Passages of Return
|Passages of Return
|Prevod romana Sprehajališča za vračanje: Roman v verzih
- I dedicate this novel in verse to Carl Gustav Jung, psychoanalyst and Great Wizard, who believed in the poetic truth about the world in a way I myself believe in it.
- "I have learned that in addition to the spirit of this time there is still another spirit at work, namely that which rules the depths of everything contemporary," he noted in his Red Book and this realization I humbly set as the motto for this poetic statement. Together with a number of Jung's other realizations, the consciousness of the "spirit of the depths" to which I have become predisposed has greatly influenced its contents.
- 1 PROLOGUE
- 2 Chapter 1: SMALL TOWN
- 3 Chapter 2: LEMUR
- 4 Chapter 3: DOLCE VITA
- 5 Chapter 4: NIGHTMARE
- 6 Chapter 5: TEREZA
- 7 Chapter 6: GOLDINSKI
- 8 Chapter 7: LOVERS
- 9 Chapter 8: THREE
- 10 Chapter 9: PREMONITION
- 11 Chapter 10: CUPID
- 12 Chapter 11: THE VESTAL
- 13 Chapter 12: SILVANA
- 14 Chapter 13: GODFATHERS
- 15 Chapter 14: KINGFISHER
- 16 Chapter 15: SUSPICION
- 17 Chapter 16: DEMONS
- 18 Chapter 17: LABYRINTH
- 19 Chapter 18: MOURNER
- 20 Chapter 19: DREAMS
- 21 Chapter 20: THE SERPENT
- 22 Chapter 21: SWARM
- 23 Chapter 22: INTIMACY
- 24 Chapter 23: BORDER
- 25 Chapter 24: MEETING
- 26 Chapter 25: QUESTION
- 27 Chapter 26: THE TRUTH
- 28 Chapter 27: FOX
- 29 Chapter 28: GRAVE
- 30 Chapter 29: MOTH
- 31 Chapter 30: MESSAGE
- 32 Chapter 31: APOLLO
- 33 Chapter 32: THE CRY
- 34 Chapter 33: THE LETTER
- 35 Chapter 34: SCREECH OWL
- 36 Chapter 35: GUILT
- 37 Chapter 36: POISON
- 38 Chapter 37: SARABANDE
- 39 Chapter 38: THE KISS
- 40 Chapter 39: LEMURES
- 41 EPILOGUE
- 42 Feri Lainšček: Passages of Return
- 43 Translator's Note
Night falls as if it is forever,
as though God shall reclaim all the light
that unhappily dwells amidst men
where few do understand its plight.
Unable to imbue them as they sleep
and their flesh turns into rotting sloth
(in a state of listless lethargy).
'Tis very few souls that are restless,
floating somewhere in the light night breeze,
longing for some distant wide expanse.
Fewer still are those who would with ease
admit their sins or falling from grace
and repent as men showing remorse.
Thus Neptune's night is muddy and dark,
an endless mire without shore in sight,
our sails, canvases empty and stark,
with dreamcatching nets all cast in vain
(the rare snared dream so sad and lonely).
Amongst the poets not one persists.
Not one His Name doth hail or describe.
Without epics victims and slayers,
without anthems a once proud tribe
wanders about like an aimless flock,
brought to its knees, defeated by time.
Yet still there is another image:
looking back one last time from the edge
He sees Her within reach of his cry.
The toothless mouth distorts in a pledge,
with a voice from deathly droplets formed,
like Orpheus rising from his grave.
Here the truth is but an ancient verse,
repeated a million times over
(a new beginning is not a curse) …
Chapter 1: SMALL TOWN[uredi]
The town that never reached to the clouds
is ignorant of its own smallness.
It rushes only past high-speed trains,
all with destinations somewhere far,
yet still it curls and coils like a snail,
self-revering and truly bizarre.
What drives it remains a mystery.
The greedy oyster encrusts the truth,
killing it one last time without doubt.
The book that has been closed with a seal
tells that finally time has run out
(foreboding the pearl is just a sham).
Wonted, the Keeper of Passages
sniffs away at the Shadows till dawn.
Tame Cerberus steadfastly sets apart
carnations, flowers of those who mourn,
from others of red, symbols of love.
He also possesses other skills:
when a demon in its Sunday best
he spots, trying to pass as human,
he reclaims its breath (and all the rest
is once more just a faltering soul).
He otherwise slumbers on the shore
of the dark river Styx counting stones.
Pan sinks into dreams more enticing
where up the thighs of an untried girl
the chill of seven serpents slithers.
Sweet sin where proof will never unfurl,
just as this small, fallen town deletes
all the footprints of its past defeats.
During the day the virgin wears white,
her brooch shines bright like a golden tooth,
to stray dogs barking in Djelem Square
the famous parlour opens its booth.
The wine is watered down straight away,
the scent of nard oil mixes with farts,
lowlife passing as a refined lot
(though it ultimately comes to less
than a piddle in the chamber pot).
Tracks are more visible in winter,
though some come abruptly to an end,
sending shakes and shudders all around
with Creed and Church refusing to bend.
A strange and fearful thought springs to mind,
of a divine lynching, demanded by vice.
(Is this more reason for man's own strife?
Does pious existence without bliss
really give greater meaning to life?)
But very few, rare and far between,
know God is straightforward and sincere
with no time for his congregation.
It's not his norm to redeem and cheer.
(Toady minions in Heaven are bores,
the odd old sexton looks at a loss
in the glorious aura of God.
Not even nuns are quite what they seem,
all stern by nature, though it seems odd,
they're in fact headstrong and annoying.)
Yet with time the town begins to slip
into that dark and strange dimension,
with the living disposed to strange deaths
and the dead still seeking attention,
all jealous, quarrelsome and angry,
wanting more of this and less of that,
creeping about in hidden corners,
preoccupied with this fleeting world.
Chapter 2: LEMUR[uredi]
He is not happy who by moonlight
looks down on a grave that is his own.
Such place is lonely in its silence,
and ghastly the sign written in stone,
that here he found his peace forever
(as if all that was never fulfilled
is now trapped in this bodiless state).
He envies those welcomed into sleep
who have not been condemned to yearning,
to return to a time of memories
with a hope that's no longer burning
He envies even those who are damned,
for worse than suffering is the void,
suspended between night and morning,
where the demon is destined to roam.
Yet night after night, with restlessness
spurred on by his lemurian lust,
he goes out on the hunt with the wind.
And the book long ago sealed in dust
is now being opened once again
at the page in the chapter Intrigue
where a shooting and murder occur.
He sees his sleeping wife by moonlight,
as he did in her naked embrace
(silvered by the distant reflection,
her still youthfully radiant face
sleeping, immersed in a sea of calm)
and with an almost blind compassion
briefly forgives all her dreadful sins.
At last he raises his empty gaze,
looking beyond the rooftops and trees,
as if saving himself from drowning.
Dolorous amidst mylings he flees,
through spiders' webs of malicious fate,
all he now wishes (alone and dazed),
is for a sword of light to impale him.
Chapter 3: DOLCE VITA[uredi]
There is a house where during the night
mortals can suckle on shameless breasts,
feeding on poisonous milk of dreams.
Moments of elation that are quests
for a semblance of Heaven on Earth,
in most cases trivially cheap.
Caught in the drop discharged through the flies
that ended up washed down the sewer
(and on the nightgown a trail that dries).
He sits amidst the men long after
the gentle dame has left her pole
and the clouds acquire a crimson tint.
When daylight starts unfolding its wares
he leaves silently, without a hint,
and again the cypress trees stand guard.
The heart still aches as the day passes
as if nothing had happened at all.
Once more the house of dreams stands silent.
Meanwhile the old dame in charge goes out
to the pharmacy for sulphur soap
and asks for it with usual unease.
Long well known in this trade of no hope
as substance to seal and heal all wounds,
though all who use it know very well
that those that are cleansed hurt even more.
Matrons try to keep it a secret,
furious with any who spread the word,
thus revealing their common ordeal:
rubbing in the vile sulphurous curd,
numbing entirely, inside and out.
Chained down like boats in the sea of time,
where storms brew only upon the tide
caused by whims and desires of men.
All else seems like an unreal ride,
with ageless sacrilege of the trade
turning into a game quite bizarre.
Chapter 4: NIGHTMARE[uredi]
As sleep overwhelms her she senses,
that in this manner she once will die.
Just like a black bird without its wings
she'll stare through the flames, her eyes quite dry,
and all The Foul One shall say is: "Bitch!"
The gates shall never open for her,
(it was neither a lie nor the truth
what back down there priests had forewarned),
her soul will wander around with ruth,
keeping company of ferrymen,
until, hapless, she's picked up again
by whoremongers and sharks from the street.
At an astral Dolce Vita bar
once again the story shall repeat:
the holy shall cavort in secret,
she herself– of course – will once more sin.
The dame thus feels unworthy to kneel,
nor does she pray at all this evening.
All that she wants is to fall asleep
as a piece of flesh without a clue
where goes the soul and what at the gates
the keyholders might ask for in lieu.
She does perhaps want just one more thing,
not to send out further shoots into
this world of cries and venomous stings.
Yet she's sure to walk the wire again.
Sure to jump with fear through fiery rings
set alight by the Master amidst cheers
from the box and the tiers of the plebs
She is sure to still yearn after the truth,
look for the other side of the coin,
loudly consort with gypsies, uncouth,
who dare stand before kings with a smile.
Upon a rumpled bed made in haste
the recumbent body shall remain,
thrown like a coat not worn since last year.
The ghost shall rise unseen and mundane,
(just as it has so often before)
with at most a clack and a rattle.
Her fate is a cursed and certain bet
that her senseless soul, mad and affright,
is no more a grisette or lorette,
but for most, a demon of the night.
(There are still some who hope that by day
cunts doused in poison and dirty sheets
shall remain out of sight, out of mind.
But the very same story repeats
the spiral of blunder and despair.)
Chapter 5: TEREZA[uredi]
Tereza walks in the afternoon,
across the square, still quiet and shy.
Though widowed over a year ago,
still showing neither bosom nor thigh,
she can no longer hide her beauty.
Like a demon waking from its sleep,
she's emerging slowly from the dark
still hanging above her husband's grave.
She's done with feeling lonely and stark,
wishes to step once more with aplomb,
wants for a gaze not full of pity
and an end to the time of lament.
Truth said, just such a forbidden look
has already stroked her gentle face.
A man (who judging by the goose bumps,
clearly fallen in love in this case),
observes her, hiding amidst the drapes
and a flower in a vase awaits her.
He courts her thus all through the winter,
waits for her heart to melt with the thaw.
Seedy joints that stay open at night
become places to which they withdraw.
Anyone there might be quick to say:
“fornication, sin and such disgrace”,
and that's not only slander and smear,
though the lady is not offering
and the man has yet to use his spear.
They are just becoming familiar.
Slowly, like fruit ripens on the tree,
her memory begins to awaken,
whilst he is reminded of something
he had erstwhile thought he’d forsaken.
(Loving the soul, not just the body …)
Chapter 6: GOLDINSKI[uredi]
This is such a place that makes you gasp
and brings all sorts of strange thoughts to mind.
What is that smell that lingers inside?
Is it a scent someone's left behind?
Is it one that built up over time?
Is this the smell of dirty business?
All this cannot simply be presumed,
what it is such a gentleman does
is never asked, but merely assumed.
In any case – carte blanche – so it seems.
(Money minted without any fear
of anyone solving the riddle.)
Empty lobbies in the afternoon,
the evening light reflects in the glass.
Even the statues seem quite friendly
and quiet hides in the bells of brass.
Mister Goldinski, King of Silence,
stares at the shadows across the room,
his hidden cravings becoming sore.
The lady in the veil excites him
as so few have ever done before.
Evidently, unlike most others,
she’s not light-hearted or unreserved.
They have been intimate and tender,
enough by now to have incited
a little weakness and surrender.
In all innocence she'll come again
and ask why people gossip and muse.
Patterns of light twinkle and quiver
on her lacquered black well-polished shoes;
as she slows her step he notices
the arabesque pattern of poppies
on the rim of her petticoat shows.
The small detail on view does not lie
and it's not by chance the lady glows
as if she's stepped out of a carriage.
But might the reason be a mistake?
Experience tells him to take great care,
so the aspirant watches in wait.
Allowing the dame some space and flair,
he does not compel her with his gaze.
(Every cherry ripens over time).
“Tonight I feel strange”, says Tereza
knowing she's just like the full moon,
for its gravity has great effect
and potent desire plays its own tune.
(Feeling mad with a sudden wild urge
to dive into the rushing waters
down at the river without a boat,
dance in the whirlpools all through the night.
In its meandering depths she will float,
accompanied by mythical thieves,
caught in a story without an end.
The man now senses spinal shivers,
speculating what the night might bring.
Touched more by this feminine surrender
than the chance of a frivolous fling.
Baffled by what exactly it was
about this dame that proved so fateful
and what it is she has he’s after.
What wealth and means she seems to possess
are all in her eyes and her laughter
that he never thought to consider.
They fled from all offered persuasions,
and at crossroads never went astray,
finding joy in spiritual matters.
He'd always lived to fool and betray.
(Routinely deceiving the augurs
amassing a fortune on the way.)
Calls of screech owls echo through the park,
darkness nests with the remnants of dawn
in the skylights high above the vaults,
as the lone woman stands here, withdrawn,
beleaguered by spells she can't resist.
Through all its echoes the thought of her
(as the essence is hard to confirm)
weighs down heavily upon his chest,
although the heart has yet to affirm.
Chapter 7: LOVERS[uredi]
Love, so peculiar, dark and mute,
like crayfish in the shallows at night,
starts slowly to deepen between them
as fate responds to their fledgling plight.
The moon from above shines on the hill
that none would normally tread upon,
a hidden pool beyond the sand,
a mystic garden and sacred shrine.
(Fortuna, goddess of a good hand
sometimes comes here for a brief visit,
soon to flee with her Gypsy temper
across the river gravel and silts.)
This is where God created Woman.
Sometimes the substance of her body
in its folds retains her primal scent
and plasma thickens inside her breasts
at merely the prospect of content.
Images become just vague contours
until they're little more than a blur.
The gentleman, used to naked flesh,
disarmed like youth in awe of beauty
shining out of the deep blue darkness
retracts his hand as if by duty,
ashamed of his lust and desire.
Memories like a flash in the night
convulse his brain with a cramp sublime.
He stands there in the shallow water
not moving for a very long time.
She, of course, is not like the others!
Not like the courtesans he would find,
just waiting for custom and money,
lurking in murky hidden corners.
Nor was she raised on milk and honey
like salon dames who bored, in comfort,
pray upon lovers within their range.
A woman getting into her stride
can still become aroused and inflamed,
what glows and warms her from inside
is the drive of an all new drama.
And whilst the man so sits and ponders,
the full moon soon hides behind the clouds.
Darkness rises from the marsh again,
luring beasts of the dark from their shrouds,
all those whom God has deprived of steps,
pressing down onto Earth from above.
Many are those left hanging below
In the emptiness of Janus' web,
bound by the darkness of the black snow
into a ghostly colony like bats
inside a deep dark cave of the Karst.
Afraid of some horrible assault
as they wander round alone at night
in hope of peeping back through the vault
to the tempting world of the living.
They so wish to seal their coffin lids,
rid themselves of malevolent ties
that keep turning them into spirits.
But it is fear that is their demise
and true hope of impending return
that keeps them trapped inside the circle.
Turned evil and damned by their torment
(both as hunters and those on the run),
yet they shall never cease to believe
that, though in Hell they're rogues one would shun,
they'd never be happy in Heaven.
Lemures would swear that those still alive
are hypocrites puffed up with conceit,
one more rule of their eternal laws –
as such this man is full of deceit,
all he says to Tereza are lies!
He kisses her long in the darkness
till the full moon appears once again.
Chapter 8: THREE[uredi]
The deep gaze of a man who is dead
is not like the stare of the living.
It is a way back for the victim
to slip to those not worth forgiving.
It is a mute way of observing
the motives that might still be revealed,
an all obsessive contemplation
from a wholly different perspective,
(how bizarre is life's situation,
where beautiful nymphs scornfully sneer
and phalli are carnally happy).
In light of this scene, so foully live,
that the spirit looks on with great care,
all other excuses are worthless.
In the dead of night the wakeful pair
become engrossed in their sultry fuck.
All the man's strength is in his hardness
and the woman's desire, still craving
as her body arches towards him.
No wonder that the owl hoots its song,
for here she lies splayed (beauty and all),
young Tereza (the widowed woman),
who after her husband's fatal fall
ended up in the nets of intrigue.
The impressions they left in the sand
are a fresh signature to the deal,
(her soul has been pledged to the devil
and final judgement's not in the spiel).
Still full of the image of the pair
the ghost moves to another story
that seems sinful (and sick by decree),
shaking both the worlds it embroils,
like the view from a porthole at sea.
The couple, absorbed in their pleasures,
are by now of course beyond caring
that all this is theft and betrayal.
Chapter 9: PREMONITION[uredi]
Space has always been filled with darkness
and it's light that has a different role.
Love (beacon in the human temple),
enraptured ignites deep in the soul,
and sinks flashing back into its hold.
All in between is an open book,
waiting for Parca to turn the page
or some poet to write a short line,
creating a space that will upstage
all the dark ambiguous waiting.
Then it lasts and can create a trail
that can never be covered or lost.
After their peak both are on cloud nine
Tereza and Goldinski the fox –
he triumphant, his effort paid off,
she now finally rid of her locks
(tripped up by a primeval desire,
despite her promise upon the grave).
Is probity really a measure?
What is the point of remaining chaste,
tormented and fearing all pleasure?
She walked through town like a jackdaw
strutting along in peacock feathers,
out on the road, all pretty and fine.
Really she'd like to escape the owl.
It is true, of course, that this affair,
strange as it is, is also her feat.
No one knows what the future will bear.
The gentleman also has a wife.
But could love really be a mistake
and the heart yet again divided?
This thought evokes a premonition
(misfortune from the crib decided)
that the ordeal might start once again
and the string of events never ends.
Perhaps she should avoid despairing
and stop seeing sin in happiness?
He's skilful, curious and daring
and hides well the secret of success,
rendering needless the constant fear
that soon he might the affair expose.
Smelling both of sulphur and incense,
this world, forever double-faced, knows
how it is ill equipped in this case
to set the redeeming criteria.
So she must hide what must be hidden,
return to her home and sit there, mute,
weaving a cloth from threads of sunlight,
feasting herself on forbidden fruit.
She believes that the wide blue river
which used to carry boats full of dreams
now from its depths and long hidden tales,
washes up potent spells that bewitch
and beguile man away from his trails.
Chapter 10: CUPID[uredi]
No temple resides within his chest.
No traveller has ever stopped inside,
either to marvel at its splendour,
or his problems to plead or confide
and to make a penitent offering.
He now starts to shudder from within,
for in his dreams her sighs still ring out
amidst the other sounds of the night
(he is filled with disbelief and doubt,
amazed that stuff born of a light touch
has already triggered a deluge).
He no longer prays for showers of gold,
no new plans are being forged or wrought,
he is absorbed in one single wish,
driven by the one beautiful thought
of the lioness suckling him once more.
Thus Tereza (the woman he hides)
is being revered as a goddess.
Chapter 11: THE VESTAL[uredi]
Mister Goldinski (now a lost man
with little left that still affect him),
has not spoken to his wife for days.
His silence like a cloak protects him,
but underneath a truth is hidden
that to him still smells of sweet melons.
He's not even seduced by the joint
with the splendid name Dolce Vita
where the owner treats him shots of gin
and he meets his chosen Lolita
who can offer, from now until dawn,
much more excitement than his sad wife.
Right now none are able to stir him.
There is a thought stuck inside his mind.
This game is not fair as he keeps score,
and the group portrait is in bad taste:
the man (that's him), his wife and the whore
and now this tempting widow as well.
His wife is no nagging Xanthippe,
but how she reacts and what she takes
is still a firm and principled stance
It seems that, as he raises the stakes,
she is ever more schizophrenic.
(For in truth victory is surrender
and defeat mere change of condition,
bringing her down to her knees once more
with every such gloomy suspicion.)
Love that is closely followed by hate
slides after him just like a serpent,
grabbing at him with a morbid hope
in one defeat after another …
Why is she loyal and with what scope,
despite the firm string of evidence?
Salvation (instead of banishment!)
would be the final resignation:
the man is lech and will not change.
Instead, she adorns herself with dreams,
so the real world keeps re-emerging.
Babbling is heard from all directions,
the bossa nova rhythm surging.
As the spectres rise in the distance
and Casanova comes to find her
the palms of her hands are cold as ice.
(Her own lovers are always faithful.)
When the scene comes to a sudden end
a naked man without possession
hangs off the thin rope of bitterness;
for her no blame or indiscretion.
The essence happens with slight delay:
though his open wings are soaking wet
and like a fly in aspic he's trapped
with banderillas ready to strike,
he does not yet know his life is mapped –
the Vestal is about to spare him.
Chapter 12: SILVANA[uredi]
By an open window (after lust)
the dame removes her stockings slowly.
The scent of sperm and muscat mingles
with roses and birds chirping lowly.
The innocent morning arising
over the plains with a blessed smile,
as the day alights above the town,
but beyond it yawns a boundless void.
(As sleep takes over no one will frown)
inevitably repressed by sin
destined to stay on the other side,
her sole comfort found in absinthe.
The line on her palm is really faint
and she knows that her life will be short.
Her soul holds on to some older joys
and all her last night might extort.
The rest is sadness, woe and despair.
Too late for her to still believe in
the depth of a man's candid gazes.
That leaves him … sometimes confusing her
with the shallowness of his phrases.
This thought, that she misses him maybe …
This strange feeling that makes her feel numb
flashes through her mind in quick sequence,
wailing: “Why does he no longer come?”
(Ever since he chose her company
Goldinski, polite but never shy,
became a regular customer.)
Is it possible that in her heart
a seed has sprouted roots in its plight
and is now hurting and oozing sap?
Even so – does she not have the right?
Could she dare say – the fallen woman,
that Cupid wandered into this dump
and, finding her naked on the pole,
sent one of his arrows straight at her?
Chapter 13: GODFATHERS[uredi]
It is here the town Minotaurs sleep,
devouring the golden thread of light.
Away from this place a long grey road
like a trail of mud, ruin and blight
leads somewhere beyond the horizon,
reaching happier towns (without angst).
In autumn the reed beds start to dry
which isolate the place all around,
and instead of brashly lifting skirts,
the wind now lingers close to the ground.
Under the Pannonian winter cloak
even wishes become suspended
and the world, as if deep in a trance,
becomes introvert and starts sulking.
What is there now left, with such a stance,
for love, this perpetual virgin,
to hold on or offer itself to?
It's not a place where it can flourish,
let alone ever be satisfied –
all that's left is for it to nourish
sly foxes embroiled in dodgy deals.
So here it's time that sets the signals,
reveals the patterns, strips ranks and praise,
blocks the flow of canals and rivers,
and finds all sorts of methods and ways
for the message to travel along.
Despite all this: time has yet to find
a cure for people's madness and fear.
(All stuck inside an infernal pot
in a soup that shall never turn clear.)
In the end it's always the gravediggers,
well trained in cynical irony,
with the master not intervening
with the look on the novice's face.
Supposedly rapt in deep meaning,
the clerics are also left chortling,
but in truth they are all just vendors
of indulgences, relics and guilt.
All sorts of altars proliferate,
glistening shrines with cast gods rebuilt,
but in the end the soul stands alone
(with its notes, impressions and snapshots)
in the monodrama that is Death.
All this though is of little concern
to the one central to this affair,
basking in the light of sweeter doubts.
The man isn't Hamlet (why should he care!)
and a spirit yearning for its home
is just a whingeing annoyance.
What really pushes him to the skies
and spurs his passions even further
are all his godfather conclave ties
where wealth is a measure for honour
(and articles of unwritten law
still allow for larceny and theft).
What drives the millstones of golden grain
to keep to their exclusive confines
and who wastes the time during their sleep
for the hidden journey through the signs?
Are all these men in the final coach?
Should they be invited to the ball?
The ones with answers keep their mouths closed,
but the ignorant ones, like idiots,
keep guessing forever, unopposed,
and try to plant the odd rotten egg.
Chapter 14: KINGFISHER[uredi]
Objects that are material exist
be it as bad, good or even great,
matter though is not all that it seems
and much deceitful as to its state.
So here Goldinski, the untamed male,
potent sorcerer of selfish lust,
stepped into the story as a lover
with his heart in the palm of his hand.
No one knows he is a kingfisher
that in this ever more devious game
smoothly dives deep under the surface,
rising again without blame or shame.
He jumps into the void that sometimes
appears before him, gaping like death,
with a mute and bitter pain inside,
all of a sudden afraid of light.
There with his wife whom he has denied,
leaving her wounded, broken and sad,
and Silvana, his favourite whore,
now for the first time stands Tereza.
She excites him like an unknown journey.
The hunt that has turned into a bond
with its pledge of shelter spurs his drive,
though he fears sinking into a trap.
The snake-like whip of dissent is alive
and Eve holding the fateful apple
is the warm breeze across his lost trails.
With his (stern) reason, to no avail,
he sets himself one crucial question:
Why envy those who their freedom hail
when their temptations are only dreams?
In vain he tricks and deludes himself
now that love in its greed for passion
opens wide its hungry wolfish mouth
and wildly gulps on every ration.
The man is lost and without regard
he's yet to hang on thin threads of verse –
Teresa has already kissed him
and is more than a beautiful thought.
When she first offered her snow-white breasts,
firm like an apple held in the hand,
did she forget to mention they were
a sweet and potent honey-filled gland?
And when the skirt at long last opened
and like a rosebud she awakened,
was it not immediately revealed
that he was entering a cursed world
where destinies are settled and sealed?
Well, it was not – though he's at an age
when fate is no longer read merely
from constellations of opened blouses,
nor does a winning battle clearly
always start with a bout of defeat.
So he stands here, as if from a myth,
face all solemn, austere and aloof,
from his pores the seductive serpent
sticks out all its thousand heads with proof
of how quickly yearning turns to lust.
Chapter 15: SUSPICION[uredi]
There is some dust of words that the wind
Never manages to clean away.
They never got caught in the ether.
Nor ventured out of the house alive.
They remain as corpses of nothing.
In the niches of coffins they strive,
where sometimes they’re the only witness
to empty promises by losers
and to outpours of the heart that are
sealed with the quiet indignation
of starlets from Dolce Vita Bar,
and left by time to the wrath of Gods
and the merciless Aphrodite.
So why did she ever believe him
despite his quite obvious behaviour?
How come she was so fully convinced,
that Goldinski would be the saviour,
who’d rescue her from the bordello?
For did he not appear self-righteous?
And true, they had, not so long ago,
a hidden corner they called their own,
where she'd give him more than just a show,
still charging him the usual rate.
She surrendered to him with a zeal,
as if love was no longer controlled –
believing that after years, at last
she was about to escape the mould.
But such escape is for the beguiled!
For just as hope appears on the scene
(With daytime smelling of flowers sweet,
and the night still loathsome and obscene)
she is once more left dreaming alone.
Did the town swallow him? Abduct him?
The crossroads, houses, streets and clutter,
a labyrinth of rat-filled cellars,
outwardly plain as bread and butter,
but full of spirits of worlds long gone.
She finds it all too much to handle,
confused by all the doubts and questions.
What if this brood of ghosts is harmless
and he just fell asleep by his wife?
But then … if so, what is there to fear?
She is an unlikely cause of strife.
The trail of evil might smell of sperm,
but the hint of sulphur lingers too.
The gentleman does not feel his urge,
used to all sorts of tricks and games,
but just as release seems to emerge
this episode is about to end.
Temptation is thus even greater!
Fate is openly mocking once more,
still sleeping in the down of sweet talk
that managed to blind and trick the whore,
she slips slowly out of the embrace,
still unable to fully wake up.
Chapter 16: DEMONS[uredi]
Quite a demon is our Tereza.
She's a woman inspired by love,
like an ancient hidden arabesque
with fine detail below and above
and a magical glow from its depths.
The body (she now grooms once again)
snuggles tightly against him with warmth
incomparable to any other.
Like a pious believer he hopes
his soul will stay close to the altar
that the God of Love showers with manna,
addressing his flock through the Psalter.
But in truth, of course, he faithfully,
whenever there’s a chance and he can,
returns to the bed that awaits him,
and stays there once again.
But there is something behind the door,
somewhere in the folds of the curtain,
that sometimes prevents him from sleeping.
A feeling quite strange and uncertain.
Of course he’s reluctant to admit
that wide awake, he still with unease
inspects the dark corners and spaces.
(He is usually soberly cool
and has seen many awful places...)
What bothers him here? Time that has past?
The faces of these saints and martyrs
with all their torment, sins and remorse?
A wakeful night by the widow’s side …
but across the plains another force
appears as ghosts, not just of this world ...
But he must not give in to all this!
The boundaries have long been well known –
there, beyond them, there are no more lies.
Chapter 17: LABYRINTH[uredi]
Oh, grey night! Once more the Sphinx' breath
mixes with the pungent smell of sleep
and, gasping, Pan lowers his syrinx,
losing his strength and much of his leap.
The mist draws everything in outlines
(a ghosts cares little for fine detail)
and can change the writing on such signs
that once were placed to give directions.
The scene then breaks up along fine lines,
pushed right to the edge of the canvas,
then all that’s left of the images fades.
Follows a sequence of false études
for various madmen without sin,
though numerous town houses, once grand,
have roofs and floors that have fallen in.
Things that have happened here in this place
soon charmed and drew out the winged serpent
from ever ruthless mouths where it dwells.
For thousands of years the burning oil
guards the chalice. It also dispels
all darkness, forsaking awareness
of endless deaths and resurrections,
whilst people still brutally persist,
using plasma to give themselves life.
A midnight still life with the woman
transforming into a painted fruit
is what the man now sees (whilst naked
he stands, as if smoothing out his suit),
unsure of what is more inviting:
to stay or to leave. The force that splits
his thoughts both ways is now no longer
his once enthusiastic ardour,
but anguish, growing ever stronger.
He wants to get out of the pickle.
All here is becoming a nightmare.
Just then, under the curtain, strange sounds
seem like a wasp, caught behind the glass.
From the corridor and its surrounds
comes a rustle from an unknown source…
Wondering what it is that shuffles
across the room at this time of night,
he is shocked by the apparition
glimpsed for a moment in the half-light.
A runaway shadow? Or a trace
of one already serving Darkness?
The dense ethereal body stays
just briefly, like all apparitions,
enough for rage to dart from its gaze.
A crazy feeling crosses his mind,
that the one he sees is the victim,
(the hunted spirit has turned around).
But a dead man is dead entirely!
Surely he cannot be just half dead!
So is return at all an option?
As such, what can he wish for instead?
Not much – and there lies the confusion
he alone can resist at this time!
Inside, the heap of dauntless courage
collapses, despite perseverance.
He's also ever more aware of
the thread of reason's disappearance
that he still tries to hold onto in vein.
At the edge of despair. Why pretend?
She still cannot believe him, of course,
that wakeful he fights with the spirits!
It isn't something one can endorse,
he who lives with ghosts cannot be human …
“True, we’re not alone”, says Tereza,
“but he is now in a world beyond,
one without return.” There noesis
helps him along. (a membrane, a bond,
a glance from the mirror, a climb
without avail, an evil intent,
fishing in the black sea of Hades
with a torn and damaged dragnet.)
He takes her word and controls himself.
In the bowels of the whale the town sleeps.
The top and bottom of the abyss,
pitched with worry, are wrapped in the mists.
All further wishes it shall dismiss,
till the morning will break they'll stay hidden.
Goldinski (here like a lone heron)
sets off into the greyness of dawn,
re-living with great anxiety
the gaze of the spectre's nightly pawn.
All who run from ghosts in this way hope
that they never return from the depths.
True, Cerberus sits there awaiting,
but this view is still full of poison!
Who can trust a shadow that's hating,
when evidence looks straight in their eye?
E’er since time began faces have sunk
like plankton into an endless sea
(and strong wine quenches gravediggers' thirst),
contagious wrath as the guarantee
that slyly looms on the horizon.
Chapter 18: MOURNER[uredi]
The ship of fools called Dolce Vita
now drifts alongside the sleeping town.
Just like an old hag, showing contempt,
(even for the wise hermit's renown),
believing she is still a Lolita,
she coquettishly pulls at her bra.
In the woman's lap a stingray lies.
As the climactical muffled peal
melts inside the smooth mouth of the fish,
cynical scoffs are hard to conceal,
and hope vanishes in an instant.
Fidelity is mere fantasy.
No one shall ever be exclusive.
That's why Goldinski seeks here his peace -
with velvet cushions, unobtrusive,
the bar seems a safe enough refuge.
Silvana sees the story as Hell,
no more just a battle of spirits.
She hears him out, not really focused,
and in horror tries to understand
just who this unknown woman might be
who is spoiling all that she had planned.
It seems like a deception, a plot,
audacity, theft and cursed act –
for this time he's being lured away
by such an obsequious grisette.
She knew from the start the rules of play,
knew how far Scylla's tentacles reach,
but this attempt is by one bereaved
and could yet be stifled if she tried.
He came to suckle on her white breasts.
The lure of milk had never failed her.
And now she's suddenly one of three,
fighting for this man who'd once hailed her,
but abandoned her like an old rag
(like a whore at the end of her time.)
Dropped her without further convening.
For that pathetic cry in the void.
Woman's fancy. For search of meaning.
A male's feeling that from high above
one sees into the depths more clearly …
And even if they are just cravings,
delusions that confuse and afflict,
it's still madness she cannot ignore…
All that lust can do, she can predict;
sorrow and hurt, she might take a guess;
but with death she hasn't got a clue.
The wretched wield a power sublime.
Without a grail dark cries still echo
down eternal stairways of time.
With canine instinct she’s on her way
at night to seek out a stranger's touch.
She sleeps with the bats during the day
somewhere in the roofs of the belfries.
Couples are her most sought after prey.
With torment of an ageless harlot
she creates her nest from embraces,
smelling sweet, setting traps for her catch,
with all the vigour of ivy roots
onto rare inspirations she'll latch.
No one at this house is without sin
and her strange concerns remain unheard.
In the labyrinth of masks and sighs
this anguish of hers seems quite absurd.
Yet Silvana is losing her mind.
A further slip on a fatal path.
Into the foul mix of waste and silt
that gathers at the mouth of morning
a slimy eel has hatched without guilt.
Chapter 19: DREAMS[uredi]
Towards dawn, when she's about to wake,
Tereza’s dreams are layered veils.
Transparent is the time that offers
ancient scenes that are long well known tricks,
melting in a maze of palimpsests
where the occasional image sticks.
The world is just a tiny raindrop.
Sometimes it can rapidly inflate
into a universe of great flare,
but the balloon – like all happiness –
can instantly burst into thin air.
And once again time scatters snowflakes.
Consciousness tries to catch the moments
in the whiteness of sleep and pure thought.
Why is it that all loves are riddles?
How are their true meanings found and wrought?
Can the stars be blamed for their silence
(the world is suspended in quiet)
whilst the number of souls increases?
God still keeps the other half hidden
and uses harmony to encrypt.
Then the Devil adds a note or two,
making tales too bizarre for the script,
far away from the semblance of truth.
Passionate loves and dangerous ones
that in this mezzanine die away,
can truly seem hollow in meaning
without anything further to say –
but now and then a soul meets a soul
though the demons are quick to find out.
Chapter 20: THE SERPENT[uredi]
In the calm waters of clear sweet dreams
only clouds are suspended like spawn.
As the first rays penetrate her sleep
and one can sense the footsteps of dawn
an invisible spring is triggered
and with a noise (like trains rushing by)
all starts falling apart at the seams.
Tereza falls, into the chasm
of a camera obscura tonight.
The sudden shake is a castling move
creating dark shadows out of light
extending the abyss’ funnel.
Then, at the end of this dark sequence
a serpent shoots from deep in the throat.
All its vertebrae move as it slides
with its slithery gaze, always remote,
repeatedly from the mouth its tongue
triggers like a tireless catapult.
Briefly, getting a view from the side,
she sees herself in the serpent's eye:
all dressed in lace, pure white as a bride,
as if she was following a script
that is more and more of a nightmare.
She is even somehow still aware
she's dreaming (hoping to leave the fold),
but she is in fact growing weaker
as she strives against the creature's hold.
Finally – the drama falls silent.
The serpent's real intent is not known.
Is it horror and disgust. Dark beast.
A hungry Gorgon feeding on fear.
A dark phantom that has been released,
and inadvertently sent her way ...
But then the devil removes his mask,
Tereza stares at a human face
looking at her over his shoulder.
Above the firmament swirls in space
and time is fused with time eternal
that here, all virginal and fragile,
scatters like an unconscious image.
Transience does not seem so terrible
and she's not afraid of what's in store.
The endlessly hollow greedy mouth
of nothing now frightens her no more.
Love in itself is never a sin!
It's a story, glorified by God,
and not just a prosy myth of Man,
calling upon the Devil for help.
She feels sorry for the disfigured sod
The spirit that of pure malice came
and hides down here amidst the living,
is getting lost in the complex game –
without a soul to hold on to love.
Chapter 21: SWARM[uredi]
In solutions of cosmic riddles
desert camels can easily pass
through the tiny eye of a needle.
Only a mind that is pure can grasp
what does seem an impossible feat
as a gnostic way of connection.
Very few see it as mere conceit:
at the top the crown is full of grace
and all appears sublime to the eye,
whilst downwards (into this human pit)
reach the roots of an invisible tree
that suck on its memories, bit by bit.
Eternity's a ritual of fame.
In the play of ends and beginnings
even sins, filled with stuff gone astray,
with the quiet pity of remnants,
still persist in surviving some way.
And all these so-called tongueless speakers
continue to refuse to believe
that their babble is inaudible.
The infusion inside the test tube
that locks the world in a stuffy night
is ever more bitter and sullen.
A hidden swarm, not like one that might
be described in tales for the naïve,
is about to return and encroach
across the quiet evening streets.
God knows if the meaning is noted?
All that has been crammed inside this maze,
grasping and clinging on with fervour,
has long been sick with torment and malaise
(a soul that continues to covet
because it is still confused by life).
This eternal threshold here burning
still expands across the other side
and the dance is too full of yearning.
Chapter 22: INTIMACY[uredi]
This night Tereza once more sits awake.
It's not the fear that someone prying
might now be standing outside her door
that prevents her from falling asleep.
Used to being alone from before,
she does not fear what's merely alleged.
But then, just as sleepiness takes hold
and she again slips over the edge,
there – in her dreams – the pit just deepens...
From there there’s no escaping the dredge.
The more she tries, the deeper she slides.
Wholly exhausted from defiance
she at last moves across to the side
where darkness is turning into stone –
the fish-like eye, always open wide,
(ever watchful eternal omen)
gazes mutely upon her solitude.==
In truth this shameless observation
is far from heavenly or sedate,
though it quite ignores her nakedness.
A great mass of evil lurks in wait.
The ghost, alive, wicked and covert,
goes out on the rounds, night after night.
The ugly demon – with human flair –
growing up amidst plots and intrigue,
transforms into a harassing nightmare
that reaches out with its foul fingers.
It is made of all that is feeble;
in all this temper of delusion,
it is extreme hope that drives it on :
how true is Silvana's illusion!
(Up, like polished brass, the Moon will shine,
down below the skull will glow stone white,
he’ll slay a capon at the cauldron,
she’ll dance by the fire barefoot all night,
she, whom fortune kept an eye on
so the neck awaiting kisses was
beyond the reach of the sharpened scythe.)
Chapter 23: BORDER[uredi]
The emptiness contains no shadows.
Just senses colliding without goals.
There are no hours. No more new moments.
A vaporous sea with flocks of souls,
invisible sadness, swarms of joy,
an unseen God on the horizon
with a lonely wish heading his way...
Then there's the border. The realm of Death.
The Universe's bright silver scar.
More frequent shallows and strange moorings
where something ties souls that reach this far.
Even angels locked in their bodies.
The price paid for this homely feeling
a host of sins and false sensations.
The touch of love that is so different
from all heavenly inspirations
in this place turns into chemistry.
Then all perceived sounds fade once again;
even shadows become much fainter.
Chapter 24: MEETING[uredi]
The morning view with the rolling mist
is an image where much is concealed,
for the Master prefers not to show
the bird now lying dead in the field.
Just as he shows not nightmarish dreams
or a deathwatch through clouded windows.
The air left inside the lungs is stale.
The centuries puff along in haste.
With the odd returning soul, quite frail,
once again creeping up the stairway –
the soul in truth is but a story,
still full of hopes and expectation.
(As such it knows of course that judgement
will not bring reward or ovation,
that it is impossible to make
arrangements that would last forever.
Time runs at birth and time runs at death,
all in between is a slippery slide.)
The presence that at daytime becomes
even more abhorrent and obscure,
finds poverty a silent excuse
and cannot understand what will lure
all the ugly, grasping, scowling freaks
to spring like nightmares (hot and sticky)
out of the sewer into the world.
It is a serpent still being born
and already melting in the waste.
Escaping the sharp pain of the whip –
the dark female psyche, interlaced,
suddenly caught up by awareness.
The images, quiet as the shadows,
change without any prior warning
to childishly gentle, wistful sighs,
that speak wordlessly of their mourning.
It's only so when the soul sheds tears
into the silence of dying stars.
The cycle it badly wants to halt
of sordidness and selfish passion
still holds it firmly inside the vault.
(It still does not know that loneliness
there at times is even more dreary –
and promise of beauty deceptive,
held by mercy from beyond the grave.)
So what to do? Is she perceptive?
Matters are really quite similar!
Perhaps all is just as it should be?
Tereza loves as she never loved
and there's little hope of saving her.
Chapter 25: QUESTION[uredi]
What is love that within its rapture
always devastates, demands and takes?
What is human nature that, blinded
by things unknown, just lowers the stakes?
How can timeless Aphrodite think
that she can kiss anyone and all,
at the same time rebuking Cupid
for falling in love with poor Psyche,
setting her traps, foolish and stupid?
Is this the price for tuning both strings
to frequencies of love and passion?
The bills amass, tucked behind the door,
with payment-due-by dates forgotten.
The heartstring and the pearl at the core –
like treasures of a lonely lagoon,
lost in the Pacific of memory?
What is the answer and awareness,
well hidden in the deaf remoteness?
Dreams both on this side and the other!
Stuff of Heaven that could build a boat
and give strength for a common journey.
Erased traces of what someone wrote
on the pages of the fabled book
where drawings replace all the letters.
In the invisible vice of intrigue
begins a new drama of excess.
Silvana, blind to all clues and hints,
ever more lonely in her distress.
Unaware how her soul roams around,
she's left to her inebriation,
unable to see past the blind spot
that obscures her view in life and dreams.
But this strange feeling that she has got
surpasses all the strength of reason,
opens into a new dimension
and disturbs her time and again.
As if, through entropy, she'd manage
at once to see the truth about men:
unveil the game, disclose the purpose,
recognize masks and realize that
here Tereza is just the victim.
Chapter 26: THE TRUTH[uredi]
Who are you, spiritual double of Death?
Who are you, bodiless misfortune?
A madman who missed out on Heaven –
just the ghost of a man, looking back.
Just her anger, so full of venom,
worsened by the affair turning slack.
In truth we're both the sum of despair,
weakness scattered throughout the ozone,
stellar beings without the right mould,
subjected to those who lead the blind,
wretched, making us wretched twofold.
What can a degenerate soul do?
Parallel worlds are of little use,
battles pointless with means so scanty
and worthless bitter fruit as trophies –
I'm just a poet, you're the Bacchante,
envoy of some old and haggard whore
who shakes like a chronic neuropath.
We both stare like halfwits through the glass
as the Master gloats over his work,
changing stories into myths en masse,
creating eternity by adding
events repeated hundreds of times.
Why, my body really does exist!
With flowers neatly placed at its feet!
And occasionally across this peace
floats the memory of her, naive and sweet.
But that is all. Then follows the fun.
The silent flight, the murderer's feast,
hidden by the investigation.
A sworn silence about the deceased
pours into mouths, hides the evidence
and sets like brawn over the victim,
lightening all the hearts and faces
that should otherwise still be weeping.
Graves (as pits intended for failure
with golden epigraphs cut in stone)
are boats on the wide ocean of Time,
soon to set sail into the unknown.
Sugar froths, and molasses boils,
once more the alchemists are rulers,
Barons of Death and crème de la crème.
Whilst unseen shadows behind altars
quietly conduct deals all would condemn,
with devils, vipers, swindlers and cheats.
At the market of such travesties
it is not that hard to buy a soul.
And this man, well hidden by his guild,
(bonds and loans affording him power)
is in fact the banker Goldinski.
It was he who had me killed this way.
Murder for breakfast. Danaan gift,
Pilate no longer washes his hands.
For the sophisticated slayer,
hiding the gun is not in his plans.
Is this about wealth I do not hold?
Of course not. That is just passive gain –
it is because of her he knows me,
that is why she was made a widow.
Time flies now, as I comprehend this
and in awe gaze on two worlds from within,
both yearning for some kind of justice.
All I keep stumbling across is sin
that has got no clue as to the truth.
Tragic heroes, brave, mighty and strong
remain as footnotes nevertheless
whilst morons who guess trends and prospects
are still hailed as prophets by the press ...
Chapter 27: FOX[uredi]
Through an eye of sunshine and blueness
the morning looks over her once more,
quite unaware that from high above
tonight there is word of what is in store ...
... yet it seems that the day that’s breaking
is still full of cosmic breadth and sweep,
and the fact – an act that is taboo –
that she senses even in her sleep,
exhausts her and brings her cramps of fear.
Afraid that this time she's going mad,
unsure of why she blindly believes;
is not the trap at best a premise
in the melodrama she perceives?
Does leader turn executioner
when overcome by strong emotion?
Does he just follow some vapid list?
Perhaps even only by habit –
arrogance he simply can’t desist,
like hunting with hounds for amusement?
But then – Tereza was his trophy!
The funeral march a serenade …
It all enrages and upsets her,
but tempts her into a new crusade.
Sinister power, that under the pretence
of deepest feelings comforts and strokes
and wins its battle with the angels.
His perfidious stance is a hoax
with which he buys himself devotion.
But now there's someone who knows the truth,
sin obligates all victims alike…
of this Silvana is well aware,
just waiting for the nightmares to strike
(the serpent moulting into a fox).
As she thinks about her further moves
a whole multitude swarm through her head.
She is upset about his affair
and tries to figure what can be done.
There are, of course, two simple options:
- this is Tereza's end of the run
- or that she simply ignores the terms
either way brings much further trouble.
Chapter 28: GRAVE[uredi]
Pale breasts as heavy as cast brass bells.
Without the ringing. The night is mute.
Enclosed like the sea inside a shell.
Heavy the stillness of this dispute
between two who have ceased to love.
Flesh lies to rest and inside dozes
all of memory, hiding from the truth,
a time of lechery full of whispers,
unwilling, unnerving and uncouth ...
And both are captives of loneliness ...
The banker and the dame from the bar –
recline naked without thought of crime.
But this is the scene when the drama –
about to unravel – one last time
gives the castaways a little space,
hoping that they still might be lovers.
Tis not for long that the scents remain
of substances female and male.
There's not much chemistry can obtain
by regulating the subconscious.
Now just the wounds that start to fester
spread the repelling stench of malaise
and the room transforms into a cage.
The she-wolf must sate her hungry gaze.
Silvana knows that it's a battle
That will not be that easily won.
There's much she places at risk right now,
but she so hopes to save more thereupon.
For the hundredth time she thinks about
what she should say and what she should hide,
so all sunken baggage of this kind
might somehow float up to the surface.
"I know," she says, as if she will find
a solution under the pillow.
"This is a grave that wants to be opened …"
Chapter 29: MOTH[uredi]
There is no doubt that the vessel leaks!
Some worm must have gnawed right through the wood,
transforming itself into a moth.
The weeping of the dead can be heard,
the stela opens up like a shell
as the long rotting curtain silently
rises once more for a final spell.
Whispers of dust thicken into song,
soon all the lamentations will sound
rapturous – what are premises now
will all fast be seen as firm judgements.
So the gentleman cannot allow
the matter (now rotten to its core)
to be taken over by gossip.
Secrets crawling from beyond the grave
need quickly to be suppressed once more.
(But what is now really going on?
Will the ghost manage to intervene
with Silvana who has now become
curious, though so far probably clean?
Is he now about to be betrayed?
Will it be her who will be the one
to bear the consciences of others
like a bride abandoned by the groom?)
The first time Goldinski balances
not gold, but weightless feelings instead.
This emotion that draws him to her,
binds him with an invisible thread
stronger even than cold death itself,
that now reclines by Tereza's side.
But as he so stands right at the point
where dreams lock in with reality,
the open grave appears before him
and he's struck by his finality:
in the end the loneliness thickens
leaving no time for action at all.
Eternal doubt is thus a blindness.
Only daring hunters try this much
to see the true extent of beauty
in moments leading up to the touch,
and only fools kneel well in advance
full of repentance before the Judge.
Alas, the executioners live!
For all guilt, conscience and regression
life is far too shallow a vessel.
An inviting trap to transgression
For weaklings believing God doth share.
Among them very few are destined
to grow like stalagmites in dark caves.
Chapter 30: MESSAGE[uredi]
True peace. Tereza stares at candles
that she has lit on her husband's mound.
Lingering fog clings to the houses
and the whole town sinks without a sound.
They still could tread barefoot together …
But they will not – they are out of luck.
The evening dew is not their blessing
quenching the thirst of grass below –
now they meet without caressing,
all she hopes for is his forgiveness.
For he is dead. But life still carries
such matter with which it can replace
all that it uses up and scatters…
… and can give the heart a new pace …
… so she sometimes quietly begs him
not to be angry inside the pit.
Begs, but also demands in despair,
for she’s had enough of loneliness
and never hid from him the affair.
But now, does he secretly watch her?
Can he check upon her, even dead?
Obsessed with her mite of happiness,
as if she had committed the crime.
That's not fair! It starts to gnaw at her.
She could decide to just stay away
and allow grass to stifle the blooms,
let the mound sink back into the clay,
and even in spring look desolate.
He'd forever slip out of memory,
become someone else she didn't know,
decimate conscience and all closeness
that upsets her and causes her woe.
Only a quiet pain would remain.
The vast stillness of infinite space
above the silence of a lost soul.
Is all this really needed? Called for?
The restlessness of the dead drover?
An annoying stroke on the image
that never needed making over?
Contempt, so typical of the sick,
full of bitter drool and foul envy
over the differences in this world …
And then a flurry … a whistling wind
blowing out the candles on the grave.
The bitter wind bites through the kidneys.
Cramps in her heart; with every new wave
she's pulled to the ground as if to kneel.
In truth she's full of trepidation
knowing that she should come to a halt.
Death is already knocking softly,
standing all dressed up before the door.
Buoyantly, just like the mazurka
played by the band with great rapport,
a letter appears as an omen
and a deal on the palm of her hand.
One story is soon about to end
without witness or trace before dawn.
The legend will blend in with the town
where all mourning is tepid and drawn.
Within few days whispers get carried
into other indifferent places.
Like all things lacking real evidence,
probability here conquers time.
None but God will ascribe to the banker
this ultimate gift to the lady
sent by such a handsome messenger
(a two-faced act, wicked and shady).
Chapter 31: APOLLO[uredi]
A young man (clean cut and good looking)
is buying up her kisses tonight.
He doesn't fit in with the philistines
or with those who through God-loving rite
appease their prudish morals in pairs.
He pays her for all the promises.
He asks whether she could deliver
on his wish to make love by moonlight
shining in full down by the river,
and his desire he can hardly hide
in lonely nights like this, has no price.
Silvana knows of the magic power
that converts tiny sparks into flames.
Hearing the crack of the stag in rut
and sweet nymphs in the grass playing games.
Lured inside by the dance of demons
(in Dolce Vita's stuffy cages
the refreshing scent of peppermints
masks and conceals secret aromas.)
There's one more thing – a valid question:
Why does he not seek a younger arse?
How come his wet dreams are about her,
now hefty, ageing and second class,
having lost all her interest in lust?
Would he not rather try with the girls?
The boy insists, tonight he wants not
to find a younger, fresher flower;
he cares not what is trendy and hot,
despite the temptations on offer.
After his persistent advances
Silvana thinks his moves might be true.
Money waved at her under the bar,
tempts and trifles with the whore anew,
but the sparkly gaze that gently
tickles her down her neck and beyond,
showers currency upon the shrine
worth more than any amount of gold.
The sense that greed could tow the line
and hope of seeking out her magnate
are now easily dispelled by pride,
for the smell of milk on his young breath
she'd even – naked – enter a church.
For an instant she has a strange hunch,
as if some deity full of hate
is rising there from the waters' depths,
despising her sudden turn of fate.
When he holds her all fear disappears,
his gaze soon takes her far away,
whilst the dust from the Milky Way lingers
and the moonshine becomes the sweet oil
that rubs between his agile fingers.
His virile strength thickens with passion
his tendons show bestial firmness
and gleam amidst the reeds in the night.
On scented wild grasses she arches
her sleek body in rapturous plight,
a sharp pain of pleasure in her breasts
she feels the bone below her belly,
waiting for fangs to bite at and crush.
The turquoise dame and able huntress,
who had never dropped the reins before
is caught by her own introspection.
Silk is ripped by the thorns on the shore
and in the meanders froth appears
that even tonight will mire wings …
With one last thrust he pounds to the pith
of the splayed body that here remains.
As the top melts and moraine slides
a sweetness spills straight into the veins.
For a while she does not feel the rope
that then starts to tighten round her neck.
The bird still hovers, its wings spread wide
by the warm wind of lust and desire,
until her cruel, cold-blooded guide,
completes the circle that encloses
her in the strangling cage of her end.
And so now Silvana is dying.
The lyric cadence of dreamy strings
rises to a sudden crescendo,
full of dark tones – like the shadow brings
as it smothers her whilst she still moves.
Then the dark night unfolds above her
as the Holy Book is sealed once more,
and the river turns over the corpse
to avert those huge eyes from the shore,
not to plead with God to bring her back.
Chapter 32: THE CRY[uredi]
The long blind serpent (the dark river
that has always only washed away),
at night devours a body with ease
not sought or asked after by the day.
All is as it was before – inert.
Whilst one thing extinguishes somewhere,
Elsewhere a new one is being born.
Yet this anthill of a thousand deaths
offers a hidden hope to mortals
whilst all the Lord's plans remain secret.
The spaces in between there are portals.
There many – looking inward and outward –
ascertain that in fact the shovel
is not the tool that ends the story.
Here start quandary and delusion,
‘tis not time for judgement or glory.
There is no divine guard awaiting,
nor angels with heavenly music.
The cry travels without an echo
and shatters in the dust of silence.
What the soul carries does not perish.
Truths balance out memories narrated.
Like a lone thought, wedged inside the mind,
pain's eternity is created.
Chapter 33: THE LETTER[uredi]
Clocks look across the provincial town
as if nothing had happened at all.
The stucco render of the grey clouds
and the glue the marshland mists do haul
are God's most convenient blinkers
whilst incense lingers in the niches.
No news from the Dolce Vita bar
of a missing lady of the night.
Girls leaving the dump always run far
without warning or explanation,
and there's never a note left behind.
The Madam senses drama this time.
All the clothes and makeup abandoned,
an attestation of likely crime.
Would she really leave it all and go –
Silvana, the noble lioness,
proud girl who long held her well earned price?
Would she really leave her trunk right here
or her long silk gown smelling of spice?
Even worse - the money in the till,
for a job more carnal than this one!?
Of course not! This secret departure
has begun to bother her of late.
Her fingers, ever more persistent,
search for a lead to Silvana's fate ...
... and find one, not what she expected.
In her stuff she finds a short letter
that calls her to the scene of the crime.
Chapter 34: SCREECH OWL[uredi]
Once more the old dame goes out for soap,
but in truth this is just a pretence.
The ink gnaws into her palm like salt
and cleaning it off makes little sense.
Despair now binds with anger and rage
and drool – bitter from bile – condenses
in her mouth that these days rarely speaks.
With love here stretched between more than two
promises by dawn are empty words.
What could the prophets possibly read
from the restless flight of aimless birds?
Lovers are very poor guardians
of an invisible abundance
and soon under the eternal star
the quadrille can become a war dance.
Of this the lady who keeps the nest
of night birds and bats is well aware.
Long has the seed been sown in furrows
in places that many shepherds share –
though it is never allowed to take.
But now the screech owls’ cries are warning.
The letter points to evildoing,
so she has to deliver it soon …
Chapter 35: GUILT[uredi]
Tereza stares at the crow whose eyes
are filled with darkness, watered by time.
Within a heavy realization
and every possible doubt of crime
is dispelled by aged bitterness.
Why else would the silver haired madam
arrive here (leaving her world of vice),
were it not for him, sneering at life
and for the evil, brief and precise
like an adage, in its miserable deed?
But still: is it really possible
to satisfy longing with attack?
Brazenly sin against the living?
To take love and then offer love back,
believing that a heart in mourning
can be deceived by consolation?
Besides there's also a third! The whore,
who now tries to persuade her, of course,
that they're both caught in the foul net
of the darkest most malicious source.
(Is it possible that Xanthippe
sick from envy actually means well?
Is not the story of this lecher’s rage
just a figment of a haunted mind?)
But the tiny letters on the page
start to create very long shadows –
the hound now howls over the marshes
where flowers for wreaths grow in the wild.
… again there's wind, the grave and candles …
… and more shots from this sequence of hers,
as the mists drag across the grasslands
and the stale air in the graveyard stirs.
A mood of wakeful eternity.
Shudders from an invisible touch.
Just a glimpse of the corpse and his calls
soon strike an image inside her mind
(at the hour just before darkness falls)
and finally she now comprehends.
With lifeless steps the husband rises
slowly from his strangely shallow pit
where, powerless, he held on to the hope
that to the butcher she'd not submit.
But here all is as the night before.
Under the sheets and the canopy
Pan once again pours out his red wine,
and when his hard and desperate rod
tends for the hundredth time to his shrine,
she’s split between memory and desire.
For this she is guilty. Here begins
punishment for discarding her veil.
Non-belief is the essence of this
and many other a serpentine tale.
Chapter 36: POISON[uredi]
Life inside a collapsing tower
is much like living inside a maze.
Ash lies heavy on Goldinski's soul
and Tereza having been so blind,
carries a wild sorrow within her.
As rage thickens in a soldier's mind
there is no further hope for mercy.
In the soulless zone of Rubicon
time's already becoming the past,
and in the lawless world of the dead
newly hatched toads are emerging fast.
Tereza now goes (like a Gorgon)
to where the hermit dwells and the snakes
are eternally full of venom.
Very soon all this will truly change.
Chapter 37: SARABANDE[uredi]
A still evening. The grave of the day.
The last vital ray brushes across
the golden meanders. Then light fades.
The steamed up window loses its gloss.
The profile of a man. His posture
shows the calmness of a bronze statue.
But it is the face of the banker:
“The Devil himself, waiting for love.”
Night at last. An allusion to the dead
in Heaven. The empty square, cliché,
“Lady Bearing Sentence in a Chest”
is the sole painting left on display.
No one is an angel. Her story
is sad without doubt. And the legend
that praises it – at the least contentious.
But the sarabande in the tavern
grows louder in anticipation.
Very soon a new round commences.
And the song, almost with elation,
echoes across the marshes and pools
where the slow river buries its dead.
Chapter 38: THE KISS[uredi]
The flower of her lips (magic bloom,
like bumble bee honey, smelling sweet)
Brushes softly against his neck and
the night once more thickens as they meet
and her gaze floats beyond his shoulder.
Then he surrenders to the ritual
demanded here by loving closeness
that's repeated tonight one last time.
He was her hope and her temptation.
At his side she opened up her wings
as if she was an enlightened bird
that Sibyl guides along through all things
it comes across on the eternal path
where fireflies emerge from the ashes.
She swore that in love no flaw remains.
Once more she gave into the fire
that removes and melts down all the chains
(spins yarn from heavy iron fetters
for ships and chariots of the Sun).
By elevating her to the skies
to many others life was denied.
Starving now, her hairs bristle with rage
as the she-wolf awakens inside.
All she does is contemplate the steps
till the hour of retaliation.
Her kiss hides fangs, well sharpened and tuned
and saliva scalding hot with rage …
Let death come shooting out of her wound!
Tallow starts to drip on the table.
As the candle flame flickers once more
a hint of burning tickles the nose.
Tereza tells him, still at the door:
“This chest will reveal my devotion!”
Then in all its gilding and silence
the night becomes ever more lonely …
… and, why should he be afraid at all?
Why this box? (And all the temptation,
scarlet velvet, ribbon and myrtle,
a lock and cryptic combination …
The gentleman knows well from flirting
that sometimes things can go very wrong,
then he resorts to exhortation.
But this parcel? What could possibly
still touch his soul, immune to sensation?)
When he removes the lock and the lid
the smile becomes doubtful and bitter …
for it seems that the box is empty!
And this emptiness? Makes little sense …
But feeling inside a shapeless mass
seizes upon him with strength and skill.
The relentless shadow enwraps him
like a serpent, going for the kill.
Chapter 39: LEMURES[uredi]
This key … (this very one that locked the door.)
This scream … (scattered all over the floor.)
Time … (caught in the sandglass forever.)
This Fiend … (serpent striking at the throng.)
This Death … (persistently spurred along,
though unable to love or to hate.)
And these eyes, already going blind,
gazing through Heaven's doors, resigned,
yet still horrified by all they see.
Then a pause and a flutter of wings
as long dead birds start pecking away
at the grains of the soul strewn about
by the wretch. And the scar of decay
turns putrid. Misery and disgust
are its eternity, its Black Mass,
its mournful pleas that are never heard,
an endless trip to finality,
where punishment is the Holy Word.
Lemurian madness is truly cruel
and here two wolf-hungry souls that crave
for satisfaction. The man who was
led by sheer wantonness to his grave
and Silvana, who was sacrificed
for the mere sake of peace and quiet.
The sound of their Hosanna will swell,
his only food - the salt of despair,
forever forged in the depths of Hell.
On the coffin a single handful
of genuinely mournful earth is thrown.
The Vestal (alias the faithful wife!)
watched the hearth in vain, sad and alone.
While the mourners on the promenade
that is to be his final shelter,
faithfully in true bourgeois fashion,
publicly, formally pay respect,
but their voices are without passion.
Tomorrow it will all be the Past.
The same day the conclave will convene,
at night files disappear without trace.
Without any pomp or swords or flags
a new leader will step in his place.
He'll count out money and holy cows
will lick him in between his fingers.
Again there'll be crumbs from the table,
left over for those of lower casts.
He is bound to try to stabilize
the mighty tree by sending out roots
right down into the dregs of the scum,
where the Devil keeps all his cauldrons ...
(As always, stories repeat themselves,
alas endings can vary a lot.)
Feri Lainšček: Passages of Return[uredi]
Lainšček's text is an interesting hybrid of genre and form; even its subtitle A Novel in ‘’Verse’’ points towards the merging of literary norms that we are used to observing as specific rules of creative writing. As distinctive rules, historically established genres and forms enable the comprehension, acceptance and evaluation of any certain work, acting thus as its agent and receiver. Though the novel in verse is not a contradiction in terms, it is a relatively rare phenomenon in European literature that has long held in higher esteem linguistically more complicated and rhetorically precisely refined verse, using it for epic poems, tragedies and dithyrambs as well as chronicles and laws.
The novel and the shorter narrative in verse came into their own right in the period of Romanticism (Mickiewicz’s ‘’Pan Tadeusz’’, Pushkin’s ‘’Eugene Onegin’’, Byron’s ‘’Child Harold’’ and ‘’Don Juan’’, and others). Bt the early 19th century the narrative in verse is no longer the continuation or desired revival of the classical epic, based on individual or collective heroic deeds supported by the Gods, but a presentation of a complex contemporary every-day life that evolves itself around an unexceptional bourgeois figure in a secularized world. So the novel in verse is at the same time already a move away from Romanticism, a disintegration of its conventional ideals along the path towards a more prosaic Realism, yet still in the noble form of verse.
As a novel Lainšček’s text depicts a contemporary small town with all its apparent peaceful orderliness, despite a pervading atmosphere of stifling staleness. Early on the town is labelled with an animal metaphor that emphasises the significance of its unpleasant sliminess and slowness: “yet still it curls and coils like a snail / self-revering and truly bizarre” (3). On the furtive outskirts as well as in the centre itself, dark scheming and dirty deals take place as if: “It is here the town Minotaurs sleep / devouring the golden thread of light” (34); and later “In the bowels of the whale the town sleeps.” (48). In this sense the banker’s office and the town brothel are equivalent places of dishonest exchange of money and bodies and if we add to this the Church, also the exchange of wretched souls.
The story is set in a time span of a few months, but into this chronologically tidy (synthetic) tale creep elements of an undisclosed prequel from years earlier, most details and course of which are unknown to the reader as well as the protagonists. Typically for the classical European novel, erotic love is at the core of the plot, constructed from individual scenes. As is typical for Romanticism as well as Realism, this love is problematic, full of hurdles, and unhappily tragic. However it is not such due to any unresponsiveness by one of the partners, the sacrifice of love in the name of higher goals, emotional vacuity, social differences or family feuds, but because not only is a couple involved in this emotional relationship but an array of legally united and criminally separated couples and individuals (the widow Tereza and the married Goldinski, Goldinski’s wife and the prostitute Silvana with many partners.) So towards its climax (up to Canto 65.) the plot follows the hindered consolidation of the relationship that is spurred on by increasing passion and in the unravelling of the events (from Canto 77. to 93.) the collapse of the possibility of love because of jealousy and revenge until the death of two of the key figures of the narrative (Silvana and Goldinski) and Tereza’s ultimate solitude.
Together with its love story, the culmination and unravelling of the events in the plot also firmly places Lainšček’s tale amidst horror and crime stories. This also makes the actual structure of the various motifs in the text hybrid in terms of its genre. The world described is multilayered: it is not determined solely by possible fictitious events like meetings, flirtation, sexual contacts, deceits, murders, etc. that assume some kind of materially existing and emotionally perceivable verbal reality, a semblance of our own realistic experiences, or only by the mental reality of the key figures, the intangible world of emotions, premonitions, expectations, illusions, etc. One of the essential parts of the narrative is taken on by restless spirits of the dead, or rather the murdered, and the dreamlike transformations of the souls of the doubting and the disappointed. From this surreal and irrational world from beyond the grave come also the key messages about the unknown: who and for what reason murdered Tereza’s husband?, can loving a married man ever bring true happiness?, why did Goldinski grow bored of his chosen whore Silvana?, how long is it possible to successfully hide a crime?
Lemures and nightmares add to creating an atmosphere of the eerily mysterious, the incomprehensible and enhance the fear of death, increase the doubts and sinister premonitions that what the protagonists are experiencing or feeling is but a deception that conceals the emptiness, the pain and the anxiety. But death is no encouragement for anything superior or surplus, neither is it the finite end, for the frustration, jealousy and anger continue in the afterlife that does not repay/equalize anyone: “What the soul carries does not perish. / Truths balance out memories narrated. / Like a lone thought, wedged inside the mind, / pain’s eternity is created.” (83)
The intervention of spirits (lemures) and dreams (nightmares) almost seems to be more decisive in the engineering of events than the socially critical and philosophic-reflexive motivation that exposes the nihilistic world of power, deception, betrayal and murder. Contemporary nihilism has actualized itself in the mentality of the individual figures and their intimate relationships, and through this into the core of the story: “Non belief is the essence of this / and many other a serpentine tale.” (87) In principle there are no more ethical norms, prohibitions or taboos that would keep the avarice for pleasure and money or power under control. The Romantic and Neo-Romantic yearning for anything ideal has been reduced to a never quite fulfilled raw carnal desire that achieves its brief orgasmic moment, only to be replaced by a fresh void. All the figures with the partial exception of Tereza lack soul, thus calculating, egotistic interests corrode the noble emotions of love and mercy. Partners are post-material and functionalized since they only serve the purpose of conceited pleasure/profit, and are of course not unique, but replaceable, just as all relationships are also non-binding: “Fidelity is mere fantasy. / No one shall ever be exclusive” (49) Maybe another romantic irony is the fact that the functionalized object is the woman (Tereza, Silvana) and the man (Goldinski), is also only a function that is simply to be carried out by someone else after his death: “a new leader will step in his place.” (93)
The gradual discovery of a crime from the past reminds us of a crime novel, though the rational analysis of the suspicions, premonitions and visions is not done by a single literary character, but by each figure on their own for their own purpose: Goldinski out of fear of justice and revenge and losing his lover Tereza; Tereza for moral reasons and the sense of guilt over provoking the banker’s lust; Silvana in order to blackmail the murderer whom she had expected to provide her with shelter and protection. The ethos of criminal genre is that the perpetrator should be revealed (and punished). The reader’s suspense and expectation is actually fulfilled as the events unravel: the jealous spirit of the husband reveals the details of his murder to the jealous soul of Silvana; then a letter from the murdered blackmailing prostitute reveals the truth about the crime to Tereza, who takes justice into her own hands and with a serpent presented as a gift poisons the double murderer Goldinski. Tereza is not punished for her revenge with loss of life, but by the loss of her love and even before this the loss of her spouse.
The crime and horror elements all border on the plausible, close to folk superstition or the psychology of the subconscious that it tries to analyze. Psychoanalysis of the subconscious is represented by Carl Gustav Jung mentioned in the dedication at the start, in particular his conviction of the existence of the spirit that rules the depths of everything that exists, and, as Lainšček mentions in the introduction, through the soul touches eternity and freedom and opens us up to love, to stepping out of the line of death and futile self-adulation. The literary method of accommodating the material and spiritual existence is through reference to fragments of myths. Mythical dimensions are hard to integrate into novel form (apart from fairy tale or fantastical) but live quite happily inside poetic verse that imitates proto-romantic Sturm und Drang of ‘love and intrigue’ that in a way coincides with our own contemporary eclectic mysticism of the New Age. In places Lainšček alludes to ancient (pagan) motifs, e.g. the notion of the separation and connectedness of the worlds of the living and the dead (the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, Cerberus guarding the gates), love stories (Eros and Psyche) and deities (Pan, Aphrodite, Cupid), prophets (Sybil, augurs), monsters (Minotaurs, Gorgon), the personification of fate (Parca, Fortuna), literary characters (Xanthippe, Casanova, The Vestal, Hamlet), folk beliefs (nymphs) and dualistic Biblical notions (heaven and hell, angels and demons, the devil and his agent, the symbolic evil serpent). Besides these common topoi an array of more individual and symbolically meaningful motifs appear: nocturnal animals (screech owl, bats, moth, fireflies), locations (river bank) and situations (night, mist). All this mythical repertory comes to life within a frame of depicting an atmosphere, a psychological characterization of the key figures and the reflexive and evaluating comments of the narrator. More ironic is the naming of the brothel, the ‘astral bar’ Dolce Vita, that alludes to the renaissance Dolce stil poetic movement, but here presents an image of pre-condemned, rejected girls with no right to the sun/day, happiness and love.
Considering the relatively small number of agents, the limited time span and restricted special range, ‘’Passages of Return’’ could also be called a tale in verse. What makes it a novel is only the manner of its narration in and the kind of narrator narrating it. Only the novel allows the possibility of narration from the superior point of view of an omniscient narrator or from the limited awareness of the participants in the events that can either be one of the characters or the first-person self. In the brief titles that announce the content of each chapter, the omniscient narrator leads the reader through the scenes of the complicated story and regulates his curiosity. In the 93 versified cantos he also often chooses this classical, slightly distant perspective, since he has command of the past and the future, knows things that the characters themselves are not yet aware of, is able to seep in to their thoughts, emotions and dreams. The authorial narrator is most noticeable where he comments, explains or judges as an ethically sensitive observer or as a stoic thinker.
However the narrator’s distanced view does not always dominate, and he often within the same canto allows the literary figure to express their own opinion, doubts, fears or wishes, mainly in order for the reader to become familiar with Tereza, Goldinski and Silvana, understanding them from within and establishing an empathic relationship with them. What is particularly interesting is the guessing by the characters about the presence of signs (visible signs, words, gestures or action), the presence or absence of attraction, the meaning of visions, the importance of premonitions or the way the moments of their doubt or decisions to act are presented, for example: when Tereza feels pity upon her husband’s grave and later refuses to accept that the dead man could still have the right to decide upon the lives of the living: “For he is dead. / But life still carries / such matter with which it can replace / all that it uses up and scatters… / … and can give the heart a new pace … / … so she sometimes quietly begs him / not to be angry inside the pit. / Begs, but also demands in despair, / for she had enough of loneliness /and never hid from him the affair. / But now, does he secretly watch her?” (76) or when Goldinski decides how he would respond to Silvana’s blackmailing: “Alas, the executioners live! / For all guilt, conscience and regression / life is far too shallow a vessel. / An inviting trap to transgression / for weaklings believing God doth share.” (75) We could also include passages where the rational Goldinski cannot handle visions, when the prostitute Silvana wonders why Goldinski no longer finds her attractive, when Tereza doubts that the old matron from the brothel is a reliable witness and when Silvana hesitates before giving in to the attractive murderer and swings between wanting money and her pride.
This mutual reflection of the literary figures with varying points of view and assessments gives the text a dynamic inconclusiveness, an emotional multidimensionality and a psychological evolvement: characters that are initially neutral or shown in a positive light end up being jealous, avaricious, revengeful and calculating which also ties in with the intensifying composition of the whole, whilst at the same time the reader has already been seduced and judges them in a more benevolent light.
The narrator sometimes asks himself along with the reader whether the story lures him by gradually increasing his curiosity or offering a solution to the mystery: “None but God will ascribe to the banker / this ultimate gift to the lady / sent by such a handsome messenger / (a two-faced act, wicked and shady).” (78). Even more interesting are the parts where even the narrator does not comprehend the actions of the emancipated characters, as if he was looking at his own literary creation from another self-referential plane: “So what to do? Is she perceptive? / Matters are really quite similar! / Perhaps all is just as it should be? / Tereza loves as she never loved / and there's little hope of saving her.” (63); “Will the ghost manage to intervene / with Silvana who has now become / curious, though so far probably clean? / Is he now about to be betrayed?” (74) An outside, yet involved stance can even be seen in some of the descriptive verses: “The morning view with the rolling mist / is an image where much is concealed, / for the Master prefers not to show / the bird now lying dead in the field.” (62) The narrator thus holds onto all the threads of the tale, but at times this is just as unreliable as the literary characters that are limited to their own perceptions. Even more, the voices of these characters can sometimes even overrule that of the narrator. This happens at the moment when the wandering souls of Tereza’s husband and Silvana meet and even engage in a conversation, both aware of their own double fictitiousness: as made up characters and as their non-material essences: “We both stare like halfwits through the glass / as the Master gloats over his work, / changing stories into myths en masse, / creating eternity by adding / events repeated hundreds of times.” (66)
The narrator’s presence at the basic and meta-narrative level and the slipping from the external to the internal viewpoint gradually increase as the story unfolds. Another constant and for this even more important dimension are the narrator’s seemingly objective comments that are often put in parentheses. These can be ironic, sarcastic comments such as: “Graves (as pits intended for failure / with golden epigraphs cut in stone)” (68) or contradictions of what has just been stated for which the world being described appears even more complexly rugged: “Hearing the crack of the stag in rut / and sweet nymphs in the grass playing games. / Lured inside by the dance of demons / (in Dolce Vita's stuffy cages / the refreshing scent of peppermints / masks and conceals secret aromas.)” (79) The comments inside the bracket appear as something thrown in, additional, a later thought, but it is precisely through this kind of speech by the narrator that the reflexive layer of the text deepens. Some are maxims in their own right, expressions of principle truths: “Eternal doubt is thus a blindness.”; “Eternity's a ritual of fame.”; “Love in itself is never a sin! / It's a story, glorified by God”; “Love (beacon in the human temple) / enraptured ignites deep in the soul, / and sinks flashing back into its hold.” The ideal love of body and soul in this literary world remains mere “Dreams both on this side and the other!” Also notable are the caustic remarks on the spiritual state of modern society of perverted values: “At the market of such travesties / it is not that hard to buy a soul.”; “Tragic heroes, brave, mighty and strong / remain as footnotes nevertheless / whilst morons who guess trends and prospects / are still hailed as prophets by the press ...”
The verse form also allows the author a much richer and more varied verbalization. Even the mere choice of words shows the functional stratification of the language, depending upon its use in specific circumstances and by different characters. It is a play between the supercilious and the vernacular. The language includes some relatively rare and borrowed words, (noesis, stela, grisette, banderilla, mylings, ruth, syrinx) and a number of conversational and vulgar words (cunt, fuck, arse, hot, dump). Quite often this language is mixed, the fancy and the uncouth juxtaposed. On the other hand the way the main characters are addressed (mister, gentleman, lady, dame) elevate them regardless of their social status or level of so-called moral contamination.
The vertical structure of the space in which the story unfolds: the chthonic underworld (of death, the forbidden and the repressed), the common and marginal small town world, the world of dreaming souls, apparitions and spirits, as well as time (real, finite, posthumous, eternal) is also reflected in the metaphors and comparisons. Metaphors are a graphical and clever means of valuating the represented world. Some very effective comparative material comes from the natural world, particularly in cases when their nuances of meaning are not standardized: “As the climactical muffled peal / melts inside the smooth mouth of the fish, / cynical scoffs are hard to conceal” (49); “bound by the darkness of the black snow / into a ghostly colony like bats / inside a deep dark cave of the Karst.” (21); “Goldinski (here like a lone heron) / sets off into the greyness of dawn” (48) Even more innovative in this role are the objects that take on this same role when they metaphorically denote man and his perception of the world: “Upon a rumpled bed made in haste / the recumbent body shall remain, / thrown like a coat not worn since last year.” (13); “Tereza falls, into the chasm / of a camera obscura tonight.” (54); “(Up, like polished brass, the Moon will shine, / down below the skull will glow stone white” (60); “The world is just a tiny raindrop. / Sometimes it can rapidly inflate / into a universe of great flare, / but the balloon – like all happiness – / can instantly burst into thin air.” (52); “Then there's a border. The realm of Death. / The Universe's bright silver scar.” (61)
What we can conclude from an analysis of the genre and type is that Lainšček’s text is in fact a clever literary game that like a simulacrum revives what would not be possible to revive in its original appearance: classical form and romantic aesthetics. In this sense ‘’Passages of Return’’ are a post-modern work that is enhanced by the intertextual use of myths and an acceptance of the absence of metaphysics (and romantic ideality). What is typical of the literature of the post-modern era is a freedom of choice between all the available styles, forms, motifs, story lines, ways of narration, all of them already invented and weighed down by their respective historical contexts, in order to explore new combinations in which they can be used. It could also be seen as merely a literary freedom that amuses the literarily sophisticated. The last two lines of verse, in brackets of course, read: “(As always, stories repeat themselves, / alas endings can vary a lot.) As we know from Borges and after, a precise repeat is not possible in principle, since all the events are placed in a variable time, yet through literary passages we can still return to them.
Irena Novak Popov
translated by Gregor Timothy Čeh
When translating verse inevitably certain choices made bear great effect on the form of the final outcome. Some of these choices can be consciously taken at the start, with or without the author’s suggestions, advice or even request. Others are made at various stages as the translation progresses. With his ‘’Passages of Return’’, Feri Lainšček offered me as the translator a free hand in all these choices – not because he knew my work or approach but, I assume, to allow me to participate in the joint creative process, the sum of which is here before you.
Many issues require consideration when translating such a piece. The original Slovene is written in a strict rhyming verse with 1854 nine-syllable stanzas arranged into cantos of varying lengths. The rhyme and the nine syllables are technically the most immediately obvious characteristics that in a way make this piece what it is. Cadence and metre are probably more important in poetry than actual rhyme, so in order to retain some of the pace and flow of the verses, I immediately decided that this should be the features I ought to try to preserve. Easier said than done – the greater proportion of monosyllabic words used in English sometimes made the lines too short and, sometimes, a particular way of saying something that either sounded right or conveyed the right image was simply too long. Add to this my later decision, despite originally thinking that it would be impossible in a piece as long as this, to also keep at least some of the rhyme that in the original is too prominent to totally ignore, and one is left with little choice but to go over each verse again and again until satisfied that it firstly conveys a faithful meaning of the original, secondly retains enough of the metre to still warrant it being called verse and thirdly adheres to the pattern of rhyme that I had set out to follow.
There were parts where the original text more or less presented itself for translation but there were also parts where words put together in endless combinations with endless broadly alternative meanings still did not sound natural or right. These were the verses that became wedged in my mind and kept popping up in the most unusual of circumstances, gardening, sitting at a café, strolling through town, driving along in the car, reading something entirely different, etc., and I would then have two urgent tasks: repeating it over in my mind making sure that in terms of syllables and metre it fitted what I was after, and then trying to find a piece of paper to jot it down on (all sorts of receipts that find their way into your wallet are very useful in this case, providing you can find a pen).
This is the result of all these processes. Inevitably there are certain departures in detail from the original, but I shall try to justify these by saying that I believe the tone and meaning of the whole are fervently retained, despite the difficulties in conveying both in the two phonetically and poetically so very different languages.
Gregor Timothy Čeh