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World Poetry Portfolio #44: Itztok Osojnik

Photo by Will Root

IZTOK OSOJNIK was born 1951 in Ljubljana, Slovenia. He is poet, fiction writer, literary scientist, essayist, editor, translator, artist, tour director, mountain climber. He graduated in Comparative Literature from the University of Ljubljana (1977). Postgraduate studies at Osaka Gaidai University (1980-82). Currently he is completing his PhD at the University of Primorska in Koper. He is the former director of the International Literary Festival Vilenica and currently runs the annual Golden Boat International Poetry Translation Workshop in Slovenia. He has published 27 collections of poetry, 4 novels and 3 volumes of essays on literature, anthropology, and philosophy. He published four books of poetry in English translations: Alluminations (City Gallery of Arts of Ljubljana), a collection of poetry And Some Things Happen for the First Time (Modry Peter, Canada 2001), Mister Today (Jacaranda Press, California 2004) and New and Selected Poems (Sampark, New Delhi 2010). His poems and essays were translated and published in 25 languages. He was awarded with several national and international literary awards, just recently with the prestigious international prize KONS 2011.

[English translations of the original Slovenian poems reprinted from New and Selected Poems, 2010 with the permission of the poet]

“Earth Blue As An Orange”

1. 

“Earth, blue as an orange.” 
(Well you have to start somewhere). 
A shattered man of 
irrelevant years, I am still one of those immortals 
trapped in a worm’s body, trapped in this earthly 
orange until he pays his dues. He totters along with 
Orion’s spear in his stomach, laughs in his heart like a 
clown, not the happiest laugh but the most sincere, 
kick-starts a moped, coughs into the autumn morning. 
Something blue nevertheless — we ought not get too tangled 
in brambles of sentences, and anyway I don’t 
give a toss. My heart is a bleeding lump of meat 
On a butcher’s or anatomist’s table. And also, 
if you wish – I mean you who have the privilege of 
sunning yourself in the shadow of this worm — 
it’s also an umbrella for tears 
and a sewing machine of tied hands. This should be 
read as the fate of Christ, a man with the sky in his 
heart and the body of a little cripple — 
and in fact it was here I really wanted to start 
with the crippled little man who is laughing 
a bitter green laugh, 
a metallic green guffaw the likes of a stinging nettle; 
the little man looks into himself as into a mirror. 
Licked by a gust of silence. 
We will now listen to a radio show, 
set the dial to the station of olive trees and lavender 
and wait for the broadcast to begin… But what will begin 
that I don’t know inside out already, you infernal worm? 
A duck flies past the window and there’s the question of 
a galleon which I capsized on a beach, 
a wreckage under my bum 
and I think nothing will explode in this 
mouth-organ music 
of purple cacophony. Waiting for my clown-like gust 
my heart is watching me as if I’m a criminal. 
What kind of light is this, to weave all this into a coat 
For a funny little man? But at least I’ve bitten the bullet 
True, I don’t know what I’ll eat but October is grey 
and we know 
November is the cruelest of the twelve angels. 
The wind is gnawing at my island: one must stand firm! 
I watch this place-in-a-bottle of green glass 
catching light here and there 
not all of us are made for happiness, 
what a stubborn turtle 
plodding away but not content to play with pain 
So the bottle being must be made to face facts for a start 
Autumn fog is an invigorating draught, I stick my finger 
into a star and bleed as it becomes a grown man. 

2. 

This is meant to be a letter. But where’s the typewriter? 
How can a man wipe his wounds if he has no cloth? 
I am trying to recall the buffeting of the wind 
in the labyrinth of narrow streets 
in Starigrad on the Isle of Hvar. I am losing my mind 
thinking about that Italian café 
from the novel whose title I forget. 
Something the Mediterranean shares with my heart. 
Of course it is not the only thing my heart is after 
in its battle with the world. But where is my boat? 
I don’t have a boat, and here in this place 
that makes me by definition a sailor without a boat. Therefore 
let us consider this febrid insect in my limbs. It must be some 
digestion hormone, turning me live into 
cloud-fodder. This side of the universe 
is a leap from the frying pan into the fire. 
Freedom is something green. 
A man is walking along the street in prisoner’s clogs. 
His chains rattle and the man is smiling. 
This Martini is bloody strong. The man is 
of course myself. 
A traveling shop, on its shelves the happy nattering 
of exotic spices, a truck 
rumbling along the potholed road 
through the Starigrad green. 
What are those pitted fruits called? Zizula? 
Forever they will mean my happiness. 
Only let me dig it up out of the earth, 
blister my hands. Love is always linked with a man 
who is bleeding, but this one is rather more stocky. 
And if anybody here thinks he is about to crawl, 
they are mistaken. Of course he will. 
I am speaking of that Italian café from the time 
between the wars, a café in winter with its lights 
already on in the morning and almost empty. 
I wish I could sit by the window 
with an unread newspaper spread across my knees, 
a refugee from the Bora wind and the whistling 
that dances through the streets, 
but there is a lot to be said for pulling up your collar, 
pushing your hands into your pockets 
and strolling around with an unwritten book, 
freeing the most intimate of your dreams, 
speaking what I know full well 
cannot be silenced with any silence. 
Milk is white. 

3. 

To speak from a place where silence speaks. 
Seven hearts of mine have put on Greek armor, 
they are running across the plain of Kopais 
below the Chitheronia of my imagination. How 
to catch dreams that have untied the hands? 
From letter to letter I open out the shutters 
on a little house like a children’s toy, on a little house 
in a little house, in which there is another little house 
and one more and it sings like the songs of Strniša. 
To see and feel something for the first time as a man 
counting little stones. 
The shadows had frightened me off, I shut down the 
computer and went to the shopping mall. I drove around 
town, in my left pocket a folded piece of paper, 
a piece of iron a man carries in his heart. 
And drinks from. And eats from. 
Fog is a beautiful thing to a man who cannot sleep. 
It washes his eyes, kisses his soul. 
The land inside is green. The sky green. 
Green sea. Green city. Green moonlight. 
Everything green up to the zenith. 
Green centipede. 
Sea undulates against the morning, 
sadness shimmers in glasslike depths. 
Green boots on my feet ran down there 
among the olive trees and cicadas. 
At night I dived into a fountain, 
came out with some little stones that warm my heart. 
Morning light feels a face and shapes it into a delicate 
blossom. I walk. The sky touches the rooftops gently. 
A green hippopotamus is swimming, 
seagulls screech. If you touch me your knees become 
tendrils springing flowers. Water is clean as honey. 
Lavender bushes nestle on my life’s crossroads. 
Light is thinner than a rosemary stem. 
A hazy field of lavender. 
Aroma of coffee.

Translated by Ana Jelnikar and Ciaran O’Driscoll

The Sky Over Berlin

(a German poem)

A modern-day poet talking into a mobile phone about 
life in a big city. Very interesting, he says, to lose 
a thousand Deutschmarks. You sit in a bistro, 
guzzling dark wheat beer, it is a late in the evening. 
Lively conversation. You bend, and the vinyl cards fall 
out of your pocket. This story about globalization is a load 
of crap, says Jun, telling us instead 
about the civilization, which is based on 
a thirty-six-hour-and-twenty-minute long day. 
The world can be understood through 
a different concept of time. Alexandra runs off. 
Irina is all in a flurry about the football match 
Ukraine vs. Germany. The equalizer 
got her interested. 
She has no idea what this means for Ukraine. 
Football’s been introduced as a compulsory subject in 
schools all over the country, she tells us. 
One must go with the times. Join the consumers, cheer 
on stadiums and turn it all into poetry. 
And why not? I will throw Versace vests into the bin. 
On Friday night we’re going for sushi. 
Jun carries on talking, explaining about the upside-down 
pyramid. 
Just think, he says, how these things were worked out 
when there were no Crays, PCs, Macintoshes, lap tops, 
notebooks, working stations. Imax, Cinemascope, 
grand pianos, digital sound systems, 
creditcards, phonecards, plastic hotel keys, health 
insurance and ID cards, holograms and chips that give 
the exact bearings of their owner. But who to? 
Cameras in front of banks, traffic lights, on borders, 
road signs, in corridors, foyers, entrances, bathrooms, 
kindergartens, lifts, cars, boats, trains, buses, computer 
screens, airports, airplanes. 
Long live democracy. 
Long live control, censorship. 
The poet feverishly whispers into Nokia, Motorola, 
Erickson, Siemens, throwing suspicious glances, 
but secret agents are invisible, made of chips and 
processors, like a spider, they are one with the web, 
everywhere present, in all the phones, hidden in 
invisible electromagnetic waves. 
Listening out for the buzz words. 
The poet records them on 
the hard disc of his poetry collections. 
He won’t let himself be distracted, he goes on talking, 
credit cards, yes, live today, pay tomorrow, 
it’s all in your head really, in your guts if you go for it; 
who loses, disappears, a poet leans over the sink and 
spits out blood, yesterday he got rid of his old computer 
and got a new one, none of his old discs worked in the 
new program environment, no worries, connect to the 
internet, one hour and thirty minutes for two Deutschmarks in 
Easy Everything, the internet cafe 
reminds you of a Las Vegas gambling mansions 
with one-armed bandits or of Pachinko Halls in Japan, 
its only limitation is your head, your ideas and 
your understanding of things, though even these are no 
longer yours; their copyrights are in the hands of Bill 
Gates, Warner Brother and Sony, America on Line and 
New York Times, Church, Compaq and CNN, which – at 
bottom – are one and the same opinion machines 
gigantic network, so, why bother going against the flow 
and trying to create something truly yours, 
much easier is just to sink in the glorious images, 
to throw yourself into the wave of ever-new gadgets, 
lovers, marriages, children, cafés, clothes, jargons, 
trends – yes, it all seems to depend on your 
interpretation of things, your consumption’s ability 
on your status; though occasionally, from somewhere, 
from the deep-end of your soul, 
a wee panic bug shoots up, and you sit on the subway 
thinking, yes, it’s true, a man it means a body, 
a social status, a bank account, all the tongues he 
speaks, and so on. 
You put down your paper, look up, stop staring at the 
woman opposite you, you are trying to guess how 
she lives, what sort of a life she’s got, 
if there’s something you don’t like about her, no worries, 
there’s another one sitting right next to her, 
there are plenty in a city like this, but neither does she 
quite satisfy your expectations, and besides, 
why do they have to be wearing trousers, true, they feel 
more comfortable in them, trousers are practical, 
leather trousers stick to your thighs, 
constant irritant to the shaved skin, 
but men want to see legs, skirts sliding up the thighs, 
men need a visual aphrodisiac to excite their 
imagination, 
but the woman stares ahead like a wax doll, 
doesn’t bat an eyelid, who can tell 
what legs she’s hiding in those trousers under the coat, 
but why the strange feeling that she wants to get up 
and scream 
yes, that’s what I’d want, I’d want to strip naked 
and throw myself onto the bike of life, 
I’ve had enough of this shit, shopping, preparing 
organic food, have your soy burgers 
and yoghurtless yoghurts, I’ve had it, enough 
of decaf coffee and nicotine-free cigarettes, of fitness, 
hair-dressers, fat-free cholesterol, 
of a man who’s never at home, 
yes, much like the one next to her, an almost exact copy, 
flicking scattily through the newspaper, glaring headlines, 
almost no text, color photographs of 
football players, impossibly expensive cars 
you can buy on credit or by installments, 
advertisements, notices, offers, promises of happiness 
and once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, 
who for years hasn’t had the courage to look a woman 
in the eyes, 
and who, between phone calls at work, 
secretly leaps to the erotic internet pages 
to look between the legs of the digital Natasha; 
and even before he gets to the end of the paper, 
his phone rings, 
war is a serious matter, shares have tumbled by 
sixty percent, disaster, 
why didn’t he sell them a week ago, they were rising 
rapidly then, give it another day or two, he thought, 
then I’ll sell them, 
and now this. Of course, his wife hasn’t a clue about 
his problems, she’s commissioned a new bedroom, 
bathroom, living room, balcony, kitchen, a dining set 
out of the finest porcelain for the very good price 
of ten thousand Deutschmarks, apparently Lady Di 
ate from it before she was pushed off the road 
and her car crashed into the tunnel, 
it was awful, Prince Charles mourned her death terribly, 
and possibly for the last time had sex with that cross 
between a horse and Fernandel, with 
that chamomile freak, but then had to rush off to 
Scotland for the highest-ranking golf tournament, 
Jun called it the club of the three hundred, 
but the biggest hypocrite among the Slovenian 
poets shook his forefinger, saying: Iztok, watch what 
you read, it’s all lies, Rosthchilds are good boys, 
have you tried their wine, but he couldn’t finish 
the sentence, having sped off to greet 
an eminent new Nobel Prize committee member, 
a shit on two legs, as one would say, 
but he’d never let himself use such 
language, or if he did say shit, it would sound 
extravagant, almost witty, 
but the guy whose phone prevented him from getting 
through to the end of the newspaper to find out 
the latest on how to obtain an hour-long hard on, 
a seven-minute ejaculation and perfect bliss 
with some Polish woman 
in the latest BMW roadster, stared ahead 
into the virtual landscape of uttered words 
and his super-sly thoughts, not to mention 
his major interest 
to wheedle his partner out of his share and make up 
for the difference he had lost at the stock exchange. 
Suddenly his face contorted, 
the voice on the other side had just informed him, 
very sorry, they did not opt for his company, but 
do recommend themselves for the future. 
He who had been watching the woman opposite him, 
trying to turn her into the object of his erotic 
screenplays, had some thinking to do. 
He looked out the window, the train was speeding 
across a huge building site, 
whining amid heaps of concrete towers, half-built 
overpasses, bridges, 
through a tunnel, past office blocks, the sky 
crisscrossed with yellow and orange cranes, 
a watch tower standing solitary by the side of 
the tracks from the time 
the wall was still dividing the town into the section of the 
living and the quarter of the dead, 
somewhere at the end of the compartment the digitalized 
opening refrain of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony sang out, 
he jerked, the train shook as it went over the switchpoint 
and disappeared underground. 

There’s the inner world too. You have immersed deep 
within yourself, which is not saying much. 
Being within yourself means having at least three, 
if not more, of you gathered 
around the campfire of your empty self. 
The one who is keeping a fatherly watch over everything, 
directing the traffic, and whose caring hand is ever in 
command of the situation, not always rosy. 
Deep down, below, wedged into a slit, a lava of sorts is 
glowing white-hot wanting out, to spout all over, 
a surge of panic, bordering on insanity. 
Things are unraveling double quick, 
you’ve lost your head or let dissatisfaction go rampant, 
and the calming father has a difficult time of 
keeping it all in check. Some third party 
formulates explanations, not necessarily 
false, on the contrary, they can clarify very precisely 
what is going on, but they lack the power 
to influence, let alone change anything. 
Man, looking into himself as though he were a well, 
knows that beneath the narrow slit, dangerous stress has been 
accumulating for years, 
made up of small sacrifices and suppressions, but the 
separate elements have long ago melted into 
a red-hot broth, into a sizzling little fiend with 
only one thing on its mind: 
to break the armor and disgorge. 
The pressure he is creating is not wholly destructive, 
destruction as such does not interest him, 
all he cares about is breaking out. 
The sight of the flaring slit of panic unfolds like a movie. 
In a flash all the scenes reel off one after the other, 
everything that has been pushed under, into the dark. 
Too much has amassed, it lights up, now threatening 
to blow the telephone man to smithereens, 
so no one will piece him together again. 
But there are pills of all kinds and variety, sedatives, 
stimulators, stoppers, accelerators, for sleeping, 
for staying awake, against depression, headaches, 
steroids for muscles, viagra for a continual erection, 
he could stuff himself with these, 
and the slit would fill up for as long as 
it took him to finish this or that business, 
get through this or that book, 
pay this or that bill, jump this or that secretary, 
co-worker, 
might as well jump them all, 
and one way or another await the New Year’s Day, 
only to collapse into bed, never to wake up again. 
But no, man observes that point which seethes with 
the sense of utter panic, he watches his quickened, 
angry and headless rushing here and there, 
he listens to the furious hissing and cussing, 
and ponders the odd fact that even though he 
understands perfectly well 
what has happened and why it is all happening, 
there’s nothing he can do to free himself of 
the mounting pressure and untie the inner knot 
strange that in spite of his honest coming to terms 
with what has so disagreeably brought on 
his fits of panic, 
the pressure won’t ease, no, it remains a vicious threat. 
The devil’s lava has no intention at all to spout, 
keeping the pressure, stirring panic, 
just that. The anger you felt can hardly 
be put down to any more serious form of madness. 
But he saw more, he saw what 
withdrew into itself and was silent. 
And ate up the words and thoughts and simply was. 
The dark sky over Berlin, 
which didn’t just hang over the city, 
but engrossed everything 
and drew all of man into a form of deafness, 
into something that did not answer back. 
And a little bewildered, man shrugged his shoulders, 
coming to terms with what was more powerful than him, 
no pressure, no consequence. 
And man was looking into himself, sensing the dark, 
deaf sky staring at him 
with all the faces of his own skin: his absent other, 
five times his size, staring, as it were, 
with all the pores of his being. 
Man watched aghast: the fiendish slit 
that had been disgorging anger and panic, 
suddenly seemed a puny yelping dog, 
but the pressure refused to give way. 
And man stopped looking into himself and 
looked outside, at the world 
rushing past the train windows, and thought 
how the world incorporated the speeding train, 
which, like his inner world, was 
immovable on the inside, 
at which point 
his cheap mobile phone whistled twice in his hand 
and then died in his palm, its battery flat 
a useless, redundant object. 
An end of transmission. 

Berlin, November 2001 

Translated by Ana Jelnikar

Salisbury Hotel

There’s a hotel that they shut down. 
It stands on the corner of 
St. Ann’s Street and Green Lanes. 
The poem entitled Salisbury Hotel 
I wrote once before. But – this awful, this always 
present ‘but’ – the poem didn’t survive the snow 
that that night covered the Welsh town of Swansea. 
I feel like I’ve had a spontaneous miscarriage. 
The poem had been written – I remember the evening, 
Peter and Ana were waiting in the lounge for me in vain, 
the poem was stronger 
and all that I won’t be able to write again 
was staring at me from the computer screen, 
waiting to see what I’d do. 
It happened because of programs 
that had downloaded themselves 
from the net, waiting in ambush for me 
to fly off to England, far 
from access to the server, to upload themselves. 
When I turned on the computer, they demanded 
I activate them through the net. 
Unless they were activated, 
it was impossible to save the text. And there it was, 
superb, sharp, full of energy, and, 
as is the case with all of them lately, 
long, encompassing everything I wanted or did not want 
to write. Over a thousand kilometers of driving on the 
left side of the motorway, the snow, a night cut across, 
like the English flag, with strips of paranoia. 
The creaking of doors, comments on 
our reading tour of England, 
the blackness of the open ocean in 
the Brighton midnight. America on the other side. 
Hotel corridors in London like a ship’s interior. 
A special freshness in the air. I tried finding a way 
of saving the poem in whatever form I could. 
It wasn’t possible. 
I left the computer on and rushed for the reading in 
the Dylan Thomas Literary Centre, amid the seamen, 
amateur poets, drunken enthusiasts 
in the snowy evening, as the sharp wind swept 
the smell of the port off the streets. 
The town turned into a milky wood, 
through which our taxi drove recklessly, a tiny bus 
winding through the narrow streets with a double mix 
of accelerated heartbeat and 
contentment at being human. 
A memory of the morning when I stood in a cold, 
wet wind in front of the Salisbury Hotel, 
wondering what I could turn it into. 
First, I thought, I would move it to Rozna dolina, 
put it in a park closed in by a tall 
black fence. I would invite the gang and maybe others 
to join me, take up their roles, inject it with life, 
open a youth hostel, a hotel, a cultural centre, 
in which I would host international gatherings, 
tie it all in with publishing, music, blue skies 
over Kilimanjaro and bread dumplings, 
from the streets of Prague, but rather than with ham, 
which is actually not bad, 
with sauerkraut and the music of my hunger, 
my plaintive lament because of which I am not worthy 
to consider myself a grown man. 
But now I know I would leave it where it is. 
The Salisbury Hotel means life, it means cinema, 
it means love, it means anonymity in a six-room 
flat with a giant glass wall, 
which blossoms in the middle into 
a Secession style stained-glass window and 
turns the flat into a studio, a workshop and library. 
A private entrance, inaudible circling around the city 
at night, a growing feeling of homelessness 
in the face of pain, the broken language of an immigrant 
from the Third World. To whom no one pays any 
attention, regardless of the color of the lines on his face 
or wrinkles created by lamentation. I felt the smell 
of a moldy office and the creaking of the bed 
in a small hotel with two faces, 
where Allen Ginsberg, president Carter and I stayed over, 
as we were told that night in a taxi by David Woolly. 
The Salisbury Hotel therefore means 
a kind of pain or the nostalgic openness of a poem 
I was forced to erase without a trace. I was wondering 
whether to copy it out by hand; now I’m sorry I didn’t, 
because no other poem will capture so well the wet cold 
and the silent presence of Dylan Thomas 
as that one had done, 
but I didn’t, I didn’t imagine it would hurt me so 
or drill such a hole in me, an empty draft, 
something gnawing. 
Sometimes an unuttered word tells more than 
seven sentences, sub clauses included: 
that poem told many things, 
one big gap of silence, a successful symphony 
of unspoken things, a story impossible to utter. 
The Salisbury Hotel therefore means closure. 
With a heavy heart I opened the computer case, 
turned off the electricity, wound up the cable, 
put away the mouse, scanned one last time the lines on 
the screen with tired eyes, lost deep in thought, 
then sadly clicked on Don’t save. 
Click, a week of a life, an entire universe 
lost with a touch of a key. 
The Salisbury Hotel means a house of desire, 
for which it is not possible to clearly make out 
whether it’s just a dream of a man 
in the wet wind or something else, 
some unworked trauma from early childhood, 
which reminds one of a Dickens novel. 
Who wouldn’t be familiar with that flash 
on the computer, when the program window shuts 
in a split second, leaving behind 
a taste of bitter coffee? Truly, I feel like 
a dog crawling on its stomach, trying to scrape 
off his ribs an impossible need, but then 
I remember that the game of reality has 
its own logic anyway, impossible to predict, 
and that this cushion of impossibility is only some kind 
of foam from one’s moment, a scream, 
with which you tell things 
impossible even to think, 
a secret letter intended for an unknown reader. 
The Salisbury Hotel means to be living, 
to realize yourself in language, to turn it into the sharp 
gust from a lotus flower, 
to have one’s blood pumping. 
It means the morning shadow of dreams that have died. 
It means my own pastoral of a homeless man, 
a look back on all such similar moments, a silence 
and a smile, a future that has possibly already happened 
in one of one’s previous lives. 

Translated by Ana Jelnikar and David Brooks

Hrastovlje

There are no oak trees in the valley anymore. 
I am, though. 
I look around in wonder. 
Where have all those dunes come from? 
Here, where the Earth splits in half. 
I like this place, the silence 
of a truck, moaning up the steep hill, the screaming 
of a Swedish chain saw. There are no eagles anymore, 
local guys sold all their eggs to Italians, 
every spring there is a procession of baskets, commuting to the 
fish market in Trieste, 
of course they carry no fish, 
it is mostly nightingales and owls, night singers 
that make plumbers mad (do you remember 
Turdus aonalaschkae pallasii, 
the hermit thrush, Eliot heard in Quebec Province. 
Its “water-dripping song 
is justly celebrated”, he says, “though not by all”).

But I wanted to comment 
on the dance of death, the second reality of the valley. 
Sometimes on horse backs, black devils, 
monks of Satan, the Ottomans, 
maybe one should write them down like 
Ottomen, Otto, born 1111, 
the half-brother of the Hohenstaufen 
German king Conrad III and uncle of 
Frederick I Barbarossa 
with burnt crosses they flooded the valley, 
though the Ottomans came much later. 
They were the reason 
that the local people built this wall, 
ramparts, high towers, 
bastions in caves and on the ledges of 
overhanging rocky walls of the valley. 
Ancient people who were well aware of death, 
they needn’t wait until the beginning of the 20th Century 
to turn the notion of it into basic ontological postulates 
(Heidegger, Jankelevitch, Levinas I have in mind, 
and the holocaust). 

I love the rustling of dried oak leaves. 
This faithful sheets of rusty breeze pierce my ears 
with the sword 
of some natural satori. I know 
this country is awake, it watches me. 
And suddenly I am transported into 
the living dream and 
my body is gone and my wordy perception 
is blown away by the blast of the reality volcano. 
Colors are sharp razors, 
my eyes are cut in two, 
my heart is stolen by a Peruvian mummy, 
my voice is as dry as a desert. Now I understand 
where the dunes came from. 
They came from me, 
winds carried them out through the holes in my bones, 
now the valley is full of monsters 
and my skin turns into a sail and we sail down 
the sea of oak-woods, now long gone. And the Turks 
and the eagles 
turned into bush trees, drops of blood, birds three 
and half centuries ago. This is a dangerous land. 
Spirits are vicious. They attack you 
and cut you in half and transform your knees 
into grapes. They abuse their magic alphabet, 
they decorate foreheads and portals 
with ancient inscriptions as they too belong to 
the universe of books 
and use formulae. 
But they are just filters, guardians 
at the doors of perception, 
custom officers of dreams. Before we disappear 
into the ninth basement of barbers 
we have to leave a book, a child, an oak tree 
and a bastion behind. 
It is only then that our horse of love could 
transform himself into a hedgehog. 
Or a squirrel. I don’t remember any more. 
Three and half a century has been a long time ago 
when I was still alive and in love. 
Winds have blown my dust away, 
and my spirit 
was eaten by moths and oak trees now gone. 
Who could understand that? Not me. 
The reality bird resembles some kind of a bottle. 
With an unreadable message in the belly of 
its non existence. Painted all over the (outside) walls 
of this bastion church.

Reverent Richard L. Jackson, The Gentle Monster

Is a reverent Richard L. Jackson a real person 
or just a literary character? A fair question, 
due to L. in his name, I mean. 
What does it mean to be real? 
Do we talk about a real person as of 
one that exists, a living human being with two legs 
and a bank account in some Southern bank? 
Are there any Southern banks? 
Or is it the Yankees, old chums who got it all? 
Waiting like vouchers for Katrina to hit New Orleans and then 
happily enroll themselves into some real estate 
business they call charity or humanitarian aid. 
By organizing some live aid concert 
in the North, Carnegie hall or Coliseum East. 
I remembered Jim Morrison on stage, he said. It was 
before Christ, in a different universe. 
We hitchhiked all over, 
from Atlanta on the west to West Indies on the East. 
How do you call that jelly fish? 
Something Portuguese, I don’t remember. But 
I remember the day quite well. It was windy, 
sunny bright morning. 
We had Italian pasta and some white wine, 
Pinot Griggio I think. I was ready to fall in love, 
but the sun was too bright and I could not see. 
Was the third man at the table the reverent L. Jackson? 
Of course he was. He doesn’t say anything, 
keeps everything inside him, 
never tells a lie, nor a joke. 
He reminds me of George Bernard Shall, 
the Irish soccer player with pimples on his face 
who later started the Irish 
film industry. Train spotting, To kill a Mocking Bird, 
With Cool Blood, One Flew over the Cuckoo Nest, 
Soul on Ice, Portnoy’s Complaint. 
Who would not remember those? 
We stayed friends for life though I admit 
that my English never really grasped the spirit of the Britt’s. 
The glorification of Lawrence of Arabia, 
the personification of Prospero 
in his inability to understand the Talibans. 
Or, for God’s Sake, W. B. Yeats! 
Green is the color of the morning sun, sang Donovan. 
Who the hell is Donovan? Is he real? The hero of the 
Sixties that nobody remembers anymore. 
I remember him because I just 
found one of his LPs. I still keep 
my collection of LP records. It is difficult 
to realize that most of the living world today 
refer to those in the same way 
I referred to T.A. Edison’s invention of a phonograph. Would 
this pass at the creative writing workshop as a piece of poetry? 
How about Mr. Richard L. Jackson? Would he mind it? 
Why did I turn him into a reverent R. L. Jackson? 
And what does L. stand for? Questions, questions, 
questions. It’s the spirit 
that counts.

According To “Winter Yaps”

The urine of the red fox smells more like skunk musk 
than the urine of the gray fox, as stated in “Winter Yaps.” 
So, how could a man of lower skills turn 
this kind of the beginning 
into a poetry of some value and common interest? 
We deal here with matters of animation 
and recruiting of large 
crowds of educated humans that we identify 
with artistic success. 
Or simply put it this way: how do we know 
that we’re watching a great player? 
If we don’t get it we don’t know it. 
It is intuition, a feeling one has or one doesn’t have. 
We don’t know whether we have a sock 
full of grasshoppers in front 
of us on our comfortable sofa until we untie the knot, 
said Alexander. 
But what about crowds in the Third World? 
Do they read their poetry on sofas? 
I doubt it. They probably listen to some duke 
with some weird instrument, 
plucking the strings as if they were cherry flowers. 
My God, I can even hear the sounds. 
They resemble the tapping of rain 
on the roof of my cottage. Soft, or even better, 
light and silky as a wish. 
Now this time it is my hesitations 
controlling the rhythm of 
my poem. What to do with all the quotes? 
To be or not to be them? 
Basketball experts clearly appreciate basketball. 
Imagine that! 
Imagine all the people living in the world of peace. Imagine that! 
Was your father a war hero? 
Yes, he was. He attacked Nazi tanks with a sword. 
Now, what is the purpose of a good poem? 
What should it do to millions and millions 
of readers all over the world? Should 
it tell them about their suffering? 
They know it well. Should it 
sympathize with them? No doubt. 
But that is just a part of it. Should it 
disclose some deep wisdom? Or fart? 
I think that farting is good for poetry. 
It makes it genuine, monstrous. 
What is my role in all this game? 
Should I turn into Fannon or Che Guevarra? 
Take a gun into my hands and start some 
humanitarian project for UN? 
Rimbaud did that. He humanitarianly aided some arms’ 
dealers. According to 
Alain de Botton it was the London physician Bernard 
Mandeville 
who proposed that it was the rich 
who are in fact the useful ones, because their expenditure provides 
employment 
for everyone bellow them and so help the weakest 
in the society to survive. 
I would not mind laying 
that woman on the front cover. I like her slender 
long legs. This Alan de Botton has to be 
some bourgeois pervert. Not that I object. 
Do we poets stand for meritocracy? 
And what about beautiful landscapes, 
love songs, drinking out in the open 
in the ocean midst of glowing moonshine? 
Imagine it! Billions of nebulae glowing over my village 
with some fields of cabbage casting razor sharp shadows into 
the night. 
Hauling of wild animals, winds bringing 
the smell of urine of the red fox, 
that reminds a poet of skunk musk rather 
than of the urine of the grey fox, 
as also stated in “Winter Yaps.” Whatever that may be.

Christmas Carol

whenever you say you  are going to leave me
I immediately start writing poems in English
and that is every half a year, usually around Christmas.
Quite, or even too often, I would say
to keep my heart pounding and me suffering
but yes, I do understand, oh, yes, I do understand, 
and of course I understand
there is nothing I can offer 
but bitter words of love
and love itself, but that, though a strong argument, 
doesn’t count for enough, you need a family, a cup of chocolate, 
the warmth of one’s arms when you come home, you need home.
we recycle one and the same scenario. do you 
remember the movie about the same day 
being repeated every morning anew. the main hero played by a famous actor
whose name I forgot, after the third or fourth repetition he knew it well and all. 
it was only him who knew it (and you in our movie)
the others involved in the proceedings of 
that day kept looking suspiciously at him,
because he kept saying funny things about 
what it is going to happen in a minute or so
I don’t remember the end but every single repetition of the one and the same day concentrated 
on the unhappy love affair, 
the breaking of a relationship, 
the sadness of it
it must be terrible to wake up in the morning 
still deeply in love knowing
it will all end soon, as many times before 
in the afternoon
with enough day to be left for suffering 
and an endless nightmare just before 
he wakes up
again in the same circulus vitiosus. 
you too, you know it well
basically we talk about three locations: 
the metropolis, the province and the island
(they all have their names but for the sake of 
an artistic impression we shall skip them)
and basically two times of the year: 
summer vacations (extended well into the fall), 
and Christmas when you come visiting us, 
back to the province again.
Thus up and down goes the wheel of fortune. 
few short days of happiness and bliss
followed by a long curvature of distancing 
finally to be told that it is over, an arctic winter
and a long era of slowly warming up, 
first the daffodils pop up 
and then explosion of vegetation in the desert,
flowers of zillion different colors and bees, and flies, 
and mosquitoes of course (and ticks when 
we make love in the forest or tall grass).
am I a heavy drinker, a lost soul, an unfaithful bird? 
of course not. regardless how many times before
I have passed through it, it is new every next time,
and it is always awful, final, and completely real
again and again I am a helpless wreck, 
a fish caught in a net and hauled to the shore
tossing and turning and gulping for water 
and air (and a little bit of love and a kiss)
I know there is sincerity and suffering on 
your side of the mountain too.
I blame neither one nor the other 
nor gods or merciless fortune or Venus, jealous as I am,
I am not a believer in god nor a Gnostic 
nor anybody of the sort
(I am not an atheist either).
I could say that we are the living proof of the 
Post-Nietzschean world, 
where time is cyclic, the affairs mythic, even tragic.
I know all this. I wonder though whether this is 
the dream world of the Arabian nights,
a story from Alf Laylah wa Laylah
with screams and tears and with all the expected 
paraphernalia of it. how not to suffer and 
to love happily at the same time
and not to sour the sweet lament every 
three or four months 
I should know it better, you say
and I know you’re right…

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