Оmer

 

Every Monday and Friday since July 2016, we publish a poem or prose text from our 'translation workshop'.

We've named this section of the site "Omer", in memory of Omer Hadžiselimović, one of the founders of Samizdat.

PRISONERS

 

Though  the  road  turn  at  last 

to  death’s  ordinary  door, 

and  we  knock  there,  ready 

to  enter  and  it  opens 

easily  for  us, 

yet 

all  the  long  journey 

we  shall  have  gone  in  chains, 

fed  on  knowledge-apples 

acrid  and  riddled  with  grubs. 

 

We  taste  other  food  that  life, 

like  a  charitable  farm-girl, 

holds  out  to  us  as  we  pass –

but  our  mouths  are  puckered, 

a  taint  of  ash  on  the  tongue. 

 

It’s  not  joy  that  we’ve  lost –

wildfire,  it  flares 

in  dark  or  shine  as  it  will. 

What’s  gone 

is  common  happiness, 

plain  bread  we  could  eat 

with  the  old  apple  of  knowledge.

 

That  old  on – it  griped  us  sometimes, 

but  it  was  firm,  tart, 

sometimes  delectable... 

 

The  ashen  apple  of  these  days 

grew  from  poisoned  soil.  We  are  prisoners 

and  must  eat 

our  ration.  All  the  long  road 

in  chains,  even  if,  after  all, 

we  come  to 

death’s  ordinary  door,  with  time 

smiling  its  ordinary 

long-ago  smile. 

 

Denise Levertov, January 15, 2021 

 

 

 

MY SWEET OLD ETCETERA

 

my sweet old etcetera

aunt lucy during the recent

 

war could and what

is more did tell you just

what everybody was fighting

 

for,

my sister

 

isabel created hundreds

(and

hundreds) of socks not to

mention shirts fleaproof earwarmers

etcetera wristers etcetera, my

mother hoped that

 

i would die etcetera

bravely of course my father used

to become hoarse talking about how it was

a privilege and if only he

could meanwhile my

 

self etcetera lay quietly

in the deep mud et

 

cetera

(dreaming,

et

  cetera, of

Your smile

eyes knees and of your Etcetera)

 

Edward Estlin Cummings, January 11, 2021 

 

 

 

CREMATION

So when she hears him clearing his throat
every few seconds she’s aware what he’s raking
‘s death off his mind; the next attack. The threat
of his dying has her own hands shaking.

The mangle brought it on. Taking it to bits.
She didn’t need it now he’d done with pits.

A grip from behind that seems to mean don’t go
tightens through bicep till the fingers touch.
His, his dad’s and his dad’s lifetime down below
crammed into one huge nightshift, and too much.

He keeps back death the way he keeps back phlegm
in company, curled on his tongue. Once left alone
with the last coal fire in the smokeless zone,
he hawks his cold gobful at the brightest flame,
too practised, too contemptuous to miss.

 

Behind the door she hears the hot coals hiss.

Tony Harrison, January 8, 2021 

 

 

 

THE MOTIVE FOR METAPHOR

You like it under the trees in autumn,
Because everything is half dead.
The wind moves like a cripple among the leaves
And repeats words without meaning.

In the same way, you were happy in spring,
With the half colors of quarter-things,
The slightly brighter sky, the melting clouds,
The single bird, the obscure moon –

The obscure moon lighting and obscure world
Of things that would never be quite expressed,
Where you yourself were never quite yourself
And did not want nor have to be,

Desiring the exhilarations of changes:

The motive for metaphor, shrinking from
The weight of primary noon,
The A B C of being,

The ruddy temper, the hammer
Of red and blue, the hard sound –
Steel against intimation –  the sharp flash,
The vital, arrogant, fatal, dominant X.

 

Wallace Stevens, January 4, 2021 

 

NEW YEAR ON DARTMOOR

 

This is newness: every little tawdry  
Obstacle glass-wrapped and peculiar,  
Glinting and clinking in a saint's falsetto. Only you  
Don't know what to make of the sudden slippiness,  
The blind, white, awful, inaccessible slant.  
There's no getting up it by the words you know.  
No getting up by elephant or wheel or shoe.  
We have only come to look. You are too new  
To want the world in a glass hat.

 

Sylvia Plath, January 1, 2021