05. 23. 2007. 09:04

The Rose

Zsófia Balla

"We will never know / what it would show farther in, / in the darkness of the arched chamber: / petals guard and besiege it." – Two translations of the same poem.


Some days remain for mutual contemplation.
A moment’s pause in your decline and mine.
Unless one falls, the other’s path is closed.

Scallop-like, petal upon petal sags –
the tense stalk whispers of itself alone:
first one, and then another smoky triangle
gathers into circles that grow tighter –
an eye unravelling in the peacock’s tail?
The swirling shapes the petals make
catch in their murmuring circle what
the paroxysmal rose conceals:
full, concentrated, central.

                        Because it will never open, ever.
Armies’ onslaught finds it wrapped
in its own secret.
                        We shall never learn
what might have been revealed further inside,
there in the dark beneath the arches:
the petals form a barrier and lay siege.
Within the rose’s depths, another rose.


Unless one falls, one cannot know one’s place.

Here on the table the rose cools – and yet
I fear it may soon droop, fall, perhaps freeze
at the moment of disintegration
like an eye transfixed.
                               It stands there, reaching out
petal, stem and leaf in turn,
and now that, blossoms shed, it nears the end,
my eye stores it away, avidly sucks it
in so I’ll see it once it has burned out.

My gaze thumbs through the viscous curve,
savours it, plunges into it,
gropes the shut places, void edge cilia,
the petals’ substance, surface and heat
of a hollow powdered by butterfly wings,
the head held high.
                               But how much longer?
In vain I let it scorch my cheeks –
It burns up, peters out! For it and it alone
swelled with my ecstasy! Picture, copy,
tale are useless! In vain do I delay
the honey-shaded rose, glimmering
like the lamp from within, soughing
like a dense wind freighted with vanilla –

While it lingers – now! drink in its image to the dregs.

What value such everlastingness if dead already?

Translated by Christopher Whyte

We have but a few days to gaze on one another.
A moment’s pause in our decline.
Only one falling grasps the other’s descent.
Like a scallop the many petals slowly fall apart,
the tense stem whispers of itself:
one by one dark triangles
align in ever narrower circles –
or the peacock-feather eye unravels from within?
The swirling petal formations
Surround with muffled shuttle that which
the bursting rose conceals: the plump,
taut center.
For this, this never opens.
It mantles itself and its secret
from the armies.
                         We will never know
what it would show farther in,
in the darkness of the arched chamber:
petals guard and besiege it.
In the depths of the rose lies another rose.

Only one falling knows his place.
The rose is cooling here on the table -
but I fear it soon will droop, fall,
tomorrow or today give up, for it
is opened and asunder to a whirl,
like the fixed stare of the dead.
                                       It stands, one by one
spreading its petals, its stem, its leaves,
and now that it has opened and the end is near
my eye clips it, sucks it up covetously,
that I may yet see it after it has withered.
My glance leafs the slick bend,
tastes it, measures it,
and fumbles between the closure, the lashes,
the flesh of the petals, the surface, the warmth
of the silent hollow, powdered by butterfly wings,
the head held high.
                                      But for how long.
In vain do I warm my face with it -
It burns down, flickers out! Because only this, only this
filled me with joy! Neither its image, nor likeness,
nor fame, no! In vain do I slow
the honey-colored rose, as it shimmers
alone, like a lamp, and whispers
like the thick vanilla-scented winds -
While it is here – now! – drink the sight of it to the roots.
Of what worth that it’s eternal, if already it has perished?
Translated by Thomas Cooper

Tags: Zsófia Balla