Poem in which…

Poem in which… was originally published on Meandering home


Reading: Ships by Tomaž Šalamun

Tomaž Šalamun (1941-2014) was an adventurous, I think people say ‘avant-garde’ poet from Slovenia. I like what I see (or could we say: read) because it is mysterious and our world feels sometimes like mystery has been painted over. Here’s ‘ships‘ in a translation by Brian Henry:

I’m religious.
As religious as the wind or scissors.
It’s an ant, she’s religious, the flowers are red.
I don’t want to die. I don’t care if I die now.
I’m more religious than the dust in the desert.
The mouth of a child is round. My eyes are
syrup, dripping cold.
Sometimes I think I baked nettles, but
I didn’t. Sometimes I think I’m miserable, but
I’m not.
I’m religious.
I will throw a barrel into the river.
If bees rushed into my face, I’d scratch
at them with my hand and would see
I don’t get upset.
The soul presses like the crowds at the door.
When I die, oxen will graze the grass just like this.
Houses will glimmer just like this.

I don’t normally quote poetry about religion, but when I do it makes sense of that phenomenon. As religious as scissors, an object with an imposed purpose to cut, that might be worshipping the great cutting edge. Ant, flowers, huh?

The line about not wanting to die but not caring is awesome. I get an idea of his religion: he is awestruck by what he sees through is syrupy eyes. Red flowers, children with round eyes. Yes, it’s real. You didn’t bake nettles or any hallucinogens, and you’re not miserable. It’s just that the way you look at things exalts and you can’t reduce it to science. You like everything you see, the more you look, a little bit like Basquiat the painter.

You know the world will not give a f. if you die. The pressing soul ‘like the crowds’, like the (big) other, are they demanding their right to give recognition, their right to think this poetry/this man changes anything, are they pressing to bask in the illusion that something matters? Well, it doesn’t. That’s what good religion is for.

Reading: Ships by Tomaž Šalamun was originally published on Meandering home

To my child

today I stage a rebirth of my desire
to see the world through your eyes

if you see the flowers stare at you
from their blushing fields
you are like a sun to them
so I invited myself to your dream

and do you know mine
about the thankfulness of a well,
the divine right of water
to be drunk by your lips?

when will you feel the thirst of knowledge
like I did, and all the weirdness of being
so terribly alive?

will you play music, dance, wrap yourself
in the texture of all things?

read old books with the smell of centuries?

will you dream about the soft shapes of hills
and people falling in love behind them?

Here is what I said against the wind:
do not fear the same things
do not fear the new if you go out to the sea
you are not my idea.

To my child was originally published on Meandering home


in my country, everybody can eat icecream
with wholeness in it
world leaders rub nuclear shoulders for it,
feel secure in their web with some fly carcasses
but it is warming everywhere and I am afraid
of the others who restrict everything
what if I want to dance on harvest day?
what if I want to eat partial icecream?
what if I say we are a string stretched
between man and less than man,
and an unemployed devil is playing
a sad tune on it

Icecream was originally published on Meandering home

For Octavio Paz

I read in a poem by Octavio Paz:
The word of man
is the laughter of death.

When I look again it says:
The word of man
is the daughter of death.

We talk because we are mortal:
words are not signs, they are years.
I close my eyes and smile.

Paz is the poet who wrote
I washed my hands in your breasts
and many other things

I think about the word of man:
daughter or laughter
one day I will know
which one I like best

For Octavio Paz was originally published on Meandering home