Monday, October 24, 2022

Two Poems by Tomaž Šalamun


Two Poems by Tomaž Šalamun

Translated by Brian Henry


When I’m 37 years old, I won’t be
bald. I won’t
wear white robes with red
intestines in the pocket.
When I’m 37 years old,
my mother won’t die. I won’t
knock on the doors of my sons’ rooms with
stupid questions on a stupidly happy
When I’m 37 years old, I won’t
exercise at half past five
in the morning and whistle through my nose like
a maniac. I won’t
towel off in village
inns and offend pious
people after they barely survived
the war. I won’t
wear knickers. I won’t
bring up Haloze and everything they took
from us and say
it’s right.
When I’m 37 years old, I won’t
be on duty, but
free. I’ll let myself grow a long beard and long
nails, my white ships will sail all the world’s
seas. And if a woman
gives birth to my children, I’ll throw them through
the windowpane from the left corner
of the dining room and wonder
what will fall on the pavement first,
the glass or the gauze.

The Lake

Wisteria rip the tarp off the monkey’s chest
with large wheels and great force. The camp gazes
into the valley. Bends. Gray birds thunder

at the hypothesis of cells. I have no idea when the valley
was submerged. Maybe three hundred thousand
seventy two years ago. I saw

a postman. He was swimming out of the house. His
bag was rolling in yellow water. Smoke
came from the chimneys. I didn’t understand how

smoke lives underwater. How the postman breathes.
How daisies and clover retain their
color. How the seasons don’t

collapse beneath the poster. Where the postman changes
his clothes. Why he doesn’t sleep in a trunk. Why he has
shorter legs than the other postman, his

colleague. A pine needle fell on the surface
of the lake. It’s already traveling. Already soaking
in the water and rushing toward the postman’s head.

Tomaž Šalamun (1941-2014) published more than 55 books of poetry in Slovenia. Translated into over 25 languages, his poetry received numerous awards, including the Jenko Prize, the Prešeren Prize, the European Prize for Poetry, and the Mladost Prize. In the 1990s, he served for several years as the Cultural Attaché for the Slovenian Embassy in New York, and later held visiting professorships at various universities in the U.S.

Brian Henry is the author of eleven books of poetry, most recently Permanent State (Threadsuns, 2020). He has translated Tomaž Šalamun’s Woods and Chalices (Harcourt, 2008), Aleš Debeljak’s Smugglers (BOA Editions, 2015), and five books by Aleš Šteger. His work has received numerous honors, including two NEA fellowships, the Alice Fay di Castagnola Award, a Howard Foundation fellowship, and the Best Translated Book Award. He is editing and translating a comprehensive volume of Selected Poems by Tomaž Šalamun for Milkweed Editions.


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