Debeljak Aleš:
Bosnian Elegy

for Miljenko Jergovič

Sing, young poet, touch my inflamed skin, tanned by lengthy treks

through trackless hills to the world’s end. Don’t give up now,

though the gunners’ feverish lenses stare at damp stains on the facades

of libraries and palaces that constantly call memories of a cruel century to mind.


Simply list what’s left: flocks of swallows twittering

beneath bygone arches and campaniles, the eternal wisdom of a French novel

we read in bomb shelters, the downy blond fuzz on the earlobes

of babes that disappears so suddenly, dull thuds from Pannonia’s plains.


The smell of gunpowder irritates human lungs. We have not crossed the threshold.

So speak now when deep pools of never consecrated water

make waves. Rings glow in the depths. Things past are joyous.


Believe me, truly: I am ready, sing to me for the last time

of love’s tempests, of the mysteries of women’s shadows, and

marble stairs. Sing, as you sang before you turned gray!

Translated by Andrew Wachtel