Blesok no. 29, November-December, 2002

The Scent of Tea
Translated by: Ana Jelnikar

Primož Čučnik

The Scent of Tea

My friend is an existentialist. He collects china
and Japanese teapots. You get the best cup of tea at his place.
Steeped to perfection. It may not be a true ceremony
but in our drinking, when we sit around the table,
there is definitely something aesthetic. I like the scene
when we keep silent and sip the scent of tea.
All of us are existentialists. First we laugh, only then
do we say a good joke. The two of us also read Šalamun.
Once we spent the whole summer saying: Jonah are you
a fish? I am a fish. Then we were all on the island Hvar.
I have yet another friend who is a Buddhist. We were standing
on the border between philosophy and theology. We said: ouch, it’s
sharp. You can cut yourself here. Perhaps he will read the Tibetan secret
tantras and then we can all have a laugh together on Shoemakers’ Bridge.
Another time we joked about nothingness, how horribly cold it is
for our homes. He said: I am sated with wisdom. From now on
I shall take only with a teaspoon. It will lead us all astray.
Branko sent me a sacred cow from Nepal.
He should’ve come back by now, but he is a wanderer.
Two of my friends are musicians. One writes to me from the North
though he carries an Eastern name. Lao Zi is a legend.
The other is a bass player. He may speak to Peacock one day.
On Tales of Another footprints are white. Jarrett is talking to
angels. Spirits too, if you will. When we discuss music we never
know where it comes from and where it goes. But for sure it is not in the
notes. This much we agree on. And I know from personal experience.
Another friend of mine works in printing. The two of us ride bicycles together.
Sometimes we don’t speak at all. Perhaps he doesn’t know when I am decent.
That I uncover myself when I am hot. Because I was afraid that he’d fall
I gave him The Climbing Skills. A book from 1950.

Let’s all go to Medvode once for some tea to say a thing or two
about our destiny. Something fine binds us. Grom said
a good piece is like a stick of gum that stretches and spreads
to all sides but doesn’t snap. It seems to be the same with us.
We are swinging on rubber, careful not to be too rough.
When it is hot we wait for it to cool. We blow too,
and our wind makes ripples on the edges of china.
Something fine binds us. The important thing is that it bursts
but doesn’t snap.


     … you can’t plan on the heart, but …
               Frank O’Hara

*  *  *

I take out and turn the key in Gosposka Street, I'd leaned
my bike beside the door and entered, seizing the little key
I check the box and there, sitting among a bunch of envelopes
is Your shining heart, just in time for the ringing phone,
but all the same what's been sent shouldn't be published, and a few things
need posting, others can stay in the bookshop,
but at noon I'll be in the Gallery, the scent of black coffee,
a grain of sugar for bitter days, clean shaven and brushed
hurrying by, running after honours, sure,
there's no end to elbowing, neither at work nor in politics.
I glance at the watch, might still catch Podlogar
with lunch vouchers, though today I'll only have half a helping,
after all I've been sated with all the hearts shining in the letter box,
on pavement and wedged in the cracks of cobbled streets,
I may not have found the key to Your breasts (and your heart
lost there), but I'll venture something crazy
nevertheless: to catch a moment in the crowd, a girl's
eyes, a woman's juice, or should I flip, heads or tails
to make do until tomorrow when again I'll turn
the key and perhaps find the secret equation
to our irresistible attraction, and a new heart
will become the object of the modern world's frenzy – here,
amid the seeming wellbeing of the happy,
wrapping up their former, oh, fought and ended battles,
the heartbeat is like an almost imperceptible embrace that promises
not to unlock itself even on the other side of the door.

To Edvard Kocbek

I cannot say when it is you learn of the way
of destiny, the ecstatic chiming
in the belfry of time, oozing, with pleas left
unheeded; but when it does happen,
not a wordplay will sate you. You are forever
starting anew. All you do is stammer, nothing else.

I turn to the reflection on the water surface
and see myself who hasn't as yet said anything.
It is neither wartime nor peacetime.
On the crests of waves your nodding
wings are a foam, fighting despair and
your prayer, fiercer than silence, falls heavily
time and again. We all have forgotten you.

But you, magician, have not ceased to be,
you who broke your stick in two and threw it
into the abyss, wherein madmen descend to fetch it.
Now they have four ends to catch up with and not two.

And I? Stammering, I call out to the safe clear corner of the sky.
Peace in the fields and a solemn breeze over the woods.
Friendship, love, frozen furrows of years.
I turn to the earth regained,
where plots have tulips and wild roses growing,
and tree bark is soothed, for there was draught.

And where rivers greet the sea with a grand gesture.
Where night bids the day and ushers it into its stately home.
Where earth blushes again and those closest to you
speak clearly in a trusting tone. We can make it, after all.
Thus delivered to our childhood, we rock the world.

There are huge waves. Silence is washed up onto the shore.
And look! Bigger are still to come. Not an hour passes
without a plea for mercy, a plea for the annunciation.
Love is greater than hate. Good mightier than evil.
Hope more persistent than solitude and despair.

You returned to the unutterable.
I shall go on saying to the last:
Earth, Horror, the Sky.

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