Sunday, November 21, 2004

Jaroslav Seifert: Song from an intermezzo

If someone were to ask me
what a poem is
I'd be at a loss for a few seconds.
Yet I know so well.

I read and re-read the dead poets
and now and again
their verses light up my path
like a flame in the dark.

But life does not walk on tiptoe;
sometimes it shakes
and tramples us.

Often I groped about for love
like one who'd lost his sight
and on the boughs of apple trees
feels for the roundness of the fruit his hand
is longing for.

I know verses
powerful enough to exorcize all hell,
to lift the gates of paradise off their hinges.
I used to whisper them to astonished eyes.
Small wonder they raised their feeble arms
and clutched their fear
in love's embrace!
But if someone were to ask my wife
what love is
she'd probably start crying.

Jaroslav Seifert

(The poetry of Jaroslav Seifert, Catbird Press, «a garrigue book»,

translated from the Czech by Ewald Osers, p. 208)