Tomaž Šalamun

Leaky Barrel

You open the suitcase: the soil, Lidia and 
the Turks' tombs. If you turn it round 
and the brown falls out,

the metal's silver flashes, corners are
paneled with iron patches, the suitcase
continues to open and shut. Do you want 

to change the soil? To wash it with 
the strong jet of water, to level
its walls, to put the angles

in the precise form of ninety degrees?
Before it was bent backwards. Books were kept        
lifted, whirled from plains. 

When you empty it and put it upright
at the width of the wardrobe, would you put
francs in it? The birds wake up,

they don't burn. They give signs long before 
light. The moon is devoured by round 
darkness that ousts its belly and chest, 

it holds out only as a waning moon 
and if it can be eroded from the inside, 
can the darkness not push it out of orbit? 

Why is the travel so slow it's invisible?  
Pinned into immovability. Fastened into 
soundless crackling. Into the waving 

of the lusterless sea. Into the shoving aside
and the nearing water towers which don't spill, 
because the pernicious Faeton's courage is no more.

   Translated from the Slovenian by Thomas Kane and the author

Three Flies

Three flies - the sun wakes them
on the white brightened wall - jump like 
the hands of the girl, wrapping up a bunch of
flowers. They remind me of 
the knife throwers' hands, playing with five of them 
in the air. Is the quantity limited?
Grab, don't think. Weigh on me.       
I'll escape you like water yet and 
press you like ice if you sizzle too much.
Look at the shades on the white wall.
Three trees have the new
cedar scion. From the angle of
the cube. And if you watch more closely, 
from the gutter spout.

   Translated from the Slovenian by Thomas Kane and the author

To Shave, To Stop, To Go On

I dreamt I made such a dense tree it would 
stop the technics. God's eye will come through 
up to the nib of the head. Even the highest leaf 

(the meek breeds are less worn out than oysters,
all three of the Normandie's chimneys broke off 
like dry sugar)  will start to drink the little god and
make him disgusting. Scots will spread out their kilts,
already there in the heights where Mariusz wants 
to climb. He tells us in the upper stratas of trees

along the Amazon there are still many beetles
that he will name after himself. We already had 
everyone drink and get drunk on the white pinery.

White frost breaking the sheet of glass.
The dislexic Swedish King who can get tripped up
in the ritual. Je dîne avec le roi, mais je pense à toi. But now
we're in Brasil, where sherpas build their tents. Are the 
wise human eyes of the oldest, eating pasta (mothers 
and wives cook for them, simply as in Corleone) 

here too? A sherpa is polishing my cooker. 
To be precise, I've longed to buy a set for shining 
shoes in Skopje on the way to Greece. I'd sit 

and smoke, and here and there I'd shine
a shoe. I believe in the silk checks and pauvreté.
But by the highest pine tree along the Amazon

we just started to build a table, just started to lay
the cloth, we're drawing beetles into small bowls
to bathe them. Can God's eye be stuck in the dense

pinery? Isn't the fact that you first form the trunk,
that you support its hips with piles of wood 
(they don't burn, they give up when you slide

into the sea, the ribbon hung with a cluster of 
Moët-Chandons waving behind a boat, having white
stains at their flanks) et après? In Saint-Nazaire

even dolmens and menhirs are built more firmly.
Who do you try to confuse with all these floors?
With the intersections of berths? With stewards as

puppets? With cigars still lying there if the captain
wants to smoke? Où fumer où écrire. But what
happens to Mariusz, is he unpacked already? Did he

find something for his pouch? Did he correct me well?
Down there, lower on, we know what the jungle is like.
In the pitch, dark rabbits come to drink. Arthur

shows his torso. And for whom does the happiness
drip from his nose onto all dwellers below
sycamores? It's all right. Cups should be drunk,

propelers should spin round and the first
leaf on the highest tree should look like the hair
of the bald one. Let's everything glimmer.

 Translated from the Slovenian by Joshua Beckman and the author

Two Melons

To the lifting of snakes only red perpetrators
reacted. The blown through bingo parlor, the blown through 
lake around the rose and the gardener. The stage freight is

full of softeners. The door is betrayed. The spear,         
unprepared for killing father between the twelfth and 
fourteenth centuries, with teeth. The house is pulled down.

Indians are pancakes massaged into the rose. Froth bends
felt. Let's say the mouse walks toward us in the field.
Here and there she still accepts those made of corn. All the others

swim away like balloons in the heart of the ocean. Only 
ceramics, still bothering the bud. Fungi and little old women                  
produce their own apex. Windows are puttied. From 

where then these pouring buckets of God and love? Silence, 
cracking in the ears and bestowing the nest?
Pray join us to drown the lead line.

Stag beetles in the gutters. Pray for the magnanimous
power of tree trunks. Hangmen again put on their 
clothes. To the dust in the archives the iron bloom cracks.

	 Translated from the Slovenian by Thomas Kane and the author
Tomaž Šalamun has had books translated into most of the European languages. He lives in Ljubljana and occasionally teaches in the USA. His recent books translated into English are The Book For My Brother (Harcourt, 2006), Row (ARC Publications, 2006) and Woods and Chalices (Harcourt, 2008).