On the Way Back

By AKSINIA MIHAYLOVA
Translated by MARISSA DAVIS 

No, I have never seen a sad tree,
but I don’t want to keep reflecting the world
like a chipped mirror,

or cutting up Sunday’s lonesomeness
by tracking sunlight
as it leaps from yard to yard,

or damming the ends 
of inaccessible seas that you send to me. 
And I am out of season.

The mailman has grown old  
and I still have not reconciled time and salt.  

Sometimes, I make a fan out of postcards
and study other houses’ facades—
so much like flocks of birds
on the verge of flight, painfully white;
like the stomachs of the swallows in my country,
dozing August away on telephone lines.

I have never seen a sad bird, either,
because birds do not feed themselves
like men on another’s life,1
but I am tired of playing
all the roles myself: 
the ship, the sea, the lone captain. 
And the winds come late.

I can’t tell if I am hiking 
up this hill or down it, 
but mornings without you
are an empty church where I pray: 
Lord, I want only what you want for me. 

What do you pray for, so distant, deaf
to all my grieving? Look, the light
under the dome is weaving
a silver net—it swaddles me
and pulls me skyward.  

Fisher of clouds, make a little room
in your inner sea
for the impossible stranger that I am
before dusk turns the key
to blind you.

That’s all I can say for the world
that brought you to me.

Before I head back on the path
where that world reveals it is nothing
more than my own reflection,
stop and listen to the bird 
in my eyes that asks:
Have you ever seen a sad tree?

French original published in Ciel à perdre © Editions Gallimard 2014.

 

Aksinia Mihaylova is a poet, educator, and translator. She is the author of six poetry books in Bulgarian, translated into numerous languages. Ciel à Perdre, her first collection written in French, received France’s Prix Apollinaire in 2014. She released her second French-language collection, Le Baiser du Temps, in June 2019; it went on to become the 2020 recipient of the Prix Max-Jacob. Mihaylova resides in Sofia, Bulgaria.

Marissa Davis is a poet and translator from Paducah, Kentucky, now residing in Brooklyn. Her translations are published in Ezra, The Massachusetts Review, and New England Review, and forthcoming in Mid-American Review and RHINO.

[Purchase Issue 22 here.]


Footnotes

1 Line by Wisława Szymborska

On the Way Back

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