Five Poems

Georgi Gospodinov

Place des Vosges

A child is running
in the garden of Place des Vosges
in the garden of the world
among the mothers and fathers
sitting on the grass
a child is running
bumping into the old people on the paths
as if he doesn’t have all the time in the world
on his hands
I would like to know
what makes the child hurry
and the old people shuffle along
(as if they have all the time in the world
on their hands)
does one see something at the end of the alley

and why is this making me
slow my pace

Toutes directions

A road sign in Normandy
and you tell yourself—that’s it

the world has been saved.

All roads lead anywhere,
all roads lead anywhere,
not only to Rome
                        not only to death.

Disbanding Love’s Armies

She lit a cigarette in that way
that tells you everything
has been already decided, and said:
It’s over, I feel like an army
in peacetime
maneuvers on barren fields,
fruitless drills
farther from busy places,
leaves, dry sticks, mud, backyards;
like a smoker among those giving up smoking,
like a lover among those who have given up love.

You have long been thinking it over, I said
it sounds like a poem.
The end has been left for me, here:
I am wounded,
very slightly wounded
and awkwardly bleeding
in peacetime.


You are the meatball in my soup
I am the square on the tablecloth
You are the salt shaker that doesn’t put out
I am the vinegar cruet at the end of the table
You are the fruit fly in the cruet
I am beef Stroganoff at holiday time
You are the bitter mustard after the holiday
Don’t overdo it with the mustard, dear
Don’t overdo it, I tell you 

I am the stomach of your ulcer

God of Berlin

of Berlin’s clouds
and sky
God of Berlin’s wind
of Berlin’s rain
falling vertically
and its fogs
God of the early dusk
of November Sundays
and of empty streets
God of the blossoming
crocuses near Halensee
at the end of February
God of the Wilmersdorf widows
arriving late
(blue hair and silk)
survivors from bombings
tired of the peace
they will rest in peace in
God of the wedding cakes
at the end of Ku’damm
of sugar-paste bridegrooms
egg-yolk angels
God or Allah (however they call you)
of Arab bread
of ayran and doner
God of the new Turkish neighbourhoods
their satellite dishes
the old Turks on the benches
more there, less here
—the new Jews of Kreuzberg
God of the Chinese women selling tulips
ten for only €2.50
God of housewares
(I spotted you on Stuttgartenplatz)
God of cheap things
porcelain cleavers saucepans
Chinese pots for Turkish coffee
blood pressure cuffs knives scarves
and lighters
God Buddha and Shiva
of the Indian shops
in front of Zoologischer Garten
God of Alexanderplatz
occupied by cranes
God of the Wall
that fell and yet didn’t fall
God of the great Eternal return
kitsch—into history
history—into kitsch
God of Madonna and child
who is pasting up the posters
but will miss the concert
God of mothers
God of infants
baby God

have mercy upon us
the latest ones lined up
under your sky

translated from the Bulgarian by Teodora Gandeva

Click here to read Pete Mitchell’s review of Angela Rodel’s translation of Georgi Gospodinov’s The Physics of Sorrow from the Summer 2015 issue.