Protecting the Rain Forest

I want to protect the rain forest.
I want the rain forest to exist, so I can protect it.

The good and the bad face us in cinematographic reality.
I still want to protect the rain forest for love of the unknown.
For birds I will never see.
For their emerald eggs.
For all I know not what I am doing.

Every night, I dance with patches of darkness.
I imagine the song of the birds in the canopy.
I imagine the panoply of beings on the forest floor.
The rain forest is my idea. I know
it wants to protect me.

Protecting the Rain Forest was originally published on Meandering home

Reading: After Us by Nikola Madzirov

Nikola Madzirov (b. 1973) is a Macedonian poet, probably the most famous one alive, who also writes essays and translations. I was looking for a younger Eastern European poet today and I found him. The cool thing with younger poets is that you can talk with them on Facebook (uhm, not really). I read a poem about the Afterlife, that is life After us, from the collection Remnants from Another Age:

After Us
One day someone will fold our blankets
and send them to the cleaners
to scrub the last grain of salt from them,
will open our letters and sort them out by date
instead of by how often they’ve been read.

One day someone will rearrange the room’s furniture
like chessmen at the start of a new game,
will open the old shoebox
where we hoard pyjama-buttons,
not-quite-dead batteries and hunger.

One day the ache will return to our backs
from the weight of hotel room keys
and the receptionist’s suspicion
as he hands over the TV remote control.

Others’ pity will set out after us
like the moon after some wandering child.

Salt is life. The image of the blankets is familiar, I wrote about the stowing away of your bed after you die.  It also reminded me of Pesach, where they get rid not of the salt but of the yeast and clean the sheets for that purpose.  The metaphor of a mechanical, objective order (by date) versus a live order by importance (do we actually live like that? This poem is an imperative to do so!) is powerful.

The image of a new chessgame I like too; I can’t really relate to the contents of the shoebox though, having been born into a generation that didn’t know hunger and a middle class milieu that didn’t know hoarding.

There is an allusion that is a little bit too cryptic for my taste, to loneliness in a hotel room. Doe the weight of the keys stand for the shame of the lonely hotel guest or am I reading stuff into these lines that are not there at all? Is he watching porn on his hotel TV or not?

These last lines, which I’m sure sound much better in the original language, they stick with me. I’ll remember them because I want to quote them some time.

Here is an interesting article on Madzirov.

And here is the original poem. You can listen to the sound in Macedonian too, of those last lines. Yes, they sound pretty:

Туѓите сожалувања ќе тргнат по нас
како месечина по заталкано дете.

Reading: After Us by Nikola Madzirov 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


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