DEATH SENTENCES, OH, TO BE ALONE, FROM MY “KINGDOM’, PSALM OF DESPAIR, A WOMAN’S LETTER
I was born too late and I am much too old,
My dear Hamlet,
To be your pimply Ophelia,
To let my hair like flattened wheat
Spread over the dark waters
And upset the floating water lilies
With my floating eyes.
To glide fish-like between fishes.
Sink to the bottom like a dead seashell,
Burrow in sand next to shipwrecks of love,
I, the amphora, entangled in seaweeds.
I’d rather you take off my dress.
Let it fall by my feet like aspen leaves
The wind shakes without permission
As if there’s nothing to it.
I’d rather have that death sentence:
Eternity of your arms around my neck.
OH, TO BE ALONE
O to be alone
Without your footsteps, your voice.
O to hear the silence like the growing
Of a dark flower in a corner of a room.
O to be in the quiet of things and the quiet mind.
O to be alone
Without your footsteps. your voice.
O to hear only the beating of your heart,
Keeping quiet like a mushroom in a damp forest.
O to stretch across the bed
Like a broken branch.
O to snuggle up to the silence
Like a left to the wet pavement.
O to be alone
Without your footsteps, voice and your body,
Covered with silence, wrapped in it.
O to hear the night thicken.
O to lie alone wide awake
While a ray of moonlight falls on the bed
Like a cold sword.
O to hear the silence like shriek of the owl.
O to be without your voice, your body
As if laid out in a tomb.
FROM MY “KINGDOM’
To Adam Zagajewski
The history of solitude is long.
It’s made up of a string of individual ones
That resemble one another like blades of grass.
And still each one in its heart
Has its mouse or mole.
Each speaks with one of the dead languages
The way a lake speaks with its silence.
The truth is to be found somewhere thereabouts,
It sneaks up on us like nightfall
Between the ancient trees
That give the appearance of being human beings.
But they are absent,
Busy with something else.
It’s good the way it is now.
I can turn and see the forest
Walking after me foot by foot
Like a sleepwalker in a dream.
That happens toward daybreak
When the patches of fog one calls mist
Burn and rise toward the sun.
There are only slits left,
Through which it is possible to pass
From the Other side,
To get hold of one’s memoirs.
While the trees still dream
And the grass dreams.
It’s just as if one were awake
With nothing to lament over.
PSALM OF DESPAIR
I dwell in a land of despair
In the city of despair
Among desperate people
I embrace my desperate lover
With desperate hands
Whispering desperate words
Kissing him with desperate lips.
In despair we make children
In despair we strangle them
And feed our desperate offspring
With our own despair
So that they may multiply
By giving birth to ever more desperate children
And so on.
For God of Despair is our Lord
And his envoys of despair
With their instruments of despair
That coat our homes with despair
Drape our windows with despair
And board up our doors with it
Preaching the religion of despair
For gain and wealth
Instructing us in Holy Despair
For which we are to earn life eternal
So our dead will rise again
The wandering lamb
That found no path or shelter
No dawn and no morning
Forever and ever—
Damn you wicked hand
That wrote this in the year 2013 of our Lord.
Translated by Tadeja Spruk
A WOMAN’S LETTER
I don’t want to be obedient and tame.
Coddled like a cat. Faithful like a dog.
With a belly up to my teeth, hands in the dough,
Face covered with flour, my heart a cinder,
And his hand on my ass.
I don’t want to be a welcome flag at his door,
Nor the guardian snake under his threshold,
Neither the snake nor Eve from Genesis.
I don’t want to pace between the door and the
To listen hard and be able to distinguish
Footsteps from night-sounds.
I don’t want to follow the leaden movement of the
Nor see falling stars
For him to gore me drunkenly like an elephant.
I don’t want to be sewn with needlepoint
To the family portrait
Next to the fireplace with balled up children,
In the garden with puppy children,
And I the shade tree,
And I the winter landscape,
A statue under the snow.
In a crease marriage certificate
I’ll fly to heaven.
I don’t want a bridegroom.
I want gray hair, a hump and a basket
To go roaming in the woods,
Picking strawberries and dry twigs,
With my whole life behind me,
The smile of that boy,
So dear and irreplaceable.
Translated by Charles Simic