I See the Devil’s Head

I see the devil’s head, people, I even see his body
I never thought he could come so close
he yearns for innocence, like us
I have the feeling that he was stuffed into a wall for a long time

I have the feeling that his hands hurt
that he is gentle and pensive, he moistens everything before killing it
he pants and rips when he claws at flesh, he is blessed
he has no friends, he walks the world alone

I have the feeling that he is telling me something
that he is looking at me with regret
he knows I could never sleep with him
we are both humiliated

he reminds me of an English professor after he has retired
of young secret police, it seems his bliss has diminished
souls squeal when he tortures them, he doesn’t drink them like I imagined
it seems to me that he has no use for them

I think he would like to have a friend to share goods and pleasure with
he steps into the river and dips his head in it
he doesn’t know how to talk to it, he splashes on the surface
I will leave him like that and won’t talk to him

God, How I Grow

God, how I grow
how strong I am, terrible and sly
how I undress, peel and move
this is your work, Lord, I kill

in the garden there are flowers, air walks into my mouth
in the desert there are butterflies, in mothers, meat
if I put a watch on my wrist, I cheer
drums, drums, steam flows, pours

blessed fuck, sovereign, your food is ours
peaches, bodies, mountains, smoke
the dead, their skin, necklaces
I pull out gold teeth, sell them for bread

angels rise from the sea, cherubim flutter
my verses are like splitting rocks
breaking jaws and screaming
may I eat my fill, God, be your law to the bottom

Translated from the Slovenian by Brian Henry

Tomaž Šalamun (1941-2014) published more than 55 books of poetry in Slovenia. 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 later held visiting professorships at various universities in the U.S.

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