Slovenia
Barbara Pogačnik
Slovenia
A poet, translator and literary critic. She graduated in Romance linguistics and literature from Université Catholique de Louvain in Belgium and completed her MA at the Sorbonne in Paris. She has published four poetry books. Her poetry in translation has appeared in 26 languages. She has participated in more than 40 different literary manifestations in about 20 different countries, and has been writer in residence in several international programs. Her poems have also been made into music. She is member of several literary juries, of Slovenian Writer`s Association and Slovenian PEN.  She was director of the international festival Poets Translating Poets. From 2001 on, she is on the editorial board of a central Slovenian literary magazine Literatura and was the editor of the publication Litterae slovenicae edited by the Slovenian Writers` Association.
OTHERNESS

 

When you put a wild cat out the door

skyscrapers will be waiting for you.

They veil their eyes.

The doors are just heavy enough to shut you in.

When the meadow is being torn open, white milk

drops over the earth's feet.

What can you understand from utterly other worlds

other than destruction?

Smile circles locked in a straight line walk right

into you like puffs of smoke –

When he's not curled up, the cat's

tail barely touches them.

Hands, getting up in the night

and shutting the cats out,

rub images out of dreams.

The story is under the sun.

You pay for what somebody was doing for you

yesterday, today and tomorrow.

You pay for weightlessness.

You've been too long on the train and your straw hat

is shielding some other person's head.

You travel into extended time.

Every morning you sleep too long.

The more the years draw out their shadows, the shorter

the visits. The cat is going crazy without you and your

cushions. Turned on its back

it is falling off the silk bedcover – thirteen

days of sliding – of bodies locked into fights

– but its claw leaves

a long gash – a wound in the pillow. Should I have

shooed it right off, walked sumptuous libraries

with a calmer step?

To wrestle for sleep as if for a chunk of meat!

To wrestle with cats for prestige

can end badly, you are left with a bruise,

with a divide splitting your home

in two. The other half

of your home groans like an artificial leg.

A cushion of darkness comes tumbling down

on bodies that cannot understand.

The skyscraper sadly bends down to the cat.

 

It's hard to live split in half. Until now

that's the only thing you've understood about otherness.

 

Barbara Pogačnik

Translated by Ana Jelnikar & Stephen Watts