for Miljenko Jergovič

Sing, young poet, touch my inflamed skin, tanned by lengthy treks
through trackless hills to the world’s end. Don’t give up now,
though the gunners’ feverish lenses stare at damp stains on the facades
of libraries and palaces that constantly call memories of a cruel century to mind.

Simply list what’s left: flocks of swallows twittering
beneath bygone arches and campaniles, the eternal wisdom of a French novel
we read in bomb shelters, the downy blond fuzz on the earlobes
of babes that disappears so suddenly, dull thuds from Pannonia’s plains.

The smell of gunpowder irritates human lungs. We have not crossed the threshold.
So speak now when deep pools of never consecrated water
make waves. Rings glow in the depths. Things past are joyous.

Believe me, truly: I am ready, sing to me for the last time
of love’s tempests, of the mysteries of women’s shadows, and
marble stairs. Sing, as you sang before you turned gray!

Translated by Andrew Wachtel