Ivan Esenski



I’ll sit a while, and feel no mirth

I’ll stroke the dry grass stalks,

I declare:

“I too am made from earth,

but sister, our fate cannot be balked!


You and I are two virtuous souls,

only that we are half alive:

this world has shriveled us whole –

You from without, me from the inside.


In secret –   from evil eyes concealed

let’s merge into one common whole:

and within my skin, cored and peeled,

there’s shelter for your orphaned soul.


I’ve  tears for a century’s rain in store –

they’ll feed us for yet another go.

The first we lived just once, no more,

we’ll share out the second in equal show.


No-one understood a thing,  however

since the grass took me to its keeping.

thereafter the green of youth does wither

and the grass will not stop weeping.


Ivan Esenski © 2008 from Exile

Translated by Christopher Buxton




Where are they going, our lads?

What are these stops in the heart beat?

Why no shriek, why no pain?

The rain bears down on their sodden great-coats,

And they march on – so ridiculously proud.

And once it rained like this on us.


Life repeats itself in cycles of banality.

Yet after all this how do you keep faith –

After the scars of the past, how?

Our fathers stood struck dumb

And looked not in our eyes but at our wounds

How we stamped to attention with absurd pride.


Now they are by their fathers, in the ground.

Our children kiss the banners

And depart in the autumn mist.

Where are they going, our lads?

The rain stays silent over bones, over oaths.

And we, where are we truly going?


Resembling living statues,

The women silently blink back the tears,

Dried out over the days of their youth.

The lasses, where did you hide them?

Lasses, where are you off to, darlings?

Where are they going, our women?


Why they’re still restlessly wandering

Tiptoe through our sterile nights?

Why do they execute backward looks?

There where the beds whiten in solitude,

There where ‘twixt us and them weighs in

The wall of our spectral vocation.


It’s true it’s become a question of honour

To pluck them from this wet autumn orchestra

And get them into some dark entry

and between two kisses to confess

that now – just as before – we don’t know

where our life is going.


Ivan Esenski © 2008 from Exile

Translated by Christopher Buxton