quietly,

so that it remains open,

until I appear, just

 

as you picture me,

you, who could not understand

my revelations,

nor a movement

 

nor a single movement repeat.

 

 

From the Other Side of the Door

6.

O, if only you knew what they mean

and where they lead you,

before such mysteries your conjectures

would stop and watch

 

and feel the nearness of the inconceivable,

from which the presaged veils now move aside

as though nothing remains

except a narcissus in the void.

 

If you mean to wait for me

and if your hearing is already dulled with waiting,

form straining to hear

me in reality again

my forgotten voice

 

which has revealed all that is unheard of.

 

 

From the Other Side of the Door

7.

See, now hear my first lesson again,

and learn to repeat that

which I will reveal to you again

 

and do not confuse it with earthly ephemera,

try to get a little accustomed to touch

that which I reveal to you

at least the tips

 

and at least dare to touch it

by sight,

just stop, just wait

for me to remember what I would tell you,

 

I who know about

everything inconceivable.

 

 

From the Other Side of the Door

8.

And who knows how to show you gradually,

reveal slowly,

that you will not be blinded.

 

You are still waiting for me before the door,

see, what an attitude of listening towards that

which trembles, still undiscovered,

which awaits my voice,

for me to entice: lo, it begins again,

now again, it begins with a new gesture,

the one which I reveal to you first

that you may remember.

 

 

From the Other Side of the Door

9.

I know, repetition is tedious to you,

for the more you repeat

the more you forget.

 

In vain your glance strays to find

and learn something by a shortcut,

you must touch everything yourself,

when I convey your hand to a mystery,

 

there lay it carefully

on that which is as yet untouched,

when you yourself must aspire

to long watches by imagination.

 

Wait, wait here and watch.

 

 

From the Other Side of the Door

10.

Looking through the open door

I would wish you to see who I am,

who or what is revealing new knowledge to you.

 

See, you once passed by new existences.

 

But repeat, go by once more

in silence

and once again

and again, and stop here, calm your touch

and let your hearing, your excited hearing

rest on that which has not yet been touched.

 

 

From the Other Side of the Door

11.

Here now is a new lesson, incomprehensible learning,

when the new discoveries of beauty

become hearing.

 

Now let your ear rest on the places

I give you.

 

Good, good, now bend your ear,

good, it pleases you,

 

now you can hear beauty twirling into shape.

 

 

From the Other Side of the Door

12.

So hear, so do not seek my form,

but remember that I hold your hand

resting as long as it can on that secret place,

as long and as carefully,

 

that you may finally memorise

the initial thrill of beauty.

 

Press your ear more closely to it,

and here how it is,

when you flow through your virgin hearing

into the first petals,

 

into the first whiteness.

 

 

From the Other Side of the Door

13.

Learn and accept the truth

and know that all will be

discovered by hearing –

 

I will reveal the second lesson to you –

 

Do not turn around,

let the door remain ajar

that your ear may more easily catch my babbling,

now listen, how awful it would be,

were you to become deaf with listening:

events of new beauties

would pass you by,

that moment would creep past you,

the dearest of all moments,

 

when they all fall to dust,

the whiteness of the lily abounds.

 

I would take your ear from sheer silence

and when all nearness would fall into it,

 

only silence would remain.

 

 

From the Other Side of the Door

14.

And now, to collect myself,

I continue this secret lesson,

do you know or guess anything

which my voice does not reveal to you.

 

Hear me from that door,

where you can never hear me,

imagine what I am whispering

during this new school lesson.

 

O be at peace, be at rest,

so you may remember my call.

 

 

From the Other Side of the Door

15.

Do not be troubled and do not hope

that I will help you,

now I hear you sighing, while you rest your hand

on a place quite inaccessible to you.

 

Wait here, humanly sorrowing.

 

Yet in vain will pain move you to remembrance,

all here is illusion, only the movement

of your hand is real, concealing

excitement, exultation, rising

to virgin charms.

 

Enough, more than enough, close the door,

I am telling you too much.

 

 

There is His Shadow

 

How will you stop when you once learn

to repeat after me, I, who disclosed to you,

who will hide nothing,

keep back nothing.

 

Be uplifted now

and compose yourself when you reach

that place, somewhere, where virginities begin.

 

O close the door, close it for me,

will you ever know where your hand is,

resting on an unreachable edge.

 

You cannot imagine

the sinless lair of purity.

 

Here his Shadow is Ever Closer

 

But be still, simply repeat

my mysterious voice,

by which you will soon soar wildly

to unattainable virginity.

 

Listen, though you were late for your lesson –

I had almost left –

hear me, filled with hidden delights,

which I gently waft to you,

 

I will instruct you in them,

how to repeat them, think on them,

and finally, to find your way,

 

wait, do not rush.

 

 

He Already Shakes and Touches

 

Must I calm you again,

hear me, here where once I laid your sinful hand, now

beneath it do not lie fleshly solids

and you are mistaken, you do not know

what causes your hand to rise

and truly, you do not know and do not know,

therefore watch,

 

until sleep rocks you.

 

 

Hidden Behind the Door

 

You feel rightly when you realise

that your hand is touching a strange solid

You did not hear me out, and if you had,

you would now make out what your hand is resting on.

 

Leave it, let it remain motionless all night,

that you may waking know what is happening to it

and what is hidden

beneath it,

 

that your posture may not bend

and that you may calmly remain

I would whisper to you now, how your trembling hand

is stilled.

 

 

The Shadow Leaning on the Door

 

Now open wide the door and hear my breath,

which entices you as your hearing quickens,

to come to me here and discover

what you are, when we are alone.

 

I listen to you and before your whisper

I hear first the hush of someone’s lips, bending their ear to me,

I well recall all your farewells,

so clearly, that I do not need to turn around to you.

Lo, amaze me, teach me something new.

I hear your silence, here your deepest word.

With silence I have moved you, and you respond, listen,

as I reveal to you a hidden tangle in dumbness,

 

perhaps the bow is too taut, which shoots to the highest peak.

 

 

From Above, Over the Edge of the Door

 

There, where you will one day reach

a new knot of watching.

 

This lesson is hard for you, I examine you,

but you can barely repeat what I showed you.

You would just show by a gesture

that you can repeat it all,

 

all, as one who knows all, experienced in all things.

 

But I will tell you nothing more,

that you may not be struck dumb by too sudden imparting.

 

Hide yourself now and steady

the open door between us.

 

And after watching, begin to repeat the gestures

and may new visions be shaped by them,

of which, however, I know too little.

 

 

The Door Trembles at a Breath

 

But still, tomorrow, I will give you a lesson about them –

 

be ready, all is composed for that

and your ear released from every sound,

so that the shape of the edge may fit in it,

that by it you may sense every nearness.

 

Be ready, be ready and wait for the hour,

let all other sounds in your ear

be hushed

and make a clear space to receive new ones.

 

But before I begin to reveal new scenes to you,

make an effort to extinguish old memories

of things,

which everywhere made you stumble,

forgetting direction, angle and circle.

 

It might be best of all

to destroy everything with a sudden movement.

Then we shall wait on complete silence,

for all echoes to cease, then,

listen –

 

 

And is Already Ajar

 

My lesson for you begins.

 

Firstly, why this drawing near,

why the long wide-open door,

and why the bottomless, emptied hearing,

if you turn towards me bewildered

 

and you cannot, look, repeat what I have told you.

How often have I told you

and wisely scolded you for being still deaf,

unable to keep awake

 

for my teaching.

 

 

Present Absence on the Edge

 

Why do you look at me askance

for then we confuse the trail more and more deeply,

until we descend standing barefoot there,

from where my maiden flight arises,

 

for I am all shining, wonderful, light,

swaying with every breath.

O, how suddenly breathless you are,

stop, you will blow me away,

it calms down.

 

Oh, in vain, in vain I meet

to speak with you,

I wait, but you cannot yet

rise up to my revelation.

 

Neither at dawn nor by night, to the hearer,

and I feel, I hear you, I would wish to

give myself to you clearly,

as to an unreasoning child.

 

 

The Glow of Watching at the Door

 

Here is night, is it already late,

o no, no, it is better so –

divine, virgin darkness will hide

the whirlpools and springs of former agitation.

 

In vain are your memories and backward, sinful pictures,

see, with what purity all radiates from me,

I start forth and now look,

now know, that I was not it, it, it,

but she, she, she.

 

See, repeat, stir yourself,

exult with me as we rise,

and know what has happened to me,

 

how can I explain to you these purities,

which shine upon you and blind you.

 

You, o my pupil, deceive yourself at every moment,

helplessly you wander and confusedly you blush,

wondering if and where I am hiding.

 

Suddenly I am burnished aflame with purity

and thus, you see, I shiver nakedly at you, ,

o waker, whom my voice barely reaches,

and when it does, is threatened with silence,

 

I, who hide and conceal endless beauties.

Lower your blazing look, o lower it,

and wait for me, inconstant one, and do not breathe

a word of me, for there is nothing you can tell of me.

 

 

And Dumb with Silence into Silence

 

Learn to look at me all at once,

 

then you will more easily remember me as quiet

and I am inconceivable to myself

and I often breathe nothing of myself,

now we will await another lesson.

 

I will be ready, when I begin

to be concerned with myself

and when I learn to look from myself

to myself and when I begin to remember

self revelation and when I cease teaching

what I feel and know about myself,

you will be forever bent over me

and nothing –

 

 

Drawing Close to the Door Oneself

 

You approach will me as though I am not here,

for how calmly will I smile at you,

seeing your confusion at my presence,

of what it exists, that is all I must discover,

 

for our meeting to be radiant,

but only hurry, my pupil,

for I am forgetting every instant

and have nothing to say of myself,

 

for when I feel myself most,

then I droop in on myself

and abysmally keep silence.

 

 

Open the Door to Hear Only Yourself

 

Do not hurry, do not heed,

I called you to myself too quickly,

whipped and twisted by the storm of my completeness

you quiver and throw yourself onto your back.

 

Quiet, quiet, so that you may at last begin to learn

from whence I come, o, know me, now and see

that I do not touch the ground, I do not touch it,

hear me, I am not here, I am a delusion, a vision

 

from the moment when my essence ceases to be

when deceptive reality pours across

its threshold, thus I do not know where I begin,

which is why I cannot tell you, thus far

 

come to me and only thus far, so that you might not evade me

when you sense the abundance of the flowers and the whiteness of the petals

in your ear, just watch and take care

on which side your breathing shall touch me.

 

 

Hiding from Oneself

 

You do not yet know who I am and what I am like

swayed by every glance, you have no idea

what I am and how I am disturbed

by every quiver or shadow, and you do not know, you do not grasp

 

who I am, when silence itself envelops me,

wildly, and I was, was, in the folds

unbuttoned, but you do not know and you have nothing

to repeat, you do not know how to say, that which was so many times

 

repeated, stop, pause, be silent,

so that you may at last know me, discover by hearing,

by the echo of silence, which my movements sway,

recognise me, yes, for must I teach you

 

of my coming in secret, must I quicken

your hearing to my approach, that I might

not stumble past you without rustling

or my own shadow.

 

English translation by

Janet Berković

 

 

Visits (1977)

 

 

Space Scene with the Rooster

 

“Shall I at least perceive

The instant of the last touch,

The earth’s rattle and the scordhed exhaust?”

 

So the sobbing homunculus asked me

Smelling the handkerchief he had snatched

From his sweetheart’s tearful eyes

At their last date on earth,

 

As, swaddled,

He boarded the space cylinder.

 

She had whispered to him:

“I don’t know whether you’re leaving

For new life

Or for death.”

 

A shivering wonder reigned everywhere.

The people, sensing how grandiose the feat was,

Refrained from shouting:

“See you again.” –

 

Real consternation, however, overwhelmed

The globe with the news

That the manned space-cylinder

Had succeeded in entering space.

 

He himself saw nothing;

While the stormy flight of the space creatures

Poured unheard into his dull hearing,

He was not far-seeing enough to perceive it.

 

The former echoes of the earth

Still rang stronger in him;

A mere terrestrial sigh could startle him:

 

“Since it’s no more,

Listen,

These sounds make me glad.

 

Cease chattering and listen.”

 

I turned and beheld

A raft like Noah’s Ark,

Rolling nearby,

Full of earth’s animals.

 

The homunculus said:

“I hardly had time to send my message to the earth:

‘Let the creatures of earth

Go forward into this void.’”

 

As he told me this,

With the few words still left to him,

I looked at him with pity.

 

I winked at him

And tried to draw his attention

To the fabulous undreamt-of choruses

Reverberating from the flight of the creatures,

 

Raging still more fabulously,

With a still more space-like hum,

 

Compared to my companion’s defective hearing.

 

The winging birds of the earth,

Tense and startled,

Topped that giant chorus

Of all the space creatures,

 

Blaring unceasingly

And swelling

Beside my ear.

 

The homunculus babbled:

 

“Listen to the nightingales, the blackbirds,

The swallows.

 

Oh, how I like these sounds of the earth.

Listen to the roosters.

 

Will all this echo again

Through this universal void

And silence?

 

No femininity exists any more,

No pulsing roundness;

Let at least the beasts of earth live here,

Their muscles and wings

Spread through space.”

 

Thus the homunculus murmured to me,

Using up the last words

He had left in his mind.

 

The multitudinous flight of the fauna of earth

Swept me towards the earthly raft;

I could hardly pull the homunculus with me.

 

There I saw the forms

Of the animals that remained.

 

In rhinoceros, elephant,

Hippopotamus,

 

I recognised the inertia of earthly nature.

 

The persistent clumsiness of the mammoth,

Whom the ice had caught up with and buried.

The stuttering chirping of the birds

Is the only beginning of a winged song

In the direction of limitless space.

Fluttering, however, they cannot lift

Their heavy little bodies.

Therefore, let them with their wings

And chirps and songs

Join the flight of the space fauna.

 

The ardent stream, the mighty song swept them up.

Waving in the tumultuous choruses,

Their earthly chirp

Died out.

 

But still the few surviving sounds,

Reverberating muffled

Through the space hurricane,

Startled me.

 

The sounds that remind one

Of the earth,

That make earth earth.

 

The happy memory refreshed me but for a moment.

As the stream carried the reminders away,

Into the whirlpool of new, creative forces,

Everything suddenly disintegrated and vanished

 

In the void of the illusive emptiness.

 

With what trepidation I saw

The hulks of elephant,

Rhinoceros and other earthly beasts

Vanish in a trice,

As soon as the squall of the unfamiliar balance

Seized and carried them away.

With what increasing forgetfulness I watched

The domestic animals

Arrive from the earth in protective cylinders

 

To settle space,

And propagate the life of the earth ad infinitum.

 

In protective cylinders

With artificial gravity

Set by terrestrial surveyors

With inert little weights

Cut out from

Weight-in-itself.

 

The domestic animals, leaving

Their earth-oxygen cages,

Remained whole

Within the span of their new weights.

 

Thus a sheep remained a sheep,

An ox an ox,

Still pulling a plough to plough the void.

 

The domestic fowl themselves

Remained whole,

Although frightened and screeching,

Endlessly flapping their wings.

 

Look, they happily moved up

The whole village with all its riches.

 

Wheat itself they launched up,

Fruit and vegetable seeds.

 

The wondering sower has but

To wave his hand:

He knows that vacancy is the best soil.

 

My little companion,

Both exulting and awe-struck

By the earthly ululation,

Roared mountainously:

 

“Oh, you earth, with your village

And your rooster,

 

Oh, you earth of human forms,

If only I could reach you once again.”

 

The reply from below startled me:

“Not yet.

Not yet.”

Thus the earth answered.

 

Meanwhile, propelled

Powerfully into an arc,

I zoomed farther up,

 

Fearing lest I

Should entangle and lose myself

In the earthly vegetation

Suddenly sprouting and flourishing.

 

For I doubted if I could

Wing my way

Through the heady mellowness,

Through the vintages and the harvests

Which shot up from the space soil and grew rank

 

In the void.

 

Thus, hurled into inanity

And already bewitched by transfiguration,

 

I still could hardly tear myself away

From the memory

Of strawberries,

Of peaches,

And other tasty

Terrestrial fruits.

I swung still higher;

The stream of the space creatures hushed behind me.

 

By chance I turned once again,

But needlessly,

Since by then I had become all-sided;

 

Turning, I noticed the homunculus down there,

Hurrying towards the translated animals,

The country stock;

 

Not hearing my call,

To sprint to me full-tilt,

 

He remained amidst the bedlam

Of the screeching poultry.

 

Then I soared up

With such a force,

Such a swing,

 

That it whirled all around me

For long afterwards.

 

No more could I even

Encounter the space creatures,

The animals shot up from the earth

As at first I had done, beholding muzzles

Agape, surprised and terrified.

 

I gave the last

Human call that I remembered,

But the homunculus did not hear it.

 

He watched the courtyard rooster

Peck at the meteors

Flying past,

 

Rumbling sullenly.

 

English translation by

B. S. Brusar and W. H. Auden

 

 

 

Angelica Ars Amandi

 

 

Keep Your Ears Ready

 

Stop, give me a hearing!

Cannot your shallow ears

At least discern one word

Distinctly?

 

Everything in them, I guess,

Has slumped into silence.

 

Keep as vigilantly awake as possible,

So as not to miss my next-coming gesture.

Under it, drowsy watcher,

A never seen, a never dreamt-of

Love-world hides.

 

You can learn it by heart,

Repeat it after me exactly,

Letter by letter.

 

 

Who Is Near Here?

 

Attending my secret lectures,

You have not acquiesced at all

Since somebody’s deep black shadow

Has kept falling on the floor,

 

Swinging heavily, sluggish

In its impenetrable darkness,

A silhouette still unknown,

Covering presumably

 

My own self

(Or whom? What else?) that has been

Hiding.

Never understood, never pinpointed,

 

Unliked with time,

With any particular moment,

And thus agreeing with you.

 

 

Calm Down, You, The Upset One

 

Our meetings have been so void

Because we have had nothing to arrive at.

You cannot see me

Because you do not accept proportions of my being.

 

However, because you are inclining your ears to my presence,

You will not lose me.

As long as there is hearing,

My presence will be heard.

 

Attending punctually my lectures,

Responding to all my winks,

You will adapt yourself ever more gracefully

To the order I am revealing to you

 

Whispering: Touch this,

Join these parts.

No, refrain from touching

What prompts you to the immemorial sigh.

 

 

While You Are Swirling

 

You are still seeking illusions,

Your own figure is charming you –

But remember well, let me not repeat the syllable

That I have composed so carefully for you

To let you know me more clearly.

Learn at last

Not to look at me askance and stare,

Not to wait for something

And think that I am upsetting you,

As I am approaching you barefoot.

 

 

Trepidation Because Of Words And Ignorance

 

A strange lesson, this,

For you to make your first try

Under my strict control.

Well, forget what you know,

Whatever you consider a sigh,

 

An exciting sign

Luring into amorous sorrow,

 

Into what you are looking forward to hear,

Sigh joining sigh.

Somebody’s presence will begin

To move you on with its breath,

 

To whisper: Calm down, enlighten your thoughts

For your great coming to me.

 

 

Vigil Over The Inscrutable One

 

Repeat everything learnt,

With purity emper your gestures,

Then move to your yearned one,

Repeat, repeat yourself.

 

To come to me most conscious,

Rush to relearn everything,

Train yourself

How to approach me adroitly,

 

To which of my parts to incline

Before you touch my edge.

 

 

The Disciple Is Learning More

 

Keep awake at my unfamiliar, half-closed

entrance. Before the dark descends

Resume your lecture,

You, teacher, knowing everyone,

 

Knowing the autumn of fleshly charms,

Forefeeling their fall.

Let them only fall, let everything fall,

The last leaf of nakedness.

 

Listen! The seething whirl

Of purity divine is hiding.

Yes, emptiness is lying snug here,

Serenity concealed behind the leaf,

 

For the watcher keeping his pure vigil

Underneath.

 

 

Where What Is Uncovered Is Hiding

 

Here is the highest breath of holiness,

Here is the essence of space occurring,

Space goal,

End of every motion,

 

Beginning of all excitements –

 

Start first to glow with holiness

Until it make your vision bright,

Until you grasp where shame once dwelt

There is light.

 

 

Cautiously Into Unfamiliar Lightness

 

But what can quiet

Your hidden desire?

As you are watching the angelic concealment,

Its pure ecstasy,

 

As your sullen eye is peering

Into what is immemorial –

It is trembling reliving it –

Into the olive leaf,

 

As your are listening, hear it

Warp and wither.

 

 

Let Your Hearing Forget

 

Waiting, you do not know yourself

The sight you are dreaming about,

You are straining your ears for the ultimate vein

Of the withered leaf to drop,

 

Waiting tensely to spy

Whether the space sphere

Or another unexplainable sign

Should loom behind,

 

And bring your only, still remaining hand

Down upon the withered leaf,

Lightly, breathlessly, in a graceful line.

 

 

I Am Still Calling You Tirelessly

 

I am starting another lesson,

Who would know which, revealing:

From endless floating

Your waist is growing thinner,

 

Your stature, fluttering increasingly,

Is growing higher from yearning,

Bending in heavenly zeal

To see the mystery.

 

Look, the whole mankind is staring fixedly

At the wizened stem

In the empty corner.

 

 

Listen On To Me, But Keep Silence

 

Here, in dismal helplessness,

Only breathlessness is floating,

Only eyelashes and tears are sounding.

 

All the beings are staring perplexedly,

So lost,

So petrified.

The space course

Is ceaselessly lashing at them.

 

 

Calm Down Gradually

 

But keep mum and feign

That nothing is startling you,

That everything is plain

And far away.

 

Let everything flash into your mind

As when you fling a door open

And ruffle things, and then

Cajole them into quiet.

 

They do not at all object to

Removal from edges.

Why should they perch

On frowning bluffs?

 

 

Mutual Search

 

And while I am revealing my new presentiments

Still more you are forgetting the things

You once approached and left

Until you have reached the vicious circle

 

From which I want to extricate you in secret,

Lest your silence should no longer betray you,

But you are rather directing your steps to well-known trysts,

Twittering rendez-vous.

 

Keep awake and wait

For closeness growing by my side,

Descending transparent, immaterial

Like a former eventide.

 

 

Unavoidable Warnings

 

It must be a long vigil indeed

Whenever you are profoundly aware more of an absent,

Than a present, one.

 

The one you are aware of will whisper,

Give voice, and

Trouble your dreams.

 

Nevertheless, you have not forgotten

To come to speechless meetings,

Where knowledge, whispered from heights,

Keeps drifting into your ears

 

Making you ready to stay awake again

And anticipate revelations.

 

 

Charmed Preparations

 

For how long

Must you bend your ears,

Train them for new hearing?

 

How miraculous it this,

That you no more like to remain inert,

 

But rather, ready for sounds

And echoes of the new-come sphere,

 

Are looking alertly our for any news

To break,

For anything new

To spread.

 

 

With a Quieter Voice

 

Leave me alone. Let me stay awake

To see whether I can save your hearing.

Could its own edge

Crumbling at the touch

 

Of my breath

Harm it?

I do not know what flutter

I should lower into it,

 

A flutter persistently revealing

New approaches.

 

 

A Sad Reconciliation

 

A clumsy entertainer I am

In the too sudden solitude

Pouring into you,

The painful peace deriving from

Things passed.

 

I have nothing to reveal,

Nothing to describe to you:

Your learned teacher

Is turning into a dumb ignoramus.

 

I ought to know whatever fits

Snugly the form of your hearing.

 

 

Return into Reminiscences

I ought to feel the by.gone unfamiliar things

That have exquisitely merged in you.

With them on my mind, my watcher,

To startle and lure you.

 

Just calm down,

Rack your brains to confide:

Were former things

Always close to you,

 

Your and their shadows side by side?

 

 

Hearing Beside Hearing in Vain

 

My visits keep startling you in vain,

You never know who I am,

You do not guess how many times

I must repeat the same thing to you,

 

The more frequently I repeat it,

The less you notice and know.

 

Because of my alarm, you do not know,

You lack the will

To pass by me and by the former

Commonest things,

 

Troubled as you are

By my silent lips.

 

 

When You Tear Yourself Away, Float Here

 

You are listening and in vain expecting

My lips to fill

Your hearing with their silence,

Their bottom

 

Is hiding my voice of revelation.

 

You are trembling in fear

Lest the creaking of an unknown door

Should trouble you, a door

With things in front and behind,

 

Those things that make you pause and watch for

The object which forces you

To keep your silent vigil.

 

 

Forgotten Learning

 

Oh, how much more time do you need

To get acquainted with its name, to start

Repeating it whole, aloud,

Pronouncing it deliberately at first,

 

Syllable by syllable,

Again then, syllable by syllable, but more deliberately,

 

While in the very effort

A sharp fear is seizing you,

You are quivering, blanching

When you finally succeed

In muttering the name complete.

 

 

Lost Track

 

And then you start roaming to learn

The thing thus named.

In vain I am leading

Your hand from thing to thing,

 

Revealing their forms to you,

Repeating their names,

Whispering them most deeply

In your hearing,

 

Then shouting them, rattling them

To shock you –

Making you conscious of the fact,

A different letter baits an object now,

 

Each one now this, then that,

And you must call them by many names

All at once

To make them answer.

 

Your voice is suddenly quavering,

Fascinated, you hear them,

Close as dreams,

Rejoin.

 

 

The Teacher’s Silence

 

How pale, how futile,

These discoveries of mine are to you,

This teaching!

Forget, destroy just everything,

 

Erase every single one of my doctrines,

Every secret I have entrusted to you.

I, a funny dotard,

Have mistaught you.

 

Oh, return to daily futility,

Do not ask, I have nothing more to tell you.

 

 

English translation by B. S. Brusar and W. H. Auden

 

 

Circling into Disintegration

 

For how many times by now

Have you desperately sought yourself,

Tracked down your former making?

 

You think that you are still what you were,

But look, I am going to show you

Your past self.

 

Oh, you, a woman once,

I am going to lead you back to your ruin;

To reveal to you,

 

Oh, one-time woman,

The breakup of your fleshly self.

 

To present the story of your past,

I am going to stop the space sphere,

 

Calm it down.

 

Oh, being, you are returning to yourself,

Your former identity,

 

Climbing up to your knees,

The by-gone bend,

The saddle precipitating

 

Into abysses; dried up now,

Null,

 

Endlessly scattered.

 

You, lovely being,

Climb up your flesh.

You have just quivered

On your past knees,

At the touch of your lowered fingers

You have startled,

Or have you not?

 

Oh, do not beam,

Do not dazzle me with the glow

Of your ravaging inside.

 

Suddenly,

The long-past shivering pallour

Has chilled you.

 

Your former flesh and blood

Have made you tremble.

 

And now, my darling soul,

Come, fly with me

Around your charms.

 

I shall flutter with you,

 

Hover beside you

Wherever you stop.

 

Oh, you lovely one,

No more what you used to be,

Whirling about your sinking wonders,

Will your erstwhile self

Rouse you?

 

Look, I am beside you,

Swinging, fawning you,

Plying around your ruin

Ever swifter,

Around your evaporation.

 

Just here

Where up your knees

You stream into stature.

 

Night is tiptoing already,

But we have not arrived

At your former glance,

 

Darkening,

Greening,

Entrancing,

Spellbinding.

 

But you have stuck

In this darkness

Although you are to yourself

 

Serenity fluttering into endlessness.

 

Thus stuck, you must succumb

To your past existence

Down which folds still appear.

 

Here you feel the traces,

Remember those by-gone

Numberless arrivals.

 

Because of your former self,

oh, you infinite enchantment,

No more knowing yourself,

No more knowing your way about,

You are tempestuously confused.

 

Look here, I have stopped

Wheeling,

 

Here, where formerly

Human yearnings focused,

The pulse is still beating,

 

The stormy blood still coursing

 

While space is steering clear of it

Lest it run aground.

 

Oh, listen to me,

You, staring at your departed charms,

We have, perhaps too long already,

Been fluttering around your flesh,

 

And you no more remember

The sacred moment

When space harmony

Bore a new flower,

As you sprang up, new,

 

After having instantly burst,

Fallen to pieces.

 

Listen to the ripples,

Look at the pilgrims flying near,

Lured by the savouriness of your honeycomb,

 

Hesitant as how to treat you,

How to proceed,

 

Leaning towards you,

 

Waiting.

Should they consider you a saint

Or a strumpet?

 

It must be painless now,

You are my unfamiliar night.

I wonder into what special shape

 

You are going to unfurl.

 

Who could know

With which side to touch you,

How to make you an unfathomable essence,

 

To let harmonies float you,

That when you spy yourself, you turn a hip?

 

Horrified as you are by your strangeness,

Since movements

Cannot include you into their course yet,

To breeze their currents at you

 

And make you your own figure.

 

The pilgrims will wait for this,

Float around your shoulders,

Demand that you never cease to be,

You whose edge new streams are already ruffling.

 

The pilgrims will implore you

To stay for at least one night.

Look at the undulating row of the pilgrims

Eager to remember

 

The former hardness of their palms,

Ready to whirl,

Like spokes of whirring wheels,

Around you, the former flesh.

 

From the impetus, the overpowering

Desire for you,

The pilgrims, swirling around your one-time self,

Will incandesce.

 

Oh, you saint, you enchantress,

You will be first beside you.

 

But the pilgrims, in their fervent ardour,

Are already tilting towards you,

 

Swirling around you into a heavenly circle,

Pressing ever harder against your fullness,

 

Above the bottomless horror,

Their winging hardly still supporting them

As they are merging in the direction of infinity,

A portentous encounter behind their steps,

Their swings that the annihilates.

 

Where is God?

Where is He?

Where is what

 

In one direction

Fans out into infinity,

 

To what the pilgrims are fluttering,

Straining their ears,

Stretching, extending,

Arrived already, their voyage too lengthy,

Before arriving?

 

But there, it seems, nothing but emptiness

Has struck their ears.

The pilgrims have lost their breath.

 

Stuck beside you, they are resting

Sucking you in

With every breath.

 

Deafened by your closeness, their ears

No more discern prophetic annunciations.

Excited as I am,

I cannot wheel with them.

 

Flapping, I am only fanning them:

They assemble in swarms

And soar to her.

 

Look, here she has been.

And how, where, and why?

You, the excited one, are muttering.

Keep silence like the rest of the pilgrim brethren.

And listen, leaning as you are.

 

With giant steps

Prophets are descending,

 

Carrying trumpets

Suddenly to herald space,

 

Trilling trumpets,

Thundering trumpets,

Dull trumpets,

Hoarse trumpets,

 

Tortuous,

Aimed at the four

Cardinal points

 

To blast, to herald space,

Proclaim it

From tightened throats

And throbbing breasts.

 

Flying by, entranced,

They themselves will circle around her.

Oh, you prophets prophesied,

Prophesied instantly,

With your eyes staring,

Riveted on her!

 

Forget will they their prophecies,

Stick their Doomsday trumpets

In their belts.

 

Well, what would they toot?

What collapse of stars

Should they proclaim,

What havoc dust?

 

Blind, they still have seen her,

Places their trumpets,

With lightning and space rage

Tethered,

 

Humbly at her feet,

 

Bowing to her,

Touching her one by one,

Speechless,

 

Playing around her,

Forgetting what is coming,

Unwilling to announce dark omens,

 

Dismissing the last warning blast

Of the trumpet.

 

Prostrated in the pilgrim rush,

They are rather hurrying to the source centre of flesh.

 

Oh, the tongue-tied prophets,

By space overreached!

They cannot announce on time

The universal clash.

 

Oh, the benighted prophets,

Belated prophets!

Ready to burn space up

For a single lustful night.

 

Oh, the libertine prophets,

Prophets stiffened in front of themselves,

Silenced,

Lest they should prophesy themselves,

 

Blow themselves up in dust

Before they secretly foretell

The bawdy night,

Reach it

While deities are deaf.

 

Before they startle

Their pricked ears.

 

Oh, prophets traitors,

Mill among the deities

Before they, astray and lulled,

Turn towards abysses,

 

Without balance into abysses.

 

Then flourish your shattering trumpets,

Herald new flesh,

Thunder what was past

Is present.

 

In time announce

Beauty is approaching,

Swaying, flapping,

Stopping space

Until the novel flesh moves past.

 

Announce...

But your wheeling, your circling

Is tiring you more and more,

Ignorant as you are of where to get a foothold,

Where to swing

On edges round before,

 

Or run aground,

 

Inclining deferentially here,

You stuttering prophets,

Your prophecies long forgotten,

In fact, you have never foretold yourselves to yourselves,

Yourselves, the whirling flesh.

 

To yourselves, heavenly fleshly for the first time.

 

Not even the persistent angelic hymns

Can stir you up

To move on.

 

Stuttering, open-mouthed

In front of the nearby thundering nakedness,

You cannot declare

Your imminent destruction,

 

Into your own ears, you cannot din

Your own ruin.

 

And never will a single augury

Discover your future selves.

Space is going to eclipse

To prevent you from reading your coming identity.

 

Everywhere muteness will reign,

Total eclipse,

Pitch-darkness,

 

And you are going to petrify

At the first glimpse of nakedness,

With the dead glow of your eyes,

With the dumb gape of your mouth.

 

Stooping one by one,

Thinking that the others do not see,

They are crawling, stealing

To the womanhood left in space.

 

Already they are humming to her disintegration,

Muttering some belated hymn.

With a blinded, prophetless glance,

They are crawling into the fleshy ruins,

Round them, circling them,

Madly staring.

 

Roaming,

Tracking

The centre of flesh,

Alighting impetuously,

Powdered with the blue space dust,

They are rumbling ever more confusedly,

Ever more stormily.

 

The breathlessly stuttering pilgrims

Have arrived.

 

Is there flesh here?

Have we alighted on flesh,

Has any flesh remained?

 

You would have just about gone without it,

Well-nigh would you have come too late,

 

The question of a slightly slower pace,

Of another subtle turn of space.

 

In vain they are askingtha prophets

Where flesh is swaying,

Where a traveller

Will recline

Satisfied

 

That he has reached the stormy fleshliness,

Which space heat is incinerating

Increasingly, silently.

 

Approach, run up, while there is a moment left,

Pass by for the last time, tremble.

 

Through a misty swoon,

Both pilgrims and prophets,

Frenzied by lust,

Already see the fluttering womanhood

Formed into a wonder-working charm.

 

Rustling and flapping, arousing them from their

unconsciousness,

From their illusive hallucinations,

I am trying to make them fly into the hurricane of the last fleshliness.

 

The dismemberment of bodies is thundering frightfully,

Devastation rumbling, trumpets, never heard

before, blaring,

 

With the dusty disintegration space is darkening.

 

Just one moment is resisting

To the circling of space,

An instant pregnant with the tempestuous passion

Of prophets and pilgrims

Crumbled and incinerated by themselves.

 

Shortcutting recklessly

Into fleshliness,

They have burnt themselves up before

Evaporating into lust.

 

That was while I was revealing and discovering

Womanhood to the heavenly travellers,

Warning them

 

To watch out for the edge of the abyss,

To lean only cautiously over it; that was when they,

Fluttering tremblingly beside my resolute flapping,

 

Stopped too deeply and caught fire of flesh,

Although they, desperate, hardly reached he nkles.

 

Into their ears I somehow rustled about her feet

Whose work we only guess,

About the womanhood just passed.

 

I shut my mouth when they inquired

Why I quickened my circles

Around the sightless corporeity,

And did not discover the whole flesh,

 

Whole, instantly.

 

They have not seen it yet,

Known it yet.

Ah, the prophets well remember

As the all-absorbing empyreal flame

Encompassed, burnt up

Fleshly heat.

 

Their eyes bulging, the prophets know

That nothingness has covered all,

The supplicating pilgrims now assume

That everything is too late,

 

It is only they that have remained,

But even they for a moment.

 

Nothing more will reach

Their fainting ears.

 

No news of forms, illusive

Tidings of beauty

While instant by instant their fainting ears

Are falling off.

 

Withering helplessly,

With nothing to startle them,

One after another, their ears are falling off

Every moment more soundlessly.

 

And they themselves are falling off

more recurrently,

 

Falling off their selves,

Ignorant

In their fall what to do.

In the prolonged stillness

Their wilting perfumes,

Unfolding blooms,

 

The final hum,

When presence disappears,

The vacuum is sucking you irresistibly in.

Oh, prophetic pilgrims,

 

Outstretching your flapping,

Still to drop on flesh!

 

Pausing closely packed,

Belated prophets,

You are pricking your ears,

 

Catching the sound in front,

The final trumpets

Tooting the final act.

 

Tilting prophets,

Ignorant that your ears are resounding

with the future,

Unaware that your precipitateness

Is pouring into the pallid present,

 

You are standing no longer

In front of an oracle.

Your vigil is no longer

Prompting you to earliness.

 

Waiting for time

To let you know the news

About the tardiness that is beguiling you,

About your illusive arrival at the wished-for threshold

Never overstepped,

 

You are having the self-deceiving presentiment

Of finding, beneath soft cushions,

Under eiderdowns,

Lingering fleshliness,

And you are turning a deaf ear

To the thunder of archangelic trumpets,

To the peace that they are announcing,

 

That the heavenly Kyrie is breathing.

 

Oh prophets,

Time is racing,

Your eagerness to see the unseen,

Your lateness is appaling

 

As into voids

You are blaring your shattering trumpets

And staring at bubbles, blinded.

No more your giant backs possess the force

To take precedence of time,

To ward it off

Or check its course.

 

Oh, bawdy nights,

Oh, nights,

Last for them forever,

Turn an abysmally deaf ear to trumpets,

The rumblings of Doomsday,

 

As long as breath endures,

As long as hip subsists,

Drowning Dies Irae out with might and main.

In front of omnipotent life

The hoarse, blood-curdling sound

 

Of the prophets’ trumpets

Will subside.

 

The trumpets, heaving with the swamping onrush

Of fatal news,

Are not heralding divine advents,

But rather threatening the flesh of the earth overthrown.

 

Oh, sleepy prophets,

Will you bend your ears

To the newly come one,

 

The one, a twinkle,

Flash,

Divine call,

 

The one transfigured into

Holy satisfaction,

Angelic bread,

 

Or else incline to what is seen too late,

Swing on,

Deceive yourselves that

Heavenly bliss is rocking you?

 

Will you, sinners up to the present,

Vaguely, waywardly nurse the trust

 

That you are transparentizing,

Ignoring the fact

That you have turned an earthly

unappeasable passion,

Raging endlessly, crumbling to dust?

 

In vain you are burning to reach the waning beauty,

After the breakup of whatever

Has been blooming so fervently.

 

Ah, in vain your vigil,

Your expectation of the prophetic call

To fill your ears with never known charms,

 

You prick the one, and feel

The present;

The other, and sense new creatures,

Fascinating rustling forms.

 

Here you are staying,

Bending,

Wings drooping,

Trumpets of Jericho

Stuck in belts,

 

Here, with Doomsday prayers

Too hoarse for voices,

Here, more and more aghast,

Deaf to pardon,

 

Past hope or wish

That angels’ unattainable hymn of praise,

Evolved above you,

Would startle you from sleep,

 

As if you had already soared,

Had floated into sanctity.

 

The angels do not know it:

From you, bogged down in flesh,

Benumbing whiffs are wafting,

 

Impeding their flight

By burdening their wings,

 

Preventing them from floating to you

To hear your intended news

That only the wakeful will be saved.

 

This is the end: deafness.

No arrival matters,

No whispers of the mouths

That keep buzzing into your empty ears.

 

No, prophets, you do not exist.

Your wings are already enfolded,

Your Jericho trumpets

Stuck in belts.

 

But when you realise your waiting is futile,

Earthly flesh irreversible,

As well as knocking guests,

Welcome receptions,

With glittering, dazzling fragrancy in the middle of tables,

 

Oh, late-coming prophets,

When you understand

That neither the crust of feast

Nor the couch dream provoking

For you is ready,

 

Draw the hoarse trumpets from your belts,

And roar and blare

The universal collapse,

Thunder the tardiness

Of your comings,

And prostrating afresh

In front of the former body,

Crumble to dust.

 

And with what of your prophetic gift is left

Visualise flesh.

 

English translation by

B. S. Brusar and W. H. Auden

 

 

Honeymoon in Heaven

 

 I

Whither, into what orbit

Are the crushed and bent body-possessors

Heading? Because of them, the excited spirits

Can hardly hold out in their celestial surfeit.

The longer they wait for the approach

Of the fleshy ones, the greater the grief

That overtakes them for having so suddenly

Discarded their physiques and forever

Separated themselves from earthly contacts.

 

Ruffled, tense, alert,

They listen to the din from below,

To the thunderous entrance of two beings

Clad in the two last remaining

Bodies, which mold them within into

A flexible waist, making visible

Their presence and their gait.

 

Now they incline and touch quite gently,

Timelessly, afraid lest duration,

Even for a moment, should turn them into dust.

The body has to be comforted lest, swollen,

Stormy and turbulent, it transgress its boundaries

And drown in its own self.

 

The body has to be comforted so as to remain

Restrained until it sneak to its couch,

Till it whiz past the wakeful spirits,

Who strain their ears to hear and sense

The last woman concealed among them

Swish by with her monitor.

For him she keeps her flesh secret,

For her he poses like a disembodied spirit.

 

The unbounded, spiritual world senses her,

Grieving disconsolately

Of having suddenly become bodiless,

Absorbed into the heavenly vibration

Together with petals.

Oh, you sorrowful whiteness, never

Consumed with a longing that hidden nakedness

May come into sight if only through a hole!

There is nothing there, no shadow either.

Really nothing, not the void itself.

 

What is behind it, what is in it

When you take it off something

Or somebody, off some flutter,

Off some shoulders and whiteness,

The whiteness which exists and hides,

When it glides down the trembling side?

What does it reveal? Does a crimson,

Terrified shiver appear?

Does a woman show behind it?

 

In the cyclone does a substance

Appear? In the chaos does it take form and rise

Wonderful, graceful,

Slender and disturbing, until,

Stretching left and right, it throbs into shoulders,

Higher than anything or anybody can rise

Except for the neck, for the neck only,

And an agitated secret on it, in the ecstasy

Of curls, but all silent, all

Soft and supple lest the spirits hear them,

Discover them, feel them snug on their couch,

Their muffled breaths and their bodies

Stimulated to the utmost? Oh, let

Their flesh become calm, muffled,

Unfathomably dumb, let it startle

No spiritual sense.

 

While you’re on your bed, don’t deceive yourselves,

Don’t think you are hidden

For, listen, the spirits already are weeping

At having taken off their bodies,

But are passionate, nevertheless,

Deaf to hymns and vigils.

 

If only for their own sake, grow calmer, let

Your bed breathe chastely,

Lest they should weep, deplore

Their bodiless state and your deafness

To their painful laments,

Their longing to return to flesh for a moment,

For an instant to feel the missed lust. Hear them,

Listen to the spirits’ laments, hear their

Stealthy approach, look how they watch, they lean

Over your bed, prowling around it

To steal your bodies.

 

 II

Oh, a battle, a terrible, gloomy

Battle is drawing near, in which your bed will be

Shattered, cloudbursts, lightnings

Flickering through your bodies, making them

Shake passionately in your wedding-chamber,

Which, unlatched, is waiting for your first

Wedded night, for you, for you two only,

The last owners of bodies.

 

The spirits murmur, pray in unison,

Sullenly wishing that you may evaporate into each other.

What do they pray for, deplore so frantically

As they watch your incomprehensible motions?

Awesome and bodiless, they see, in a stealthy, sinful

Start, that they remember all,

But can imitate nothing, no sign,

No caress once offered

In nightly ecstasy.

 

“Oh, we can do nothing without

The body, we poor wretched,

Who so rashly, madly took ours off,

Deceived by the lightness of the heavenly flutter,

Grew wings and dived into azure abysses!

And now, what else

Should we take off? Oh, our barren

Flimsiness, squirmy evaporation!”

 

They flare up and dim in turns every moment,

Now an all-devouring flame, now burnt-out ashes.

Everything runs away from these blazing couples;

Nobody’s presence can survive near them.

They flare alone in their embrace;

Their only pacifier being lust,

They suddenly become dust.

In their mutual conflagration,

They flare up, but in the self-same momentum,

While they breathe into one another, they die down,

But the darkness does not last,

All flares again, and thus the burning

Of their bed on the woodpile of their virgin passion

In its own vortex,

Renews unsatiably –

 

In greedy flights

And stormy stridences, the spirits

Rush on them like lightning

And swarm to one goal. Without hymns,

Without the divine hearing, they fall headlong

Into the deep, and pause for a moment;

Then someone from among them will say rocking upon

The whirl: “Listen, the lingering trace

Of a body is breathing somewhere, here

The previous flier-by has lost something.”

 

 III

Headlong the spirits plunge,

Tripping over the tardy body-owners,

Whose spirits, so long embodied, even now

Smell of the system. Those two fleshly

Enthusiasts do not know it,

Unaware that with their scent they disturb

All the spirits. The spirits wail and fall

And swarm from all sides, from endlessness

To endlessness, and in the chaos

Of their former, unatamable desires,

Whirl faster and faster, grow into hurricanes.

 

The virgin couple can hardly

Push their way through the roar of the spirits.

In the opposite direction, they travel into infinity,

Trembling, fearing the voyage will not be long enough

For their virgin union. Who can bear

Their approaches,

Their glory, their power which attracts all endlessness

Towards their purity by making it resound

With more dazzling, ore thunderous

Crashes every moment?

 

Sometimes, tired out by the sudden moment,

They melt into one another,

One brilliant flame into another.

Embracing the two luminous arcs, that once were her Shoulders,

He melts in bliss before he reaches

Her flaming waist, bending by itself;

The more stormily he reaches for her,

The more resplendent she makes him,

A powerful reflection in which, all burnt, his flame

Is hiding, and so hugging, they whirl

In one puff, but their splendour dims into an ashen hue

When they notice that here and there

They have still remained a shadow.

 

They want to explain the moment,

The awe-inspiring moment,

 

Why this, to what purpose,

Their flash goes out, and from whose,

What screen their luster dims,

What has leant so fatefully

To blacken them.

They come together, and dazzle simultaneously,

Doubly bright. They come together,

Bend and sparkle to burn

The black blot up, but in their own fire

In vain they try to burst with purity,

To soar with flames and stormily flash

With white virginity. –

 

Hidden behind their splendour,

Who is waiting secretly, unceasingly

Silhouetting his presence by his dark, swinging shadow,

Emerging mor eand more clearly

From the obscurity?

In vain they glow ever more;

Because of the presence nearby, they do not seem

To be able to agree;

While questioning and answering, they become darker,

But why, this remains a sullen secret,

Completely hidden; in their prowling, their sneaking,

Their glorious momentum slows down;

Awe-stricken, they sometimes think somebody is ticking

In their ear, ticking and trying to pry it open,

But listen; for a moment the ear seems to be shut,

But the first flattering whisper slinks into it,

The first bait luring the pure ear of the spirit;

And while one of their ears is being seduced, the lovers

Do not even feel when the other one is broken into,

And now through both ears, wide open, the alluring

Whisper drizzles ever deeper into the glory

Of the spirit, extinguishing it.

 

IV

And the spirit begins to tremble,

Panicked by its remembrance of the wonderful warmth

That used once to clothe it,

 

Of the glory up there that once was its head;

Then something happened:

The blaze of the spirit split into

Two flames, each began to take

Its form, its edge.

Still burning, they yearn

For heavenly consciousness, they still

Prick up their ears, ever more,

But only shiver and silence reach them from up there

– The dateless voice from the abyss announces:

Warning them strangely that they are separated,

Surreptitiously whispering to her not to trust him,

Insiduously whispering to him

Not to believe her, and the very word betrays

What they were before, and each

Sets off to find the other on the bed,

 

Each one hurries to put a body on,

To draw it hastily

Onto the spirit and cease being

A gruesome chimera, and each flies

To the front of the wedding-chamber, which they temporarily

Left to celebrate their delight without bodies

On their virginal wedding journey,

To feel it flutter once again like a butterfly,

As if the body, still unreached,

Oscillated towards them.

 

 V

Once again, one more

Ascent in bodiless transparent flight,

Once again to incline their pristine

Ear towards the divine,

Omniscient breath, once again

To soar over themselves. Let this be

The summit. From it one jerks

Towards the body: the lower one swoops

The more one remembers it. But look around,

She is not with him; he turns

 

More energetically, tumbles

And in a moment alights on the ready bed

Where she, all stiff, is waiting for the spirits

To abandon her body, that she may return to it,

Furtively to settle into it,

Restore it again

To its seductive softness.

He too is waiting to enter

His body again and make it move;

His spirit is preparing

To flow back into it, as soon as the he – and she – spirits

Leave their bodies

For a moment, to catch a breath,

In the course of their eager wedding celebration.

 

They are waiting in front of their bodies

Looking helplessly at the numberless spirits

Flying out and in,

Avidly, milling and murmuring

In their intense wedding;

Intoxicated, they dive into the unfamiliar

Realm of the flesh, each would spend there

As long a night as possible, and resists

Being pushed out of

The realm of the body by the onrush

Of new wedding spirits.

 

The newlyweds are waiting

And muttering inaudibly, appalled

By the long wait, by the frightening moments

Hissing by, and still the line

Of gluttonous spirits never ends

On the bed of the fleshless newlyweds,

Who lost it during

Their bodiless wedding flight;

An ever greater number of spirits

Are alighting upon their bodies, to use

Their charms, to kindle

Their flesh – a famished lust flaring up,

A spirit assuming a body, now his, now hers,

Does not know what to do, with whom

And where, in which direction.

 

But only for a moment;

After sinning their full, the spirits

Repent, fly up, raising an anxious song –

Fly in last circles around the bodies,

Asking forgiveness

And moaning long, long, in a grief which never again

Will let them fall into this wretchedness,

This violated wedding bed –

They fly away but return once more

To behold and to remember the realm of the flesh.

Then finally they soar, already shaken

By an angelic shiver, insubstantial like gossamer,

Their celestial natures

Already transparent. –

 

 VI

And the young couple,

Lost on their wedding trip, long

Sad, long bodiless, sneak back now

To their flesh abandoned

By all the spirits and happily

Reoccupy their fleshy forms,

Their lengths and breadths, feeling happy

That all has remained whole.

 

She smiles content,

Sensing that everything fashioned for her

Suits her well, all the parts

Soaring daringly towards the shoulders –

 

Incorporated at last,

Now they lie down,

Stretched out on the longed-for bed,

Hiding behind each other

And holding their breath lest from the too sudden

Heat they should turn into

Dust.

 

English translation by

B. S. Brusar and W. H. Auden

 

 

Conquering the Cube  (1987)

 

 

My Gratitude to Things

 

My

and foremost theme

is in this title now:

 

Things are always

in first lines.

 

It always seems to us

that they are small,

insignificant.

We tumble them,

throw them away,

they always decide

although we neglect them

and we do not know

what is the most important

 

they are first fighters

against

emptiness

and

boredom.

 

In connection with that

it is well known to us

that out of them

they always want to make something

most beautiful

and

most wonderful,

 

that by means of them

they would as soon as possible break

the emptiness

and even

space.

 

When they did not exist

we first used to make up

formulas

and calculations

out of which

their new forms

and contents would come out.

 

So it used to be.

 

And I underline that

in my diary.

 

Then I

fourthly,

superficially

leafed through this

accidentally

found diary.

 

And so, leafing through,

on almost every page

I usesd to run into

that heading:

 

My gratitude to things.

 

It surprised me most

that this nameless guy

does not mention people

the builders

of those things

whose skillfulness

he had to admire

observing

so many beautiful objects.

 

But he did nog

speak,

that is,

write about them.

 

But leafing

further

and further I ran more and more

into a condensed reading

which

in the first moment

resembled some

completely illegible

unbalanced

handwriting.

 

And when I had a better look

I noticed

that those were

formulas

or

descriptions

of those things

which have,

as he stated over there,

always

existed,

before the very things,

before the realizations,

no matter what they were like.

 

This nameless keeper of the minutes

made me,

in a way,

reading those formulas

and descriptions,

always see those things

before their existence.

 

Oh, yes,

I have only just remembered

and it surprised me –

indeed:

 

There are two

countless groups

of these forms,

of these formulas.

 

First forms

are those

which used to describe

former things,

former realizations

and now,

by the precise description,

we can clearly see them.

 

So

I have no troubles here

to decipher those formulas

where they are,

as we said,

already realized

as

countless

and various

objects.

 

 

On the Top of the Ball

 

Here rules the terrible perfectivity

of all your ways

 

here reaching and overtaking

wander in the wasteland

 

but you have arrived free,

your spirit is light and buoyant,

 

here you can rest,

because you are above all the views

 

from here, you, the buoyant spirit

can extend and reach

 

the pulse of every space

and lay your hearing on it,

 

before your fading, from here

you can feel all the things while they last

 

because there is no form here,

nor any kind of earthly shadows

 

hold to the top of the sphere

and be another by yourself

 

feel as reality

what seems an illusion now

 

because your look is terrible

from this peak with no peak

 

Night has fallen on the top of the sphere,

terrible and abysmally deep night,

 

here, on this ball, you can not sleep the night,

but a fly can

 

the fly that wakes you every morning

hungry, with its feeler sharp and hungry

 

so you get up and see what things and people are doing,

what this poor earth has in store for us

 

 

A Moment

 

When the inside of things suddenly boils,

their surface starts to swerve,

 

it becomes a more and more disquieting curve,

and before it boils, before it boils over

 

spheres come into being –

their utmost achievement,

 

oh man,

each from your quiet house,

may your days gently pass next to the ball,

play, play without worries

in your bowling-hall,

in your game, let the balls roll,

roll away, roll back

not even knowing that spheres are

the end of all things.

 

 

At the Bottom

 

Astonished at once, you will hear inside the ball

an incomprehensible happening, unknown organization,

 

of which a new shape appears to form,

you will hear various touches,

 

now bluntness, then sharpness

you will feel a strange straightening

 

of all the spikes and a descent into a plane

of sharp edges

 

you will suddenly hear the disappearance of angles

and shapes of all the objects,

 

silencing of the cubes into some other form

and you will hear how from all sides

 

it walks with a different pace and everything you sense is

that there are prisms which had melted and flown

 

into some other straightening and you will hear

how the pulse of pyramids disappears and how

 

everybody turns into other premonitions and in

that moment that is seems to you

 

that everything disappears in the sudden plane

after that in the unattainable and finally

 

in icy roundedness, in a sphere.

 

English translation by

Miljenko Kovačićek

 

 

 

Veronica of My Homeland

 

 

A shining presence

 

I sense you always when it is late, when the light has been extinguished from my mirror. When all the shadows flee in fright, and only the glow remains.

 

Here you are, maiden of mystery, inaccessible. Here you are, the ash of my dark shadow falls from me, burned up in your bright closeness.

 

Where are you? Show yourself. Be dark, so I can see you.

 

 

A dream of an encounter

 

Will I ever meet you as I walk alone, dewy, fresh, wandering down from the peaks far away?

O, wonderful, mysterious Veronica of my homeland.

 

Or are you perhaps that young girl for whom my lonely steps grow still in the twilight with the quiet of wool. Are you that humble girl, eyes hidden under those dazzling glasses, which lead you through the clamour of this world? Silently you overshadow passers-by and drift off unknown.

 

Where are you hurrying to? To what secret meeting in the heights? Will you in the end leave your glasses at the end of the town, in which the murky reflections of this world are extinguished?

 

And there, on the peak of all peaks, you uncover your eyes to the clarity of heaven.

 

 

The Cottage

 

When do you arrive at your sacred cottage, rocking in the blueness? Inside things are not betrayed by their sound. The shadows of twilight do not creep out from under them. All is transparent.

 

Why do the quiet doorways tell of your return so late? With the last gleam of moonlight you come like a wave to your gentle threshold, all fresh and wet from the stars. And then your bright vigil shines out from behind the peepholes.

 

What is the secret you bend over through the night, O Veronica?

 

 

The Box

 

Here is a mystery. You open it and sheaves of light burst out. All trembling and flooded with light you look with wonder into the box. Your little house in the blue burns with the radiance. And the melted peephole drips down the night.

 

What is in the box? What kind of treasure?

What heavenly vision?

Whisper to me, tell me, O young Veronica of my homeland.

 

 

The Groom

 

Is your maiden’s gown perhaps at the bottom of the box? O modest Veronica, o maiden, walking sublime.

 

What are these secrets, what magic threads woven into that white, so fresh, flaxen, billowing.

And drunk with the scent of sleep your unknown groom awakes.

 

What is this vigil, how many nights have you spent bent over your box? Motionless, in awe, you still gaze inside from where the brightness blazes. Is the beauty in it not sufficient to roll down your body, O Veronica?

 

Be still, hush, at last. And sleep, for from all this sleeplessness the lock of grey hair gleams silver.

 

What is this? You’re weeping, what picture, what vision has touched you from the bottom of the box, o mysterious watcher? From your tears flashes brightness.

 

Listen! Someone is knocking on your door.

 

 

The Needlewomen

 

You open the door to them. Only to them. You know the night visitors by the tiny, grassy touch of the needles which invisible, needle sharp, crackle between their quivering fingers.

 

The ruddy mountain needlewomen. For them the stars burn, until they burn out. And the Moon gives them his last drop.

 

You allow only them to come close to the secret. To come with eyes closed, or they would be blinded.

 

 

Gifts

 

Already blanched and transparent from the glowing closeness of your holy box, they place before you their magical gifts. Just rich cloth. All snow white, woven with the thread of dreams. With the dream of rainbows. The dream of the charm of colour seen only by the blind old women.

 

When you are left trembling and alone, what do you do, Veronica? Do you then put down these unseen gifts into the depths of your box, into the brightness? Still in your hand they evaporate into golden dust.

 

And you will be burned. Come to the threshold and be refreshed in the cold North Star in the blueness.

 

 

Veronica and the poet

 

Above all abysses, above all peaks, all the threads are broken. How did you come to fall on my doorstep?

I slid along the late moonlight flowing into your window, Veronica.

What do you want here, you stranger?

Reveal to me the secret of your box.

Come back! Wait for sleep!

 

 

The spindle’s hum

 

Tired from the peaks I came down to the lowland, down the hum of the spindle. The door was locked. I waited long and finally fell asleep on the doorstep.

Someone was there in my hearing all night long. Someone was coming and going, muffling in their hand the spindle’s hum.

Was it those young needlewomen, coming down from the source of new cloth?

Or was it Veronica’s whisper?

 

 

The box opened

 

Sleep revealed the mystery. A miracle beyond all dreams. At the bottom of the box a veil shines and on it printed a sacred and wonderful face.

Veronica’s veil, which she young and fresh brought down on the martyr’s face of my homeland.

We draw near to it. We stoop down towards its beauty. And we are blinded.

O Veronica, mysterious watcher, shed light on our path!

 

English translation by

Janet Tuškan

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