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ISSN 1409-6900 | UDK 82+7     Blesok no. 18 | volume IV | January, 2001



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SLOVOKULT.DE
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                     Peer-reviewed journal
Blesok no. 18January, 2001
Poetry

Selected poetry from some of the participants at the poetry festival “Vilenica 2000”

Translated by: Peteris Cedrins


/3
p. 1
Janis Elsbergs

Morning Coffee
***
***

_______________________________________________________________________

Morning Coffee

”Have some coffee, man, a mean cup of coffee” -
this is what I say to spur myself on – “sip it hot, damn hot
with a slice of lemon, bitter and so hot it scalds your throat,
so that it hurts” – test your knife in the morning,
everyone ought to test their knives in the morning -
there is no other way to the lemon’s heart. A nice knife
is sharp, a sharp knife is nice, you need to know how to wield a knife
so that it hurts – what stays in mind is always the cut, open
wounds and horizons, being scared of the dark, or the acute
fear of being alone – but I sit and write and let no one near me,
for I was everywhere with everyone and then returned
to my own country, city, street, to my room and in its corner,
cowering in anger in the lamplight to write, I write…

It must be my nature never to lose my mind unless
drunk out of my mind. In love and in poetry it is everywhere
immanent, mind – keen of eye and with ears that hear
not only in space but forward through time and especially,
but especially, backwards. I’m coming home, my meandering
footprint in the newly fallen snow on the sidewalk behind me,
and between the billboards of a bus stop a woman is sitting
slumped against a yellow advertisement, her legs extended
and her head hung low to hide her face from the world.
I don’t look but see her regardless, and go.
But wait – what if that was my beloved, there?
No, that’s insane – for one thing, I know it’s not possible
and for another, women who are loved don’t sit like that,
they read newspapers, women who are loved read newspapers
about how many drunks have frozen to death in the street
this week and their hearts hurt, like mine.
I keep going, I don’t know how many women there are
in Latvia who are loved, how many city dwellers or women
from the country, how many are Latvians or Russians or Jews.
Such things are thoroughly analysed and later reported
in the daily newspaper “The Day”, or in the weekly “Night”.
I keep going, I don’t know, I only hope that I do not love,
have not loved and will never love this woman leaning against
a billboard
designed for a public relations company by the artist
Andrejs Amejkovics,
with whom I shared a bench, eighteen years ago, back in first grade.
I keep going because I’m too afraid to turn back, afraid
that the woman would misunderstand were I to offer a hand,
scared she would summon her last reserves of strength to aim
a deadly wad of toxic spit straight into my eye. That, even memory
might not endure.

So I go home. I know an awful lot about life
but still will not submit to fate. It’s stupid.
Will I really go riding around again, taking buses and trying
to melt and scrape and scratch the flowers of frost from the windows
to see
how much further my stop might be, or whether there’s anything new
in the city,
or whether I might not glimpse some accidental miracle reflected in the glass,
or at least make certain I haven’t missed my stop and reached the end of the line?
damn it, have a really – but perhaps it’s still possible – still possible
to make it…
To leave at least a tiny trace, if only to paste a piece of gum
beneath the seat or carve some potent curse into the paint…
My palms are wet dead ice-blossoms.
This bus will stop,
and if I don’t get home I’ll at least be somewhere.
Life’s so simple, the coffee’s cold, I’m hungry.
I have food to eat. I eat it. Then I’m not hungry anymore.
Lovely.

Solitary, I’m surrounded by the secure borders of my apartment,
my city, my state. My thoughts and memories of love,
eyes, benches, fear and buses are also surrounded, by a solid skull.
So I finally smile.
So a ray of sun comes to cut my smile
wider,
wider,
wider.






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