06. 24. 2009. 16:12

like the illuminators (poems)

Gábor Schein

"so who would dare to name anyone as
father, or kin? like a brook
continually changing its course,
but everywhere reaching the same depth,
so does time step from body to body,
it has no death, no resurrection."
   

(like the illuminators)
 
like the illuminators of old, who
travelling in the darkness of a candle's light
drew entire miniature gardens around the enlarged
initial, in which the letter itself was
soon lost, like the sepulchre and flagstone
shrouded by undying ivy,
in the corner of the graveyard,
so should every letter of a poem
be written, and if forsaken by the hand
and the eye, it would still find itself
in the garden, and the letters
would be like a pair of lovers: if you
forsake me for one day, I
shall leave you for two.
 
 
(two faces)
 
which eye of ours gazes out
from the portrait? from beyond what border
does the countenance gaze back? what does it see
in its own self? and if nothing is preserved
and even its blind mirth retreats
from the portrait, why does the name still persist,
all the liabilities and all of the disgrace?
 
  *
 
we are here, but which one of us is asking?
and what is the question if the response
cannot be a name? if there is no border
where ignominy can stray,
why do we not paint our shame
instead, why always hold
before ourselves
this voided countenance?
 
 
(the shape of dawn)
 
it was dawn, half past five, and outside
the birds began to sing, I listened
to them, and so much of everything from our former days
came to mind; in the meantime the sky began
to grow bright, but the trees' foliage was still a black
smudge in the corner of the window.
I turned on the light next to the bed,
and in my mind I was talking to you.
a few minutes passed in this way. each one of
the tree's branches could now be seen, as more and more light
mixed into the deep oceanic hue
of the sky. I thought about how
quickly everything passes away, and how
long it took me to get to that place, to be able to say
I know you. after that the morning continued
like all the others. I washed,
had something to drink, got dressed. I could not
decide if I should call you or not, in the end
I didn't. I sat down for a bit
in the room, wondering why it is
that birds always sing so much more
loudly at dawn than in the morning.
 
 
(underneath the arch)
 
underneath the arch all is blackness: receptions planned
anew, belatedly in the onyx-illumination of
the water's light – on both sides of the bridge, the river's
quadrate, as when the two arms of a scale
tilts to one side, and those who cross under the arch,
their gaze rigid, sense above their heads
the oscillations of another scale; weighing up
all that they have concealed from each other,
all that was expected, all they desired and awaited,
all that is no more, all that has been lost,
and from the corner of the quadrate other
faces observe – ever vigilant, they do not sleep.
 

(two wings)
 
as if the same could elapse backwards.
days gone by in the palm-sized body,
its disc whirling, defunct movements
into the hardly awakened, and like a song
searching for its own forgotten melody, eternally
recollecting itself, an arm or a leg begins
to move, but at the very first instant
everything glides back into another plaster
mould. so who would dare to name anyone as
father, or kin? like a brook
continually changing its course,
but everywhere reaching the same depth,
so does time step from body to body,
it has no death, no resurrection.
   
              *
 
it has no death, no resurrection,
still it disintegrates as it
steps from presence to presence.
the interstices surging toward the dead man
rising always sweep him back to
his place, as if, muscles tightened,
he would bend his frame to the eternal breeze which
in the meantime lets him drop, scavenged together
with all his failures, still again and again he tries. even
more hopeless, for him who has a son: the two
bodies grind their wrath, the same rancour
dessicates both; only in blindness do they move
towards each other, as if searching for the melody
of a forgotten song, never granting absolution
for their differences – for how much they are the same.
 
 
(in the depths of the valley)
 
in the depths of the valley from year to year
the brook's channel extended further, the bridge across it
an overturned tree trunk, upon which
I counterbalanced with outstretched arms,
then repeated the same action with
eyes shut. the first attempts to break free
are still weightless, untroubled.
every year a swathe of earth
broke down from the bank,
and the elderberry spreading open its white canopy
took one step towards the edge.
 
Translated by Ottilie Mulzet

Tags: Gábor Schein