INSCRIPTION ON STONE

… Brief was my life and arduous.
I troubled myself for the good of others – the bad was
for myself.
I cheaply sold, dearly bought.
Everyday joys I did without from the very beginning,
disgrace I drunk to the dregs, so as to rise above it.
I had all kinds of bosses: from stupid to jackasses
to representatives of the great Sanhedrin.
All of them kept forgetting one simple thing:
human wisdom is like a loaf of bread –
it may feed a few, but there’s not enough for all.
Everyone is wise in his own way, but is not Jesus.
I grew towards liking gradually and naturally,
I began to loathe in a flash – a matter of a word
That someone reveals accidentally.
I was excessively serious in everything,
I didn’t play the game. A mistake.
Many women liked me, a few of them were happy
with me,
I am a sinner before all of them.
One-quarter of my life I composed belated answers,
yet never wrote malicious reports.
I think the opposite would have been worse.
I conveyed the truth with a smile, but to the biggest scoundrels
(forgive me, God, the holy tactfulness)
I dared not say it: lest I insult the man.
What a mistake, my God, what a mistake!
Two were the dreams of my life:
to present the woman predestined for me
with a fine dress,
and to have a little corner of my own.
And neither of these materialized.
And since I had nothing else for which to rejoice –
I rejoiced in my children with the simple joy of the poor.
Never have I humiliated anyone. I despise those who
humiliate.
I would have destroyed them physically.
Many times have they undeservedly offended me – it
hurt unbearably.
Meek was I, but with a heavy hand? Rarely did I
strike, but badly.
Healthy was I and strong and no one sympathized with
me. It was rather hard.
My friends were few, but faithful they were.
My sweetness lay in my toil. I toiled until my life was
inside out.
Toil, toil, toil. What a mistake, my God, what a mistake!
But the bird of my consciousness is as white as a
snowflake –
And if someone were to ask me whether or not I have
lived well,
I would answer him with a question of my own:
Was this life for real?

BOOMERANG

All night long I dream of boomerangs.
In half a lifetime
I learned well
That everything comes back in the end.

Treasons come back many-fold.
Wealth returns as destitution.
A cuff comes back as a knock-out.
Only the smile returns unchanged.

And having hurt someone, I hurt myself.
Having forgotten someone, I forget myself.
Having gladdened someone, I gladden myself.
Having touched someone’s heart, I touch my own.

And I will come to you too without fail –
like love for given love,
like thought for given thought.
Like blow for received blow.

All night long
I dream
boomerangs.


DEDICATION

Go home. And quit. Before
the cup is drained to the bottom,
while still in your breast
the heart is beating wildly and sleeplessly.

Go home, do not wait for any pool
to grow murky while you are still bathing,
before you have consented to a humiliating peace
between yourself and your enemy.

Tear yourself away. But bow your head
and go.
In the dead of night.
The night is blue.
Go home. And quit. In this there is
hidden awesome, incomprehensible strength.

Be able to finish up at the very top,
while the end is still unclear,
before success halts your breath,
before the praises make your dizzy.

And bright will be every taste and colour,
And immense will be your thoughts,
And long will you remember this world,
And long will this world remember you.

POEMS

I’m writing poems, you say,
So what?
Thousands are writing poems.

Girls like them, you say,
So what?
None has ever kissed me because of them.

I’m famous, you say.
So what?
Both of us ate the same amount.

There’s a difference, you say.
Right you are, it’s different, all right –
I’m neurotic with high blood pressure.

You say they’ll remember me in the future.
You know,
two metres underground lies total silence.

So why haven’t I given it up, you erupt.
Ah, you see, I can’t answer that.
This task is not mine alone.

Someone dictates.

THE AUTUMN

To R.

I need you now.
A long road lies ahead of me.
A road of hardships.
The autumn.

Fewer and fewer friends.
Fewer and fewer desires.
Fewer and fewer illusions.
Fewer and fewer dreams.
Fewer and fewer summers.

The autumn.

I need you now.
I am so lonesome without you
in this approaching autumn,
in this bluishly transparent, empty universe
in which hearts huddle close together,
two by two,
with the clear premonition
of cold.

I need you now.
A long road lies ahead of me.
A road of hardships.

The autumn.

CLEARING OF THE FOREST OF LONGOZA

Through ashtrees, splendid in their own old age,
with throbbing nostrils,
blue from the smoke,
the woodcutters were furiously advancing,
for there was a famine,
and there was no land!

Shouts echoed, axles creaked,
goads flashed by like arrows,
carts overloaded with treetrunks
cut through deep ruts…
With cordwood?
No!
With cadavers!
The sap
from each stump then rose like mist
and there tumbled upon the ground the quiet nets
and the birds with singed wings!

The great forest
was slowly
dying.

And slashed into criss-crossed tracks by the carts,
Still hot and caked from the fire,
The fertile soil was stripped bare!
Fields coloured like aprons glowed,
Furrows raced across stump and pit,
With dreams of bread:
of bread,
of bread!

And only here and there age-old ashtrees,
chopped down without pity and without heart,
rose on high above the grave-like pits,
raising their hands prayer-like.

The all-omnivorous axe could not gnaw
through their tough living flesh…
Standing there they were –
an incompletely burnt pyre –
standing there they were,
so the world might come to know
that in days of calamities and holy sorrow,
that under famine’s tough blow
man may encroach
upon beauty too –
and the terrible thing is this,
that he is right in doing so!

A PRAYER AFTER MIDNIGHT

To wake up well tomorrow!
Ah, only to wake up well myself!
I would bridle my own temper,
and less strenuously I would work.
Oh, not that I would belittle myself,
but I shall need very little:
from a gulp of air – to burn! –
to dry a pinch of salt on bread .
And nothing else. Nothing. It
Is only a burden upon the earth.
Amid the cycle of life
a man is merely a leaf.
And how many days are ahead of me?
People my own age are already dying.
High blood pressure and cancer
are invisibly walking with us.
They will linger on my road too…
Pray they are in no hurry to startle me.
Let my children grow up a little,
Let my little ones grow a bit stronger!
And my time I shall meet standing up,
without whimpering and without delusions.
Ah, only to wake up myself well!


REMEMBER ME WELL

You, who will walk down along the boulders above Arbanasi
to view from the high with wonder the eternal city of Turnovo,
do not ponder, should you sense alongside yourself
somebody’s invisible presence,
somebody’s secret motion.

It is I.

Earlier this eternity I lay here
upon the white stone, amid the sharp grass, on my back,
with arms outstretched beneath the white clouds of the sunset
in the late spring of seventy-sixth summer,
in the last day of my four and fortieth year.

And I was not alone.

One little cricket-length’s distance from me
sat a slender and dark-complectioned girl,
embracing her knees
and resting her little cheek upon them,
with light-brown eyes with little dark dots in them,
meekly staring
down upon the eternal city.

So natural, so sweet a girl,
to whom could not adhere
a tiny impure speck of dust:

All of her purity, all of her charm.
All of her mine, all of her from another world.

We were silent –
as soon as they had glanced at each other,
we immediately knew everything about one another:
We will not overstep
the chasm of duty,
of prejudices and age that flowed between us.

And perhaps precisely because of this predestination
to us was beautiful,
beautiful,
beautiful
and one another we loved
loved,
loved,
though across one little cricket-length’s distance.

It was so bright to us
that when we sensed the dusk and set out for home
without words, without kisses, without a touch
through the boundlessness of the great cosmos,
opened before us,
I sensed that something good had remained behind me.
I looked back – a cross of trampled grass
and my shadow across it…
Veni, Vidi, Vici.
Veni, Vidi, but not Vici…

For a long time
I have not been around
Yet the girl continued to be.
What happened to her? Did she survive me with ease,
did she come to terms with herself?
Did she find a fine soul to sense her presence?
Is she alive and is she happy?

Unknown young man, tell me:
Can’t you see
one little cricket-length’s distance from me
her own shadow too?
If we truly loved one another,
it must be there.

Look attentively.
The girl was slender and dark,
was sitting embracing her knees
and resting her little chin upon them:
she had light-brown eyes with little dark dots in them,
meekly staring
down upon the eternal city.