Barbara Pogačnik (Slovenia)

Barbara Pogačnik (Slovenia)

 
Barbara Pogačnik (1973), Slovenian poet, translator and literary critic, graduated from UCL in Belgium, completed her MA at the Sorbonne in Paris, and has published four poetry books: Poplave (Inundations, 2007), V množici izgubljeni papir (Sheets of Paper Lost in the Crowd, 2008), Modrina hiše / The Blue of the House (2013) and Alica v deželi plaščev (Alice in the Land of Coats, 2016). She is also writing short stories and essays. Her poetry in translations has appeared in reviews and anthologies in more than 30 languages. She has participated in more than 60 different literary festivals and manifestations all over the world and more than 150 authors have appeared in her translations.
 
 
WHOLE NOTE
 
I saw a jeep driving on water,
its tires flattening like disabled people`s feet,
it waddled on the inside of the foot.
In other cities, too,
electricity rose like tide.
The jeep is trying to break, but the water
carries it on. We skidded, we’re going to skid.
We are jeeps, television waves.
Greedy seagulls flying just over the water,
our heads on offer, rising above our
common watery clothes like candys,
convincing people of a
theatrical experiment.
And in other cities, too.
 
Translated by Julija Potrč
 
 
BUCKET
Je n’ai fait que danser ma vie – Isadora Duncan
 
Our story is a bucket that falls through the well. Everything
except a massive nail driven in the breastbone burns down.
Let’s not pull this out,
it will dissolve in the body over time. At first,
I’m describing a summer day when I went back
to the ballet conservatory. Just for a day, just
passing by on a deserted summer day,
and I saw it only from a distance.
I’m describing my bliss, my lips,
the skin, the body’s quiver. I’m describing
how I didn’t get caught experiencing this.
 
Building material is being lowered from the second floor,
like the feeling that I can’t live without M. He is
a bucket of dark water hanging
around my neck—I might fall
into the well and die, or lose my mind.
The downpour is so heavy that even
my bed is wrinkled and soaked
like cardboard in the street.
Ana and I are rearranging iron teapots
on the plate. Suddenly one of them
leaps at me — leaps by itself! — and
boiling water almost smacks my neck.
 
At the end of the story, at the start of the summer,
we cast off: the bay is still closed in,
but I can lower myself down the hull of a great ship
without it harming me, I can stroke its flank,
a giant whale.
The sea is deep even on land;
it comes deep if you call out far.
The touch of a finger brings together everything
about whales, orchids, perfect like a glass of water,
and the one thing you cannot give me: freedom — this
perfect touch is killing me to the sea.
 
Translated by Julija Potrč & Christopher Meredith
 
 
LACE COLLARS
 
Love means to learn to look at yourself
The way one looks at distant things
For you are only one thing among many.
 
                                                      Czeslaw Milosz
The house exists, and in it so many people with lace
collars. They stroll round the living room, glancing at windows.
Shaking one hair at a time from the pillows.
The one without a name, like others, also turns towards windows.
Snow is drifting through them. Turkish windows, or Arabic —
far away like the figure running over snow towards the shore
on the western edge of Europe.
Icy puddles of mild apricot unmoving
under the invasion of the first moon in flight.
 
People in the lighted house cannot find the golden hair,
the apple of desire: how to stay trusting when you only have
a hairbreadth escape? The sky above the shore spreads out
a giant pale blue handkerchief bristling
with ice crystals in the morning,
the thin strands of cloud across the distant orange of the sun.
The trees bowed all their transparent palms in one
direction, claiming with their black silhouettes that it has all
been written where nurturing veins
run. But even in the corners of car sheet metal,
tiny wounds of rust say how the mouth of aging widens,
turning towards me like a drumskin or a stomach.
 
I’m crying, I’m crying, and my mother says:
cry! This is the way I run into the hope that the icy blue
railway station will melt down its color.
Later, a window might be found on the building,
someone will open it and fly a flag.
The window is so high that first, you find yourself right next to it,
then, deep from the night, it will look straight into your eyes.
Trust lurks at every corner
like a playful dog, pulling on the leash, tangling
paws into it, eager to dash away.
 
The office of lost and found shows no windows,
lost even with a telescope. A big walnut table, but
nothing of mine’s been found. The hair on the head
still goes awry like the arms of Celtic trees, the hair
on the pillow still lying level like books.
In these straightlaced days, the country’s president
strokes a child in a lace linen hat.
A blue eyed little girl. The boy in the
local library tries to scan a book code,
but grasps the infrared scanner clumsily. Embarrassed,
the book smiles, wedged uncomfortably into the hollow
gap of the couch, like the dead grandmother excitedly
recalling a truth from her life in dreams, one that
her children didn’t know about.
 
For today I’m freed from her prophecy that I’ll sleep through
every morning. The sky’s hair travels on. Lace roof decoration
hangs over the gables of stone houses. Nobody behind
the window, only a broken glass sailboat.
The one without a name comes, leaves in disarray, and
returns. He looks like an orange tree in the bathroom.
I heard his words before he said them, I think,
my heart pounding under the limelight in giant
waves that pour on me from all the windows
of a country cathedral. It’s useful to learn
how to perform cardiac massage
on oneself.
 
Translated by Julija Potrč & Christopher Meredith
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