Translated from the Slovenian by Brian Henry
Waterfalls spilled from the skin.
But look, the day before you died,
he called me. From a lace mouth,
a barbarian with smooth, velvety eyes.
Your smile a vase, you smoked. Does a log
snap? Does it twist? I stumbled around
the gate of Korčula. The story glistens.
The whale’s neck snapped. I’m like a harpoon.
Like a harpoon. I can no longer go out.
A lump of sugar on a shoulder, in a sack.
Your smile falls asleep, it’s sleeping.
Do you flick twigs from your lashes and spin
in the air? There’s manna between my fingers.
You smell of Provence. Of Rue de France.
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.