Wednesday 30 December 2009

Thursday 24 December 2009

snow and shelter



Wenn der Schnee ans Fenster fällt,
Lang die Abendglocke läutet,
Vielen ist der Tisch bereitet
Und das Haus ist wohlbestellt.

Mancher auf der Wanderschaft
Kommt ans Tor auf dunklen Pfaden.
Golden blüht der Baum der Gnaden
Aus der Erde kühlem Saft.

Wanderer tritt still herein;
Schmerz versteinerte die Schwelle.
Da erglänzt in reiner Helle
Auf dem Tische Brot und Wein.

Georg Trakl
(Ein Winterabend)

When the snow falls against the window,

The evening bell rings long,

The table is prepared for many,

And the house is well cultivated.

Some in their wanderings

Come to the gate on dark paths.

The tree of grace blooms golden

From the earth's cool sap.

Wanderer, step silently inside;

Pain has petrified the threshold.

There in pure radiance

Bread and wine glow on the table.

(Winter Evening,

tr. by Jim Doss and Werner Schmitt)

Quand la neige tombe aux fenêtres,
Que longtemps sonne l'angélus,
La table est mise pour beaucoup
Et rien ne manque à la maison.

Tel qui s’en va pérégrinant,
D’obscurs sentiers le mènent là.
Son or en fleurs, l'arbre des grâces
Le prend au suc froid de la terre.

Le pérégrin tout doux pénètre ;
Ce seuil, des maux l'ont fait de pierre.
De clarté pure alors s'allument
Sur la table le pain, le vin.

Georg Trakl
(Un soir d'hiver, tr. Robert Rovini)

Tuesday 22 December 2009

for Gentle, my gentlest of leaves

And the enigma of the moon
And its ebbing, so very gentle,
Would touch my soul
Should you lay your hands upon my eyes.

You are the woman who passes
Like a leaf,

Your wake a blaze of autumn through the trees.

Fifth Canto,
Contemplating Death (La morte meditata)
by Giuseppe Ungaretti

tr. Michael Tweed

Saturday 19 December 2009

read me from Horace


It's winter-time in the Carpathians and the Euxine
and hoary is the Danube as during the great deluge
and my life's age drifts towards the north.
Read me from Horace time and time again
the poem about Thaliarch, with hearths
wherein woods weep - with old, old wines
turned into amber oil, in flasks.
And I will listen to you softly, ever so softly
while time comes calmly and goes on beyond.

Al. Andriţoiu
Read Me from Horace
tr. Dan Duţescu)



Look how the snow lies deep on glittering
Soracte. White woods groan and protestingly
Let fall their branch-loads. Bitter frost has
Paralysed rivers: the ice is solid.

Unfreeze the cold! Pile plenty of logs in the
Fireplace! And you, dear friend Thaliarcus, come,
Bring out the Sabine wine-jar four years
Old and be generous. Let the good gods

Take care of all else. Later, as soon as they've
Calmed down this contestation of winds upon
Churned seas, the old ash-trees can rest in
peace and the cypresses stand unshaken.

Try not to guess what lies in the future, but
As Fortune deals days enter them into your
Life's book as windfalls, credit items,
Gratefully. Now that you're young, and peevish

Grey hairs are still far distant, attend to the
Dance-floor, the heart's sweet business; for now is the
Right time for midnight assignations,
Whispers and murmurs in Rome's piazzas

And fields, and soft, low laughter that gives away
The girl who plays love's games in a hiding-place -
Off comes a ring coaxed down an arm or
Pulled from a faintly resisting finger.

Horace (To Thaliarchus)


Wednesday 16 December 2009

Friday 11 December 2009

the lost kiss

this is what i obsess with in photography. the Glimpse. for one moment, i am there. i witness life, unknown, unnoticed. a Glimpse into the life of others, majestically indifferent of my existence. (oh, i know, i betray myself when i say 'majestically', only because i resist to give in to the thought of pure and absolute indifference. something in me dreads this abyss, and wants to hang onto an adverb which, somehow, still conceals the illusion of a possible humanity. yes, i am still weak, yes, i still lie to myself).


a foreign city. i was there for one day and one day only. i saw a bus station in front of a park covered with snow. young lovers were there, so beautiful under their winter coats. they kissed. there was a longing tearing through me like a knife, for what? i don't know. for the fullness of that reality, of that life? what was happening in front of me, no, that happening itself, beyond any need of a subject, was revelation.

that picture, now. already during the scanning i saw that i had failed. i had been one second too early? or too late? what difference does it still make? and yet it makes everything different.


she still has her face hidden in his hand, perhaps shy, perhaps smiling, one moment before he lifts up her face to him. surely wondering how his mouth tastes, if they kiss for the first time.
she has her face already hidden in his hand, her mouth still half open with desire, her cheeks red. or pale as the snow which has ceased falling for a while, allowing this clarity of the air suddenly on the verge of breaking around me like glass. i look at him, somehow awkwardly erected, a little clumsy and fearful, yet a bit proud too. a bit sad? as if not knowing yet, not fully grasping what has happened to him. his eyes look over her head into some sort of distance that already tells of frailty and loss, of regret, of the hundred million angels of the future marching in, with their golden trumpets and drums, already erasing them, erasing me, erasing that moment, that kiss.

that kiss lives only in me now. no photograph can return it to the flow of time. yet, i tell myself, even if i know it is silly and absurd, if there were to be some day a tribunal of time, or history, and if the question were to be asked, this question precisely, which could save mankind, the question about this kiss, i could still stand up, myself alone, testify to its revelation, advocating redemption. i would do that, even holding this mocking photograph in my hands, this failed photograph, even then i would have to right to defend this truth, myself alone in the world, because the energy of that moment, of the Glimpse, when i took the picture, unknown, unnoticed, still lives in me now. and i could say: i am thus. i am thus, forever.

this miracle, i don't understand it. to be the depository of such sacred truth, how is it possible that i still dare to move through my life, thoughtlessly, instead of fearing that each moment i might break into pieces and lose it. what would still remain, then. perhaps the two have long forgotten this kiss themselves. perhaps they are together right this moment, making love, that kiss one among countless others, not even special, not even that good… maybe that was their last kiss and they never saw each other again after that day… maybe she lives with someone else in a little house just around the corner from that bus stop, while he has travelled to Prague and is wandering tonight through strange little streets in an unfamiliar part of town, having lost his way, his footsteps echoing on the sidewalk as he looks for a lighted café and someone who can offer conversation, though he knows he won’t find anyone, it is too late, this part of the city is too dark…
and then the same absent look comes back into his eyes, and once again he startles, not knowing what has happened to him, and how the hundred million angels of the future are marching in, with their golden trumpets and drums, already erasing him, erasing that moment, that already unrecognizable memory of his own life, which suddenly seems not his any longer.


i imagine stories. countless stories. i hunger for these stories, as i hungered for the Glimpse, back then, when i failed at taking that picture. one can say there is something indecent in this hunger for something which doesn't belong to me and doesn't need my presence. i know that. why should i care. not everybody who thrives to know like this is an artist, but for sure every artist knows this hunger.

the poet says:

I wonder if I will pass him later,
weeping in the parking lot,
staring at the sky,
tears glittering in the sun.
You would look away,
but I want to know everything.

(James Owens)

yet this type of knowing, which is everything art builds upon, is also the sign of our defeat. the poet knows this also:

Knowledge is the last resort of nostalgia. It emerges in poetry after defeat and might confirm our misfortune, but its ambiguity – its fallacious promise – lies in maintaining our awareness of the situation in which we were defeated, and even of its future, from which we expected so much and which has vanished

(Yves Bonnefoy)

this failed photograph i hold in my hands is at once the sign of my victory and my defeat.

i know this, and it hurts to know.


Thursday 3 December 2009

through the waters of the blind

they say that history repeats itself:
what should we do
with the old communist buildings
which we have grown to call


and if we had wanted to burn
them down in the rage
of our late autumn
and if we had wished for
the knife of day
to cut through them
like a seed tearing
through the flesh of time...

yet we stood there, weary
not even holding hands
and no one from the angelic orders
forced our mouths to open
and our flowers to turn silent
against the sun
we who got drunk on waiting
that darkened within us like wine
we who couldn't even remember
why our limbs were numb
and why we cried for words
like ripples through
the waters of the blind

yet we stood there, bewildered,
and failing to notice
that our mirrors, stubbornly
buried in the wormwood of memory
had started to outgrow
the shabby contours of living
that a forest had begun to move
towards the barren centre of our sleep
that we ourselves had come to hang
like giant globes of light
from within the dead body of time.