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Category archive for: Ales Debeljak

No Choice

And half tenderly, half lazily,
With a kiss you brushed my hand—
And the eyes of mysterious, ancient faces
Gazed at me…

—Anna Akhmatova, “Confusion”

A sound comes up from the northern woods,

dark and sugary. Maybe, I think, not sure,

it’s only a goshawk. Yet maybe, just maybe

a Russian boy who jumped off the top of a tree

with his umbrella open, like sky above steppe,

and landed to the applause of the grass and,

without skipping a beat, picked up a tremulous

tune. I have to pass it on—but how? I’m not

saying it doesn’t make sense to stay at home

between books and the kids, yet I tend to forget

it escapes me, the summer league results,

for example, but I remember a teapot of clay

and the perfect patchwork stains on its circular

lip. I cover them with my tongue. I’m as precise

in my daily routine as the bell of a suburban

church, of equal ease to travelers and locals,

hatching plans for action among the extended

evening shadows. Yes? No? I don’t know, I have

no idea. All I know is that butterflies, freed

from tapestries, would not survive on their own, unless

for paper peddlers pedaling through alleys of trees,

these postmen of lightest sleep, as the dead poet

would have said, tossing out rolled-up bundles

of news, subscribers can’t read them, written

in the language of forgotten tribes who lived here

well before. They put their warriors in burial grounds

and committed their women to ash. They rule after death

and newspaper editorials keep praising them, until the cry

of a newborn breaks into guffaw. Yes? No? No choice.

Under an umbrella, I write the lines a soldier sings.

from Without AnesthesiaFind it in the library

Copyright © Persea Books 2011
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Persea Books.

Ode to Wheat

They’ve axed the forests, plowed the meadows,

sown and sewed it up, task forces of tiny fingers

and hired hands are pruning back the cornflowers

that clamber and clamor for tenderness of sun

and water, for sympathetic looks without the help

of generations that celebrate the mother figure,

her lavish hips and license to give birth so

she need not fight any more, as she stands

in triumph among us, those who keep meat

on the menu, the love distilled in a spike

of wheat as the final measure of creation,

maybe even grace locked in a swollen grain.

Why would I lie to you? A harvest rots

right there on the ground, nobody feels like

carting it away. We prefer to fondle

the shiny blades and tears on the tips that

recall the etchings of provincial manors,

lost in the roiling mercury sea that stretches

across half the continent; stalks trickle out

of the baskets, leading from famished memory

should we let it drop. The competition between gain

and taste is ceaseless, and beauty falls by the wayside,

like a deserter who ducks the radar to prosper again,

multiplied a hundredfold, at the head of a huge

army that has laid its weapons down, and knees

bent enters the service of a goddess, pregnant

all the time, whose livelihood is gift and suffering.

from Without AnesthesiaFind it in the library

Copyright © Persea Books 2011
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Persea Books.

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