Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Mateja Matevski Selected Poems

Rpt. from Matevski, Mateja. Banished from Paradise. Transl. Zoran Anchevski. Skopje, Macedonia: St. Clement of Ohrid National and University Library, 2011. Rpt. with permission of Mateja Matevski and Zoran Anchevski.

1. Banished from Paradise (1963)
2. A Tree in the Ravine (1963)
3. The Return from Troy (1976)
4. Sitting on the Porch, Waiting for Rain (1980)
5. Eagle, Snake and Cactus (1985)
6. The Black Tower (1992) 
7. On the Theme of Arion (1996)
8. Cold (2003)
9. The Return of the Breeze (2006)
10. Voyages (2007)

EQUINOX (1963)
Banished from Paradise
The gate closed behind us.
The road to our future days flashed ahead like a lightning
and was gone.
Now we are naked and alone
before this barren expanse of darkness where
we must devise a crossroad to crucify our looks upon
before they wonder off along the road which is gone.
Don’t turn back.
Tall is the fence we cursed with our disobedience
as tall as the sky and far above our eyes
so we can’t see the beautiful tree with its fruits
upon which we crucified god and renounced him
Now we go naked and desolate in the dark that
we must sow with seeds and fear for the crop
and the cold in our bare bosom.
I looked for the culprit who churned curiosity in me
that made me blind with healthy eyes foolish with shrewd mind
It is you Your body with rainbow eyes that shone above
the dappled branches I cannot forget
for I climbed them one by one to reach the far off sun
only to creep now dismal and naked
And what did you give me
You made me give up the one who made me and cast stone at him
at his goodness
your eyes filled me with defiance
you culprit of insolent beauty I suffer for.
The gate closed.
The road to our future days flashed ahead
and was gone.
Now we remain without it alone and desolate in the dark
Will you or will we devise a crossroad
that we shall follow now you culprit of my innocence
to whom I gave all but you tied with your word instead
for ever and ever.

You were satisfied and glorious but alone
like an offshoot that had nothing to creep along to the sun
and I was the beam of light your eyes
rose upward beyond the dream
And why should I be guilty for making you give up the one who made you
you creator of my loneliness ugly to my slender body
when I became a wall you climbed over to look above his shoulders
at the rainbow of our future days that flashed in a moment
and was gone.
You bit boldly at the tasty disobedience and now you regret

you betrayed the one who fed you and made you alone
Now you are not a lonely offshoot we are two vines that
together defy time
we feed on the blood that we suck from each other
And it is good that no one places a hill before us
even if we crumble out of love
You have me and I don’t regret anything
We’ll devise a path
to the meaning of this existence
that knows not of god but only of hardship.

The gate closed behind us.
The road to our future days flashed ahead like a lightning
and was gone.
Now we are naked and alone
before this barren expanse of darkness where
we must devise a crossroad to crucify our looks upon
before they wonder off along the road which is gone.
O dark and blessed crossroad of bitter and unforgiven love
Her warm eye glows in the night and creates the sites
that we should go to
It is so difficult fearsome and weary this building of roads
through nothing with nothing
But we did build them and became the first saplings that
inhabited them
Even if they become ruined the warm eye will again
teach us will certainly teach us how to build them.
By ourselves.

A Tree in the Ravine

There is a small tree
lonely and ugly swaying
in the ravine black alone and pining
It has two branches a trunk and silence
looks like a man suffering
wedged and buried in the earth
It has no memory of many days
of much snow or of winds and grasses
or of birds that would build a nest on it
It just stands naked as a cross
and like a man wedged in the earth
like a corpse laughing at your face
With a mouth of sand and a body of stone.

This tree is dry and alone
its eyes are southern winds
that gaze beyond many sunsets
The winds do not visit this ravine
god has forgotten it too
it chills and shivers in the darkness
Dark waters crumble the rocks
beasts’ howls
gnaw at its bark
But it still stands as if in flight
fed by the dream’s winds
that gaze beyond many sunsets
Even sunset is not a sunset in that ravine

Where there is no sun there is neither sunrise nor sunset
nor darkness is the darkness in which we cry
nor there is space nor time nor solitude.
All is deaf. Nothing exists.
But the tree still grows. Slowly.
Not knowing.
Only the earth speaks slowly there
about something happening.
And a sparse spring
that knows everything.

IRIS (1976)

The Return from Troy

So we left Troy subdued and silent
utterly surrendered to the kindness of the wind
with opened gates and heavy fruit trees
Troy washed by the sunny hymns
that we left floating above the blossoming karst
from which wine was dripping and the bread crumbles
We left it as sad gentle companions of time  

who came from afar looking for sweet paths
in the wide hospitality of the ripe olives
But as soon as we found ourselves alone at open sea
face to face with the hostile waves
and the rocks that cut into the ship’s waist
and when the wine was drunk the meat was eaten
we relied on the high-pitched song in our throats
and reclined slowly upon the dark hunger of fatigue
for our voyage across known and unknown seas was long
where nightmarish paths of the stars were entangled
until they sunk in the deep whirlpools of the sea
followed by our hunger vigil wandering and song
And the jagged wall made us unable to understand
the splashing of traitor’s words and the noisy foaming of time
that mentions things to us our memory knows not of
invented by the wind by that wonderer of the sea

Then we devised the stories of bravery of great might
and of the wooden horse made by the wise Laertes’ son
and of all other brave deeds and tears shed after great clashes
of the thunder of horse-hooves and the lightning of spears
and of the blood blossoming like dew after the evil gods’ will
who were so envious of our sorrows and weddings
Then we invented the smoke rising from the tall towers
the crying the wailing and the flash-floods of death
the scream of the blossoms and the despair of the barren mothers
amidst the ruins of sun and wind and dream
For there was neither Troy nor a long siege to its walls
nor Achilles’ shield nor Priam’s tears
all was a nicely devised story by the blind pauper
who beguiled us when weary on our swart ship
while waiting for the storm to end for the wind to slacken
all was just a long tune of the tireless water
mixed with dream by the voice of the old pauper
We were only travellers who sought for unseen things
who exchanged the plough for the curiosity of the oar
and embraced the sea and its noisy infinity
who left behind the distant mist and the gentle hoar-frost of Ithaca
We dreamt of the far-off sleeping distances that burrowed
into our hearts since the time of our grand- grandfathers
filling it with gentle tales and loud deceits
and the whole song about the wandering along tall hardships
was only to show the beauty of the word
and tell that Laertes’s son came to the shore again

The sea loudly takes us after the traces of the tall towers
after the moss on the walls
after the dust on the wretched gates
while the jewellery of the autumn fogs
and the cold of loneliness
drip tirelessly upon the unquenched eye
We found its traces in the ancient manuscripts
in the crumbled rocks
in the buried signs
its face was lost in the long-forsaken tales
in the quiet lullabies of the geological secrets
its throat slowly grew quiet in the tectonic changes
in the quick thunder of the torrential deluges
The city rose immense before the squinting eyes
built upon tall rocks and hills beneath the clouds’ eaves
the city hid under the moss under the stone under the wave
like a manic dream a nightmarish raving a wind’s stammer
once present like pain then distant like a song
the city of great alarming sea beauty
The sea leads us after the traces of the city
which we are to find and accept
like a handful of ripe fruits like a garland of flowers
like a wild tower upon heavy branches
for the dream of the voyage for the nightmare of wandering
for the bright rest before the cynicism of deceitful time
that breaks our dream with hideous pathlessness

But the city is nowhere to be seen neither was nor will be
in the field of the tale in the sea of the song
neither traces nor manuscripts talk about the city
and the sad and beautiful wanderings of Ulysses
would have been all for the sake of love of waters
of embroidery and an imaginary undone hair
if this throat did not receive the flow of the noisy mythology of the sea
and started to talk about the constant presence of the dream
in the ruins of the heart

LINDEN (1980)

Sitting on the Porch,
Waiting for Rain
I sit on the porch as the rain approaches
It is heralded by the summer heat
the fatigued grass
the ashen leaves of the cherry tree
the sticky smells of summer
It is quiet and heavy weight lies upon my head
the dry afternoon stifles my throat
The air thickens and boils out of nothing
the ball of insects flying above the roses
turns wild and ominous
I feel and see
how the earth cracks under my feet
its parched feverish lips
The sky creeps toward her
like a vile centipede
and the air starts to fidget in the leaves
Suddenly in the deaf silence of the day
an echo of thunder spreads above the garden
freed from the summer shackles of heat
Suddenly before the rain
could let a drop
the leaves the earth the bird
lost in the bush
hurry to meet it
along with my breath left on the porch
We don’t see the change
but it already happens
first in us and then everywhere
it happens inevitably like destiny
on this fearful porch
of afternoon
I sit on the porch as the rain falls
small drops at first rare and ringing like coins
chase the swarm of insects away
that stifle my chest
beneath the drops sing the soft drum of the earth
and the gentle goose-flesh of the dust
Suddenly the rain pours
and trickles down the stooped leaves of the
it shimmers down the leaves of the aspen
it softens the linden leaves
and the porch turns into a forest hut
in the middle of a summer storm
Nowhere behind the curtains of the rain
do I see windows and eaves
just a grey cleavage in the sky
as it’s always been
and a solemn peace
as before a million years
in the biblical forests
while it’s raining
while the grass is sighing
while I’m breathing
I sit on the porch as the rain falls
and feel as if it rained upon me
upon my own crown of leaves my boughs
my trunk my roots my ants
it drips from my forest on my land my thought
flows along the wrinkles of my surprise
it wipes my fear my dread my loneliness
my sleeplessness my tremor my gloom
it drips down my temples and creeps into my
the awakening sustaining fertilizing rain
and I become a ringing spring
a blossoming flower
a ripening fruit
and I live and grow in this ancient forest
of my existence
in this great forest
among these rustling leaves
And so I turned into rain
until the stifled chuckle of the motors and the
on the other side of the flooded street
returned to remind me
that I sit on the porch
while it’s raining
the long-awaited
city rain in the summer dusk

Eagle, Snake and Cactus
Let all be ruined
let all be forgotten

 Fear of ancient gods
sows ruins
shrieks and smoke rise up
on the hot wind
In the night of misfortune
let all be buried
let only the evil of gold
be unearthed
And ancient faiths and songs and phases of the moon
the lament of the Mayas and the terror of the Incas
Before the lances of the white gods
the ancient calendars are extinguished
with the ancient stars
and the seasons are enveloped
in the blackness of time
And new litanies before new temples
on the ashes of ancient books ancient maps ancient gods
and new words before new prisons
while the fruits of the wounded earth cry to an unavailing sky
But here one soon learns about the delusion of power
the flimsiness of chains
of fetters
for the grandsons of long-forgotten grandsons
are unearthing the long-buried gods
the locked-up languages
the long-silent songs
and eagle and snake and cactus
once more pick a spot for the cradle of song
unchain old myths among the mountains’ thunder
and slaves shouldering known and unknown seeds
once more move towards the great seed of the sun


The Black Tower

Now it is crucial to disclose
to understand and know
what happened to the black tower
bleak and accursed
that which shed only evil
through fear
and broken dreams
and wounds
that gushed fire into the petrified sky
as from a dragon’s eyes
a beast's maw
And the town beneath the tower cringes in sleeplessness
in nightmare fever
has shivered through the ages
from ills and famine and from deadly perils
with an ear for the clanging swords high overhead
for the crackling fires
for the wretched cries
of warriors and armies
All this poured in spouts through the ominous gates of the tower
the black tower
in the night of man
crouched on his knees
in the dust
together with his town
its fences
its gardens
and the unreaped wheat
of hope
rising ablaze towards the desolate universe

It emerges in the night of nights
in the black womb of darkness
an invisible fortress
The real the fraudulent the far-away tower
a black bird’s wing a bird of bad omen
of evil times
it covers the sky
It rises and mingles day with night
in darker blackness
a sable gate of sleeplessness before a black abyss
a well of confusion
in which we’ve sunk for aeons
from the stony caves to the stony signs
over the brow
where ills devour our voice
There rises the black tower higher than anything
Higher than the sky the day the fear and the dream
to fill all space all time
with its dark shadow
with itself
with what may prove a pall of chilling stars
There it rises ominous and mute
the black insidious tower
of accursed existence
untouchable unshattered
fearless of man’s hand
of man’s thought
it swallows in its blackness
the hand and thought together
in a nonexistent day
buried by other days  

The black tower dogs me a black shadow
a black bird
a black reptile from the mind’s black forests
Slyly it peers into my night
from a deep nowhere
the ancient black tower
Standing there from time immemorial
haunting every awkward step
every corner of my sight
every sinew of the soil and every noisy waterfall
every scarlet cataract of my blood
flooding my voice
It took me time to see it
to measure its height and weight
the sneers of its flames that set ablaze the past of memory
that fire forests and crack rocks
and melt the sea
Dark ills hasten from the depths of man
dark seeds that gave birth to the tower
to tell him in another voice a dark voice in his voice
that it is made according to his image
in the mirror of silence and dark
And while he walks
it follows in his steps
fear and its shadow
under the futile glitter of the stars


On the Theme of Arion

Because of his song
his only food –
he was thrown overboard to taste the bitter and deadly sea
The ship disappeared behind the spine of the sea
and all around him its beasts and monsters
sensed the delicate rose of his body
in the tide of hatred
His judges were swallowed by the dark
or lured by the sweet lily of the blood
But there came the miracle which said
that the sound of his song was not in vain
The swift bird of the sea came rushing –
the childlike and smiling fish
which tames the spray of the waves –
it took the lost singer on its back
and brought him to the shores of lonely hope
to awake the deaf mornings of mankind
with his voice impearled with stars
Now the song whispers to the wind again
that all malice and evil which came before him
was in vain
and could not trap the tame laughter of the dolphin
He moves on and on in the nights of our vigil
on the light of his voice between the water and the stars



It’s cold again tonight
under the linden
on the porch
Where does it come from
to enter the calm
of the stars
It howls through my body
A hoarse flute
in a hoarse throat
You ask in vain
You marvel in vain
beyond day and night
As it drifts
it drifts upon the planet’s skin
And yours

The Return of the Breeze
The miracle of spring comes closer again
Winter still glows in the word
the departing winter
the winter of our nights
All is blue
On a blue and white
there gleams
the source of vision
The green wind removes the snow
before the staring sky
A voice from an unknown throat

unravels the paths of the roots
and puts away the cloud and the mud
from the night’s vigil
No one listens No one knows
No one understands what it brings
with its tail of ivy
to the wondering space
In its breast
open for change


“The lonely sail whitens…”  Lermontov

Dishevelled waves and foaming crests
as the wind sweeps above them
The grey sky announces a storm
the shore disappears in the distance
We set out long ago The ship hurries
upon the waves pushed by strange
unknown fervour to reach somewhere
to a goal that it dreams of
Who waits for us Who follows us
with zealous farewell or welcome
All about grey spouts of fog
an endless and wild sea
It seems we sail in a circle
as our vision grows narrow
The time you loved turns its back on you
and cruelly pushes you down the hill.