by Tomaž Šalamun
translation by Brian Henry
are angels green? can heaven sustain them?
workers have a mouth, a face, a gait and children
little sheep lick the grass, tigers tear meat
water is always scooped up near the shore
I saw that a rainbow had fallen
shepherds swam over it
I waved, I waved, I felt myself burning
I knew I was awake, I didn’t know who was singing
who made you, day? where do ants come from?
why does a thread stick together?
why does light fall on a knife?
foolish maturity, you scrub my collar
where are the blacksmiths to forge my horseshoes?
I don’t like having my eyes covered
I want light to hit me, air
I want everyone to breathe, a mouse, shit
Tomaž Šalamun (1941-2014) published more than 50 books of poetry in his native Slovenian. Translated into over 25 languages, his poetry received numerous awards, including the Jenko Prize, the Prešeren Prize, the European Prize for Poetry, and the Mladost Prize. In the 1990s, he served for several years as the Cultural Attaché for the Slovenian Embassy in New York, and he later held visiting professorships at various universities in the U.S.
Brian Henry is the author of eleven books of poetry, most recently Permanent State, and the new prose book Things Are Completely Simple: Poetry and Translation. He has translated Tomaž Šalamun’s Woods and Chalices, Aleš Debeljak’s Smugglers, and five books by Aleš Šteger. His work has received numerous honors, including two NEA fellowships, the Alice Fay di Castagnola Award, a Howard Foundation fellowship, a Slovenian Academy of Arts and Sciences grant, and the Best Translated Book Award. He lives in Richmond, Virginia.