Blesok no. 51, November-December, 2006
Poetry


from “Mister Today”
Translated by: Ana Jelnikar

Iztok Osojnik



A Bird


Traveling, Mister Today watches the clouds.
While literature is being eaten by ants,
he springs, springing for the sky,
because something human has stirred in him.
On his bones, flayed skin hangs in a bird-like manner.
Between his ribs a draught whirls,
and from his left ear an apricot-lily sprouts forth.
A strange runner-bird, you could say,
and be absolutely right.
Mister Today is a strange bird.




Manifesto of Love


This is what Mister Today has scribbled on a piece of paper:
Everything I ever did is nothing
(compared to my ignorance
or everything I never did).
The universe is big, but my weight
on a pavement after the rain
amounts to almost nothing.
I loved poetry, but this couldn’t prevent
the deaths of my dearest nor my own.
I will never get any further.




A Desolate One


Man sets out for the desert. He doesn’t
get far. But the fact he’s managed to get away from town
to moist firewood and instant soups sprinkled
with powdered parsley
says a lot about life and death.
Universe is One. Before birth and after death.
How is the mind supposed to grasp this
in the sense of a waterfall which falls and in falling grasps
the falling of the waterfall which falls?
The wise Chinese Butterfly Dzu scratches his plait.
I think that wisdom, before setting out
on a planetary tour, waits for the master to die.
I’ve always wanted to know how these masters got food
and an apartment.
Then again, I do know how
(it is to drink in one gulp the outer and the inner universe).




Enough Hiding


It’s time to show my cards.
I know you didn’t know
I am not Osojnik but Master Greenhead.
Right now I am disclosing secret wisdom,
without notes and without words.
Man is a lake reflecting the moon.
The moon in the sky is not what is real
but the water reflecting the moon.
If you’ve got stomach cramps, this is living proof
that you are Buddha.
One of my teachers is a hole in the blue sky.
Another is a yellow walnut tree nestling the sun
in the square meter of a green window.
I am glad nobody is bugging me with stupid questions
(myself excluded, sadly).




Gospel According to Plotinus


Mister Today, hmm, five sentences,
what do you say?
Pure genius, essence of the quotidian,
man is overpowered by the green of parsley.
And One. Pre-existing.
The all-encompassing One.




A Comparative One


Mister Today is closely reading an academic literary essay
(last week they threatened a few times
to fire him) – well, this is gaining
epic dimensions.
What’s with the reader now?
Fire and spirit
and the identity effect,
as a result of which a bird’s singing
early in the morning one autumn day
can also make good October poetry.




Cantata after Plotinus


On his way to Bratislava
Mister Today stops in Velenje.
My world is split in two, he says:
into what is and what is not.
What is (the universe) is here in its entirety.
And the apophatics are made happy too:
what does not exist, is absent here also.




Self-inflicted Modesty


Mister Today, a conservative guy.
A one-time rock and disco king,
but never one of them
The best dancer, yet an alien,
now in the underground of Bratislava,
his usual overly talkative self,
but never one of them,
and above all an alien on his own planet,
a guest in the house of Being,
one who takes freedom upon himself and goes off
with it estranged in his content solitude.
Of course it is possible to go also deeper.
Into where one’s rising modesty sinks.




There is No Silence


Mister Today, this pathetic creature, knew:
today it is you who eats from my soul
and from my barking heart.
The flame of my spirit is high and generous.
My genius is the light in the hub of the universe,
but my share in it is the contribution of vermin.
I am nothing and light is everything.
The green life of plants reaches
into the last corner of serene joy,
which is a small gift I give you.
I rest in peace in the gravest depths of absent silence.

        Bratislava, 25th Oct. 1999




Plotinus kiss


Let’s praise my spirit!
scribbled Mister Today into a notebook on his knees
with a sharpened pencil on the day of St Ožbolt.
Deep inside man there is an enormous abyss
of nothingness and parsley.
Your gaze is green-blue
and Bratislava is green-blue too.
I uncorked the bottle
and there was a boy walking his dog in the rain.




Raven


Today a raven reigns in my heart.
Amid the constellations of Leo and Sagittarius
a dark green metal of wings and eyes
flashes over Bratislava.
At her knees slithers a potent river boa,
and in the old town Napoleon’s cannon-ball waits
for the plaster to dry and fall
before the feet of the one with a raven in his heart.
Eat and drink! says Mister Today,
because the sky is bottomless
and death too is less than a shadow for the one
who is no more.




Hölderlin’s Eagles


I admire the poet who shut at the top of the tower above the Neckar
summons the Persian birds of death and eternal life
to measure with a swish of their wings the weight of current affairs.
The river beneath slides silently between the banks of red granite,
and Mister Today observes the juicy whiteness of paper on his knees.
Languages have enmeshed,
but the words still feed the imperishable flame of the spirit.
Sadness is something blue
and anxiety something grey,
but now green rules the day
of the disinterested daydreaming,
and a black cosmic tower rises in a broken soul.




Spirit Flame


Eat me up, the spirit flame!
(Mister Today was in his element.)
The Tennessee River devoured my veins
and the empire of moonlight came to reign.
Bite the silver thread
on which my soul hangs
like a grape!
Open up, you black wells!
The spirit flame is scorching my ears,
says Mister Today.
You’ve woken up?
I slept and groaned in my dreams,
and my stomach went on rising.
Mister Today ponders:
Swallow my groaning!
Also:
spirit fire is enough.




Firewater


A land of fire in my mouth.
I have torn off your arm
and shoved it into the moonlight.
What do you want?
Did you say what do I want?
Nettles and other worthless greenery
grew there,
so I scooped from the dark-green metal
and looked out for today’s serving of the stars,
explained the flame lover Mister Today.
I was burnt by my very own blood.
Thursday got off to an excellent start.




Cosmopolitan Ode


I love the rustle of silver
against the inside of bones.
An Indian shields his eyes
and scans the empire of rose-pink sand
with an endless gaze.
Something drowned in him
and extinguished the lights of music.
Now he sings sad ballads to the sky.
Mister Today has knocked out his little pipe,
he fights the waves
of the blazing spirit,
and this is the black gelding
we will keep on training.




A Nautical One


I approach you, merry and moonstruck,
I eat amid the nettles,
I drink the green nothing of a tree in the garden,
I walk over you
and my mouth celebrates you
while enjoying earthly bites
(asphalt pavements in town,
a sojourn in a café,
a lecture at the institute of science,
an eye of a bird
or the wild drone of traffic).
Mister Today, gray-haired and youthful,
puts the lid on his fountain pen, closes the notebook,
and walks leisurely into goading stress.




A Radio One


Mister Today on the radio.
The velvet precision of Ms Dr. of literary studies.
Wise answers are spat out.
Mister Today has a headache.
October sky, birches are golden and white.
Who is in charge of all this?




Happy Carpet


I seek a poem that has vanished
in the motorcar rattle somewhere between Vienna and Graz.
It consisted of two birches,
the palace of the noble Esterhazy
and the unclear statement “I have risen”.
The power of eavesdropping was halved,
a diffusion of the nettles’ snow-whiteness
and an orange submergence in an image,
yet to come.
Enough to make the mouth water,
and the act of walking the border thus tottered between words
and vacant space –
Mister Today is in a painting mood,
but drawing a ladybird on a baseball cap will not be easy.
(I think it all happened in that street, said Mister Today.
But what it was, he simply cannot say).




Press Conference


Mister Today has wandered into a press conference.
They were launching selected poems of two world poets,
one big and one not so big.
(the latter was being presented by someone
who only a short while ago spoke of him derisively
but was now bending over backwards to praise him
in half-broken Slovenian).
This is how it ends, he thought.
This is the meaning of poetry. To be launched
in a bookshop in a provincial town.
On a grey autumn day,
waiting for a coffee
to be served
following the empty bullshit.




Shadow


Before my soul
sinks into nothing
and my body
turns to smoke in a crematory,
I have many things to learn,
Mister Today muttered to himself.
For example, how I won’t care
if I don’t amount to anything,
and how a sudden gust of wind
that blows into my face
and ruffles my hair
is everything one needs
to be in a good mood.
How everything else is a shadow
that veils the trembling of the soul.




Monday’s Overture


An open sky in me
as I stride along the avenue of chestnuts
to that tiresome office
of the exceedingly democratic and cosmopolitan writer’s union
(Mister Today is feeling a little bitter).
My soul is content
in the solitary autumn street
along which the wind sweeps the fallen leaves.
Hey, sun’s wild horses
galloping across November’s mist!
A strayed town raven,
bite the strap of shadow that is shed from me!
A shadowless person – I think that would do it.




A Famous Person’s Translation


Mister Today, an inferior poet
from Anatolia, put down his book
and said:
You are lucky, having no prior
contact with Cavafys’s poetry
(the same can be said of Ashbery’s),
since on the basis of these translations,
you will never know what,
poor fellows, you are missing.




Mister Today, a Doctor from Ossetia


No one is interested in who we are.
Or who you are.
And even less in who I am.
A general practitioner in the hill country
who has just saved
a pretty girl’s life.
After many years she gave birth to a son,
who can now read
what I fantasized about in November of 1999.




The Last One to Go


Mister Today, somebody you
have surely grown sick and tired of,
looked in the sky and said:
True my world is big as the universe
above my village,
but, alas, the village itself is a good deal
smaller.




Toy Blocks


In the silence of a vacant room
I felt manliness surge
in me and thrust its thirsty
mouth into mute air.

Mister Today reflected and reflected,
losing himself in hazy thoughts,
and again he stumbled upon a narrow trail of smoke,
dismantling into chunks of life
and pieces of subtle noise,
which intermingled disorderly
like toy blocks.




Delicious Whiteness of Corn


In the shudder of a mouth, I recognized the end of the motorway,
along which Mister Today and I used to take our walks.
But we should not forget Vienna,
since at the back of Kärtnerstrasse there is a chair in a pub,
and on that chair a pair of tired eyes,
the sky almost vertical
or horizontally out of reach.
Not everything is in language.
Like the tractor Ferguson, red and spattered with mud,
which came from the opposite direction
and at once turned into a metal wreck,
and belongs to the same world as Mount Athos:
even though the eyes are up in the sky,
that which works in inaccessible ways
is spilled between the ears.
An empty wine bottle tells you almost everything.




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