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Four poems

Garibaldy Square

Two ninety-year-old buildings
rest their elbows on the plastic tables placed
outside the cafe downstairs. From the windows
and garrets their last make up is streaming —
moisture the color of coal. The plaster
crumbles like face powder, bought from the same square long ago,
to celebrate their first revolution.

Back then
one of them would wear a silk skirt and a sour cherry coat,
and the other one — her husband’s
tailored suits, English fabrics, specially
imported for the main shareholder of the future
railway line. I forget
if they shared a lover, the mistress
their husbands had in common, the postwar
bread and milk rations or something else, but as the years went by
they stayed together, leaning over
their coffee cups and over the square.

And as they grow deafer,
blinder to the world, only the tram
brings them tremors and thrills. So
a large ginger dog, a sign of winter
and death, runs along the tracks and announces that
the silent streetcar is approaching.
And the two huddle closer
together, close their eyes —
to hear better, tense their joints
and step on the last stair.

But from there the square looks so lovely,
it seems worth it to keep living, to carry on
for just another day.


Victoria Inn

a third-class hotel on belgrave road
from a gramophone’s horn queen victoria rises
in her first communion dress

blurred by the mirror on the wall
the receptionist lowers her eyes
cashmere-blue under a cool blue light
then she gives a skipping rope to victoria
and reaches for the key to our room

night after night for the last year
£38 for the same thing
a view of the backyard
expensive moans from the rooms above
muesli and plum jam for breakfast
a change of sheets in the morning
but the same blood on the sheets the same nails

if one day we happen to come back at noon
we will find victoria
looking old in her negligee
draped on the sofa listening
to the gramophone music that rises
this time in tubercular phrases wheezing from
the same horn

if this happens you close my eyes
take me carefully down the stairs to our room
lay me on the cold double bed
and kiss my hands
these purple wrists that someone once bound
perhaps with a skipping rope

The Small Rembrandt

In the mirror
an old
long neglected
charcoal-burning stove
and a sink to the right.

On the grimy black hotplate
three potatoes
two big and one smaller.

It was many years
before the tap ran
with hot water.

My mother’s hands turn
crimson crimson
and clean

among the chill of greasy dishes.


Vinea Mea Electa

he was too young
for my thirtysomething years

behind the high walls
I searched for him in the yard
but all I saw was his skin settling
and drying
untouched by the sun

spiders bees and mayflies
ritually spilled their secretions on it
the fig-tree shed deep indecent
and the low-lying creepers choked
the immaculate blossoms
of his stained-glass belly

I told his mother I wanted him

but she said
he was too young
for the wine I was fermenting
among the damp dusty shameful


The three poems above are translated by William Herbert, Linda France, Andy Croft, and Mark Robinson.
Translated By Maria Vassileva