SEVEN URBAN TONGUES

Taja Kramberger
Kramberger-foto b
Scroll down to read Gestrin Street.
Taja Kramberger was born in 1970 in Ljubljana. She graduated in history from the Faculty of Arts in Ljubljana and is preparing her PhD thesis in historical anthropology at the Faculty of Humanities, University of Littoral in Koper, where she also teaches. She has held postgraduate fellowships in Paris and Budapest, and is editor-in-chief of the multilingual Monitor ZSA [in English HSA] - Review of Historical, Social and other Anthropologies. She has published five collections of poetry: Marcipan (Marzipan, 1997), Spregovori morje (The Sea Says, 1999), Gegenströmung / Protitok (2002, in German), Zametni indigo (Velvet Indigo, 2004) and Mobilizations (2004, multilingual). Her poems have been included in various reviews and in the anthology A Fine Line: New Poetry from Central and Eastern Europe (Arc Publications, 2004). She also writes essays, scholarly articles on collective memory and other modes of cultural transmission, and translates poetry (Michele Obit, Neringa Abrutyte, Roberto Juarroz). In 2002 she was the principal artistic organizer and co-ordinator of the international poetry translation workshop: Linguaggi di-versi / Different Languages / Langages di-vers in Koper.





Gestrin Street
First published in English in: Ten Slovenian Poets of the Nineties, Litterae Slovenicae, Slovene Writers' Association & Slovene PEN, Ljubljana, 2002.

© Taja Kramberger (2001)
© Translation by Ana Jelnikar (2002)

Before we finally moved into
our new home, the Red House, and fixed
a red letter box with jaws big enough
for foreign magazines, and before
our neighbour bid us welcome by giving the box
a good whack on its mouth,
we had both seen the ten months
slip unnoticed through our fingers,
and an extra two also wasted
in trying to improve the rating
of the bland local intellectual atmosphere;
despite the fact that we believe only in vistas
of independent breakthrough, we watched
years and decades merge into the weaving
of a thick monochrome Caspian rug
we are thinking of buying
for our sitting room; and we talked about how
every one of their highly praised
solitudes is quantifiable
always in the same depleted words,
gestures even, one of which hit
our poor letter box; and
how, as the ethics sings out
its high C, all of them lose ground to stand on and stammer unintelligible litanies out of manuals and old Austro-Hungarian or Yugoslav books of manners, or they conveniently grab hold
of the last remaining strategy
before leaping into the gullet of language -
irony and formalism; and
we knew, even before moving into the Red House, that the ever readiness for conflict
comes from below: from the ground floor or the cellar, from where the body and voice split apart,
much like in our new spiral staircase,
where you can hear the echo to the topmost floors, yet never see the physical presence
of the person calling.






Dunes

I

No heavenly body nor an earthly one,
Nothing gliding between them.
No sleepless head
Drooping above or below the bed.
No abdication of territory or status
- Not a chance.

Your living hand leading to the root of mine,
this very chair here
which you and I sit on in turn is enough:

tout à sa place.

Here you are, here I am,
here is all we need,
here are two large dunes that fold into one,
and then rain and then passion
and then the ground beneath our feet.

Two large dunes from all that is familiar,
but from four very concrete
and independent hands, four eyes,
ten toes and fingers.

From a myriad of sand grain,
two dunes rise and touch
each communicating with all the rest.


Dunes, two curves closed into a circle by a gentle embrace of love.
Dunes, two inner worlds seeping into one
in a gentle embrace of love.


II

And then you come and reveal yourself
for all that you are.
And then you come and read me
where I have never hoped to be read.
Not in this life.

The landscape vibrato which binds us is what
has brought you to me.
The landscape vibrato which opens in reading
and is in itself a landscape -
once it was yours, once it was mine.

How, when away
from each other, though never apart,
we piled and shifted,
each his own solitary sand dune,
and how with each passing year
lonely shrieks multiplied.

Can you substract them, the useless
years of your life;
substract from what?
You who have never shut out
another's voice on account of your own.

And then love: a delicate seam
stitched afresh in the crease
of the old landscape; precisely where
many others, whom I can barely still
recall, tried threading
their blunt bodkins with short life-span yarns.

What luck it was to meet you in this desert,
you say.
What immense luck it was to be met,
I say.
And then the silence against
which you fully lean your ear.

Nobody's palms, except yours,
can reach my body.
No voice but yours matches mine in temper.













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