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Klāvs Elsbergs

Klāvs Elsbergs


from Book I (1987-1997): from against the wall and In Tender Land


I hurry along the grey highway
as if running away from someone

behind the car dreadful flaps
of skin pulled over eyes

whom could I have skinned
a beast or a human being

what shall I do now
whom shall I tell whom

we of course all are human
everything can happen in life

from whence this horror
where did this skin come from

what shall I do now
how shall I stop

how shall I get this skin off
how shall I destroy myself


now and then I remember the best days
silently and sadly the open window shuts
and by a shore where serious corpuses reach upward
floats a raft fashioned of reeds of memory
by garbage dumps smelling of discarded flowers
pain covered with a newspaper in lonely decay

I am that river where the soul thoughtfully sails
a river sleeplessly flows as slowly as a sigh

all the best to my unreachable shore
all the best I don't want to be with you more
in the wind undecipherable gravestones sway
odd and naked boredom sleeps under sand and gray

we're in the shallows where lindens wade through me
in the shallows of today even a cat runs over me
I hear you flow slowly beside me
I am Tigris and you Euphrates
people for a thousand years have lived
                                  between us
                  and everything they've written
                                  is still a secret

now and then I remember the best days
all the best
                  but I don't feel the shore any more
and again I fall in love with the linden I see wade
through me
while a frozen smile plays on the cheek of the past


I'll take you along
to a garden where time has stopped

where fragrance winds around strange flowers
twines but does not disperse

where with minute parachutes
raindrops land

time is in the long grass
time is in the Prussian spruce

and elsewhere I can't quite determine

where with minute parachutes
raindrops land

surviving is good here
under clock-eating plants


the names of people like neat posts
crowd in my head
stand upright
as if inscribed by the Japanese

they're from remembrance layers
or soya memory layers
the sort that immediately should be put against the wall

but I don't want to shoot them yet
I don't want to shoot them any more

by no means has history
revived all enemies

why do we make them—
the ones from remembrance layers—
shoot and shoot in a vacuum?

Translated by Margita Gailitis