Jeff Friedmans translations (with Dzvinia Orlowsky) of Mieczysław Jastrun in this issue.
Jeff Friedman's website
If you want to know the future,
ask a broker. They glow with prophecy
like radioactive birds.
When they meet each other on the street,
they radiate the odor of wealth,
hugging like refugees who have just found
someone from their extinct village.
Money travels fast, so does bad news from brokers.
They steep themselves in oil, pipeline it to sealed tanks
and let it sit as they wait for the markets to crash
and the freeze to begin. When they go home
there are no homes, only a palace or two
with electric gates and motion sensors that detect
even the slightest movement of the poor.
Brokers hum like bats emerging
at dusk, zinging through air
to snag their bloody bonuses. Numbers roll,
heads fly. Confetti rains over suits
as the skies light up with bombs and missiles
and countries disappear from screens.
Brokers win wars, empty
graves so they can fill them again.
They Fedex their packages of ash
to the bereaved and ask for a signature.
Their vaults grow larger than the equator.
When you arrived, we blasted salvos in your honor,
hung tapestries from terraces and rooftops.
Our children gave you bouquets of wildflowers.
We celebrated your body and its many stinks.
We celebrated your sisters as saints, though they acted crudely.
We learned your language with all its paradoxes
and ironies, its contradictions. We combed
the words for your intention, for the truth.
Though we gave you everything we had,
you always found what was missing.
Though you claimed you wanted peace,
you went to war with the slightest provocation.
You emptied our houses as if they were bags of groceries.
No matter how much you destroyed,
now matter how much loss you inflicted,
you claimed the rights of the victim
and shed your tears and cried for revenge.
Theres no profit in regret,
a friend once told me,
a beautiful brunette recalling
the not so pretty details
of her numerous affairs.
But what is regret:
a long shadow falling on a sunny day?
a reflection in water?
smoke rising from all the
chimneys of the past?
a room whose objects keep changing?
a city empty except for you?
a scene in the mind
that plays out with infinite variations
but always ends the same?
Regret lives in the heat of the moon
the dark pages of the sun,
among the song of the crickets,
the cries of the cicadas
as they fling themselves toward the sky.
Regret lives in the open hand
reaching out for nothing
it can touch, in the blue
jar of air, in the flicker of light
that disappears before you can see
what youve come this far to see.
But the fox trotting through the ravine
in the early morning sun
even though the crows
are there to remind him of his murders
and to cash in on the remains.
The worlds beautiful with love,
so they say. A dog loves
his masters feet, licking them
until the master puts on
a pair of wool sox; the master
loves the wool sox and his pipe
and the cherry smoke rising
from the pipe, and the cherry smoke
loves its own scent and loves
dust, feathers, shed skin,
gloves of air and the pretty
wind that sings to it while
lovers twist a white sheet
in love with how they love
touching each other until they plunge
into the shuddering sea surrounded
by tiny sea creatures grazing their legs,
and monarchs stream over waves
of breath, returning from South America
as the lovers bodies glisten
like streaks of fat sizzling in oil,
and their story multiplies for the listener
who waits for the ending
that will unveil the mystery, the truth,
blue flame eating the orange sky,
as the dog now bites the fur
from his legs and the lovers
float toward some conclusion
that neither will love, as the war
explodes on the horizon,
the world shimmering with
the beauty of love.