Thursday, May 10, 2012

Jaroslav Seifert: The Hunt for the Kingfisher


Edouard-Leon Cortès


How many times has a verse come to my mind 
even at a crossroads 
while the lights were at red! 
Why not? 
You can even fall in love 
in that short a time. 

But before I'd walked across 
to the far side 
I'd forgotten the verses. 
I was still able 
to jot them down off-hand. 
But the smile 
of the girl who crossed over in front of me 
I remember to this day. 

Under the railway bridge at Kralupy 
I often as a boy would climb 
into the branches of a hollow willow 
and among the twigs above the river 
think and dream of my first verses. 

But, to be honest, I also 
would think and dream 
of lovemaking and women 
and watch the torn-off reeds 
float on the water. 

Easter was around the corner, 
the air was full of vernal magic. 
I even saw a kingfisher once 
on a whipping twig. 
In all my life 
I never saw another 
and yet my eyes have often longed 
for a closer view of that delicate beauty. 

Even the river had a pungent fragrance then, 
that bittersweet fragrance, 
the fragrance of women's loosened hair 
when from their shoulders it overflows 
their naked bodies. 

And when, years later, I immersed 
my face into that hair 
and opened my eyes, 
I gazed through those sunlit depths 
to the roots of love. 

There are rare moments in my life 
when I find myself once more 
under the railway bridge at Kralupy. 
Everything there is as it used to be, 
even that willow — 
but I am just imagining it all. 

Easter is once more round the corner, 
the air is full of vernal magic 
and the river is fragrant. 

For every day under my window 
the birds go mad quite early in the morning 
and, singing as if their lives depended on it, 
they drown each other's voices, 
and those sweet dreams 
which usually come at dawn 
are gone. 

But that's the only thing 
I can hold against the spring. 

(The poetry of Jaroslav Seifert, Catbird Press, 
«a garrigue book», translated from the Czech 
by Ewald Osers, p. 208) 

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