Tomaž Šalamun

Translated from the Slovenian by Brian Henry

Acqua Alta

You have bright perforated buttons 

in your nose so you can breathe like a fountain. 

Unidentified species of birds crackle, 

dogs bark in the valley. Legs and flanks 


white, mouth red. You cannot see 

skin beneath the surface. The world ate 

the bomb. It fell in love with white, brittle 

sugar. It broke into the pantry. 


Lifted the door off its hinges. 

The blood of birds’ necks pecks 

at your wrists. The stone 


of wisdom is still warm and damp. 

You lie down. You sleep. A flower trembles. 

Monsoons are flowing into silk.




Tomaž Šalamun (1941-2014) published more than 55 books of poetry in his native Slovenian. Translated into over 25 languages, his poetry received numerous awards, including the Jenko Prize, the Prešeren Prize, the European Prize for Poetry, and the Mladost Prize. He served for several years as the Cultural Attaché for the Slovenian Embassy in New York, and he held visiting professorships at various universities in the U.S.




Brian Henry is the author of eleven books of poetry, most recently Permanent State. He has translated Tomaž Šalamun’s Woods and Chalices, Aleš Debeljak’s Smugglers, and five books by Aleš Šteger. His work has received numerous honors, including two NEA fellowships, the Alice Fay di Castagnola Award, a Howard Foundation fellowship, and the Best Translated Book Award. He is editing and translating a volume of Selected Poems by Šalamun.