Tomaž Šalamun, Translated from the Slovenian by Brian Henry

I Ride a Horse

I ride a horse, black images
I ride relentless words, meek bread
thorns have embedded in my soul, the sand of mules
white birches burn, halls burn

fish burn without air, night without a mouth
sand burns, footsteps burn in sleep
the fresh skin of the world burns, I ride shivering
the strength to die, Lord, I watch how he sleeps

I sense the gatekeeper of heaven and earth, I sense the mills
I sense the third day of the flood, the karst burns
the arc of trimmings, networks of dusty roads
I sense you and look at you, enchant and submerge you

where the wall will crumble, we crucify dreams
I crucify my lamb, a golden purse
I crucify the shining eyes of the buried, the burning vine
I crush hope and footsteps, the gestures of the meek

Tomaž Šalamun (1941-2014) published more than 50 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.

Brian Henry is the author of eleven books of poetry, most recently Permanent State (Threadsuns, 2020), and the prose book Things Are Completely Simple: Poetry and Translation (Parlor, 2022). He has translated Tomaž Šalamun’s Woods and Chalices (Harcourt, 2008), Aleš Debeljak’s Smugglers (BOA Editions, 2015), 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, and the Best Translated Book Award.