They would allow me in “the frog pond” at Palanga,
in order to teach me how to swim.
The teacher was strict:
you had to do “the little star” right away,
to swim with boards,
then dive to the bottom
to find the key.
I had no sense of how
I was doing there, on the water.
Much later, during my studies,
I was writing a paper on a phrase
found in Camus’ notebooks:
I must write in the same way
that I must swim: because my body
My body in adolescence
was ready enough to swim
to suit the lake’s initiative.
My daughter’s body,
swimming free without repression,
would not pass muster in the kiddie pool.
The lakes of books I swam across
as if drowning — each time I gasped
when I reached the shore.
My daughter’s lettering, pressed
all over my documents, is almost
unwilled, resistant to doctrine,
training, and the coach’s whistle.
In the swimming pool,
we wave our separate flippers —
just one body and blood
in our sacramental chalice.
Giedre Kazlauskaite is an award-winning Lithuanian poetess and author of four poetry collections, and editor of the weekly cultural periodical Šiaurės Atėnai (Athens of the North).
Written by Esad Babacic and translated by Andrej Pleterski
Plenty of air.
And a landscape.
A human in the middle,
sitting by the fire,
warming his hands.
Esad Babacic is one of Slovenia’s most celebrated poets. Author of 15 collections of poetry, he is also a literary critic, translator from Serbian and Bosnian, journalist, actor, script-writer and activist.
Written by Dan Sociu and translated by Oana Sânziana Marian
We climbed out of the car, me to smoke,
you to collect ladybirds. We both
stopped near a tree-stump, made
two children, and in a year the storm took
our roof off. Another year burned
our little summer kitchen
to the ground. We endured hard winters,
snows that stuck and couldn’t be
unstuck from our skin. The clouds whizzed by
electrifying my beard. The children grew,
but our gazes remained young.
I threw out the cigarette butt, you put the bugs
in your pockets. We left the stump
behind, turned back to the road, to the car.
Dan Sociu is a renowned Romanian poet and author of seven poetry collections. He also works as an editor and translator from English.
Written and translated by Manjola Nasi
There is a bridge here, and I see myself
swaying on it.
The water, the trees, the afternoon light,
the creases between stones, dark and mossy,
the dragonflies, the tiny breeze of their wings.
There’s not a single soul by the river bank.
The bridge is here and I’m swaying inside it
like a child in a cot, lulled to sleep, to grow.
But I am the cross-section between bygone and nothing,
embarrassing the present.
Implied promises are less binding than uttered ones.
The bridge is I myself, and I am the bridge.
What started out as human sacrifice by
immurement, so that the bridge would hold,
ended giving me the inflexible freedom
that if I want, I, too may not collapse,
now that I only have stones to bear.
No one comes this way, yet the bridge still holds on.
Manjola Nasi is an acclaimed Albanian poetess and author of two poetry collections. She is also an English language and creative writing lecturer and translator from English.