blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsFall 2010  Vol. 9  No. 2
translation by Brian Henry

Without Anesthesia

     Naked, alone and heartless
     I stand. There is no center of the world.
     My weeping cleanses nothing,
     my body isn’t my property,
     salt irritates the skin.
          Brane Bitenc, “I Watch Your Going”

Things are empty. Nothing’s in them. As if they’re the fruit
of a failed plan. The landscape lies in water, greened
by a certain plant. It is eclipsed by the horizon line.
Filled with emptiness, which frightens everyone.

This morning smells perhaps of jasmine tea. But this still
does not mean that it has some sense. You can continue
with walks by the shore, it changes nothing. All
that captures your gaze is no more than a bitter mirage.

Which recalls snapshots of experiences you already know.
In no way do you want to find a place for things. Which last
longer than your fantasy, hopes, secrets. You are surrounded
by things. This isn’t so bad. Only they are reliable. Only they.

Powerless like flatlands, which never drown
at the horizon, and now still more: like for instance
water in the lake, which worries about evening
and does not spill over the bank. Powerless, you long

for death, you wait, watch, breathing secretly. Or what?
The expected figure does not appear in the shallows. Not
for a second, perhaps less. Seeing and hearing are too much:
under the surface of the gathered water is little depth,

like in the memory of a calm motion of a pregnant woman
one morning on your street. The force of gravity
is enough, you realize. And the names, days, and nights,
the lives of unknown generations. It’s all too much.

It is time. Say what was once already said.
So that there will be no misunderstanding. Begin
where you want. More than now you won’t tolerate.
In a bird’s takeoff from the water’s surface, there’s

already a fall. You too will lose nothing. You keep
as much as you give. Fleeing in a foreign tongue
is longing for silence. Whose bodies do not fray,
because you know them from the inside.

Because only people die, not their silence.
But flocks of starlings returning home are loud.
You’ll have to raise your voice. Speak now! Say
how you keep quiet and become the breath of all people.

Enough words. Better to doze off. Above me wild geese,
dry cough and embers in me. —A gust of wind spins
the weathervane. In the end I stayed. Really it is already
time that I become the acoustics of silence, a secret

ongoing dialogue. I won’t be anybody’s cry anymore,
crystallized in amber. The stars are cold, people
turn on lights in flats. Night’s ultrasound goes across
the world. What can I still expect, what can I still give?

I remembered the rhythm of physical pain with which
the world begins every day. I know the illusion of images
and old texts, I would like to be alone again.
Like the baby crying when separated from his mother.

A shudder shakes you, and despair: every thing in your room
and anywhere else, every one has its own name. Vertigo
fills your days, motionlessly you observe the dim image
of the television, empty yards, the backs of books and of records,

narrow stairways: the desolate sky repeats this despair
on thin ice, spread bluish across a puddle. Worthless
shapes of clouds, so little love! With lips more timid
than you think, you slip reluctantly across the stillness

of things. And the pulsing of blood does not disturb the silence,
you still endure it alone. Like your pain that you don’t want
to be what you are: the things that last without you.
For them you are already as dead as a crumpled rose.

     Distance trying to appear
     Something more than obstinate
          Elizabeth Bishop, “Argument”

The hardly discernible flickering of air, mimosa fields,
incredible scent of a certain root, the glow of the lamp,
she holds in a raised hand: what noise does she hear
now around her head, half vanished in the evening twilight?

A cold sweat flows over her forehead and runs into open eyes.
Burned by the salty fluid. Her view darkens. More and more,
the silence grows. A fire from dry grasses is lit beneath
her feet. In an instant she will need to forget pleasant days.

On her lips, too, you will not discern the dry print of sorrow
that gathers. The earth still spins ahead, possibly nothing
happened. The forest quiet, all the paths are still in front of her.
She stands quiet and listens to the sound of emptiness.

Damp asphalt. And the placid, timeless stream of minerals
in the hill and valley. Unknown to you, casually silent
like lichens in the forests of distant northern regions.
An ordinary phrase from a conversation that lasts forever.

And contains four, five words. Which perhaps only the melody of love
drowns out. —The dial on the phosphorescent clock glows. The date
of your helplessness. Long ago you predicted that you’d never find
the right translation for it. —If you could invent a language

without verbs, you could live longer, perhaps. And would lay down
all the weight of passing in a never-spoken touch. Thus it will boil
in the skull and somewhere else. The face will fossilize.
And on the retina of the eye, a blind spot leaving only Moby Dick.  end

from Slovar tišine (Dictionary of Silence)

return to top