the simplest, poorest words
as if they had never been said.
We were saying
sun, light, grass
as people pronounce
life, love, strength.
Remembered how we cleared
that eternal, accursed glacier
from the city streets – and an old man
stamped his foot against the pavement,
shouting, ‘Asphalt, friends, asphault!’
As if he were a sailor long ago,
calling out ‘Land, land!’
Ольга Фёдоровна Берггольц (Olga Fyodorovna Berggolts)
a.k.a. Olga Fyodorovna Bergholz
translated by Robert Chandler
You were a snow baby. We should’ve called you Eira. You were almost marooned in hospital: jaundiced face yellow as egg-yolk, clutched head the shape of a shell.
You grew to your name, Bethan, grew round. Your plum cheeks swelled to its sound.
And now in town you let the flakes settle in your long hair, saying ‘Ne’ mind. I like ’em there.’
I played you Ommadawn: layers of cloud frost, hail and sun climbing till that lightning moment when you were born.
Wrapped still throught frozen nights, layers of a nest taken from the strands of our house: broken violin string, discarded lace and strap of a watch you never wore.
Your dreams hatch and drift with feathers of the pillow-bird you believe in no more.
by Mike Jenkins
from Red Landscapes
Fun Fact: Mike Jenkins’ daughter is the Welsh politician Bethan Jenkins AM, (born 9 December 1981), who has represented the South Wales West Region for Plaid Cymru as a Member of the National Assembly for Wales since 2007.
Consider the small fruit tree after the rain:
full of trembling raindrops
the enchanted magnificence of its branches
glitters in the sunlight.
Yet when the sun hides, in a moment
the magic vanishes.
It is again, as it was before,
an ordinary, poor little tree.
by Dobriša Cesarić (1902 – 1980), Croatia
Translated by Jeni Williams and Pavlija Jovic after the Croatian of Dobriša Cesarić.
To fall ill as one should, deliriously
Hot, meet everyone again,
To stroll broad avenues in the seashore garden
Full of the wind and the sun.
Even the dead, today, have agreed to come,
And the exiles, into my house.
Lead the child to me by the hand.
Long I have missed him.
I shall eat blue grapes with those who are dead,
Drink the iced
Wine, and watch the grey waterfall pour
On to the damp flint bed.
– by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova) (1922)
– from Anno Domini MCMXXI translation by D. M. Thomas