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Leon Briedis
Leons Briedis

from Garden of being

Ovidius in Tomis


no time to draw breath for I should have left long ago
without farewells always forging ahead
not hearing how I'm meant to echo
not even an echo when I scream
with a mouth bleeding pallid phlegm
that coagulates in my throat before the scream
when a blizzard in the freezing steppes
like a spider weaves a cobweb fit for Caesar
for me the only one who is guiltless
among others without guilt condemned
the endless hundred thousand
among the wanderers
may I confuse the minds of ancient tribal wolves
who lurk and shadow and pursue a stranger, me
almost like their own, a blood brother
this first and last journey into exile
the only journey without end
without detour
just as I don't have the time
to draw breath now because I must go
to find my own share of fate


wine freezes in a clay crock
the river Istra has frozen over
dolphins and fish have frozen in the sea
the waning moon in the heavens just an empty bowl
from which you spoon the broth of past glory
secretly wiping away from sated lips
the injury:
the winds you'll wear
deep snows where you'll taste the dregs
until Corrine perhaps will come to mind
to whom you have sung in idle moments
already you know
you will never be able to see her again
because of your own error, your song


here, where you have arrived by foot
where your sad bones cannot find their place
without the south— the only home
your soul has known
where you would like to fly each sunset
long ago you've become one of the strangers
you yourself the content of verses yet unwritten
a forest of poisoned arrows you move through
exile your only frame of reference

In half

The mountain and the valley are torn
in half the rock is split.
But what shall I do with half a face
and only half of a heart?

A speck of dust can't be taken from me
without me feeling it.
What am I with only half a thought,
just half of my land of birth?

I can't understand anything in halves,
no matter how just or generous the decision.

Half, it's said, half of a life is lived on earth
the other half somewhere thereafter
A fire of frailty smokes bitterly in me,
I can't see sense in anything.

Grant, God, if there be anguish, let it be true anguish,
If joy, then truly joy!
I broke my bread in half with my own hands
and thus have become my own enemy.

Game with a heart

Afraid to miss the last crane?
Or not see the first one?
Like a small stone thrown into a clear brook
my heart
still makes rippling circles deep inside me.

Already half of my life spent
looking at myself in wonder
I wonder
What do I want? What do I long for?
Why do I struggle so fervently?

If I can neither win
nor lose in this game?
Just close my eyes
against the rippling circles
bite my tongue

And thus the last crane
after a moment becomes the first.
A small boy stands in mid-life
against his will turns grey.

Blue ashes

in the heavens I lit this morning
another lapful of larks.
Just so—
I could warm your eyes
after tramping in the mud of the day.

a grudging wind above the sea
already conjures sleet and hail.
But still one lark is burning
the summer still has a hold on us.

until this too burns out. And black
black our hearts turn black.
only at the tips of our lashes blue ashes
will warm us in the days to come.

Translated by Margita Gailitis