Friday, February 27, 2015

The Names

Vandalized memorial plaque to a Democratic Army General, 2013
The names tug on the sleeves of indifferent passersby like orphan children.

Who will give the names a room to huddle together and rest?
They come from afar, their feet dusty. They are thirsty with a thirst of stone.
Their empty stomachs empty the room, empty my hand, empty the loaf of bread from the inside.

They look at me silently as regards the central issues
of forgiveness and revenge, or, more practically,
of the tactics and strategy
of the current conjuncture.

I shut the door on them, but they keep coming in.
I open it, but they escape to another house, and from another's shoulder
they trace what is written with invisible eyes, from left to right.

In its first, mystical innocence, history was a long list of names,
and in its deepest guilt likewise.
If I remembered them, one by one, syllable by syllable,
if I trained my lips to properly speak their succession, first a hundred,
then a thousand, then ten thousand names, which key, exactly, would I then
find in my palm? Perhaps I would conceive the tone of an unknown melody,
or perhaps the peculiar character of the silence that follows the rattle of the machine gun.
And which, if I were to weigh my body, would be
their precise weight when present? And when absent, when the names
have been lost, would I be lighter?

I have concluded, as a materialist, that the soul exists and does not exist
because the soul is what feels pain when the names speak
and because what feels pain is nothing, it is less
than nothing, it is created in the image
of the names.

Poem self-translated by Lenin Reloaded.

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