Saturday, September 23, 2006

Panta Rhei*

A friend mailed and said, "There is an occasional nip in the night air that reminds us that summer is over. Am waiting for the fall colors..."

So in the month of last possibilities, as we hang on the cusp of what has gone and what is to come, here is Miroslav Holub:


And it is all over.

No more sweetpeas,
no more wide-eyed bunnies
dropping from the sky.

Onlya reddish boniness
under the sun of hoarfrost,
a thievish fog,
an insipid solution of love,
and crowing.

But next year
larches will try
to make the land full of larches again
and larks will try
to make the land full of larks.

And thrushes will try
to make all the trees sing,
and goldfinches will try
to make all the grass golden,

and burying beetles
with their creaky love will try
to make all the corpses
rise from the dead,


(Translated by Stuart Friebert and Dana Habova)



Seven cities contend to have harboured his cradle:
Smyrna, Chios, Kollophon,
Ithaké, Pylos, Argos,
Like a lamb he strolls

through marine pastures,
unseen, unburied,
unexcavated, casting no
biographical shadow.
Did he never have trouble with the authorities?

Did he never get drunk? Was he never bugged,
not even when singing?
Did he never love fox terriers, cats,
or young boys?
How much better the Iliad would be

if Agamemnon could be proved to bear
his features or if Helen's biology
reflected contemporary facts.
How much better the Odyssey would be

if he had two heads,
one leg,
or shared one woman
with his publisher.
Somehow he neglected all that

in his blindness.
And thus he towers
in literary history
as a cautionary example
of an author so unsuccessful
that maybe he didn't exist at all.

Translated by Ewald Osers from Poems: Before & After by Miroslav Holub, published by Bloodaxe.

*Panta Rhei: All things flow. See Heraclitus.

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