Boris Christov (1914-1993)
50 lev Bulgarian banknote (1992)

Boris Christov:

Body & Soul

two poems translated
by Robert Pinsky


The spirit is in bed, it has been sleeping away
For hours now, but my body is awake and prowling
The dark streets like an owl intent in its prey,
Heedless of the roosters in the hills, already caling.

It stalks on into the dawn, peers into a drain
Or a murky ditch, trips over a shadow in its way,
Scrapes itself on a stone facade. Rivers of rain
Drum on my head, but can't wash the mud away.

My mouth, which has been silent such a long time
Holding its teeth clenched tight, now opens wide
And I imagine I hear the ocean of wine
That it has swallowed, sloshing around inside.

The blood pumps into the very nails of my toes,
It hits the heels and like an ape leaps up again.
A little ulcer flares like a torch that throws
Red light on the invisible jungle within.

The legs get back into action, the stiff joints crank
Gunpowder into their muscles to move them, the twist
Of the left knee pulling westward, the other shank
Dragging its faithful shoe towards the east.

The body quivers, it has decided to fly
Above the earth to the yellow throne of dawn ...
But it can't take off with the violations that weigh
Heavily on its mudstained wings, holding them down.

Malicious with impotence— blind mouse forced to suck
At the stony tit of a nut— it has to slog
Heavily on through the rain. It writhes on the sidewalk
The words Live like a bird— die like a dog.

Boris Christov, Body
     translated by Robert Pinsky (1992)
     Window on the Black Sea
     Bulgarian Poetry in Translation
     Edited by Richard Harteis
     Carnegie Mellon University Press, (pp. 33-34)



While waiting for my body to stuff itself
Hunched over its dish of stewmeat and its glass,
My spirit flew away like a celestial wolf
Trotting the heavens on its invisible paws.

Where are you headed for through infinite space,
Proud flier, howling at the dark around you?
Still undiscovered, beyond these that surround you?

But from the moment that the spirit-wolf trod
Among the stars he was coursing toward the purlieus
Of the hidden sheepfold where the lambs of God
Graze the deep grasses of Paradise's meadows.

The gates, in ruin for many a millenium,
Lay in a heap close by a cherry tree.
With predator's watchful air about him,
My spirit wriggled under the fence steathily.

"Wait a minute, you winged wolf, before you dare
Sneak into that trap of knowledge. It will snap once,
Then nothing will be left of you in there.
You'll eat at yourself till nothing's left but bones."

But how can anything cross the mighty gulf
Of deafness that yawns between the lips and the ears?
Having strangled the Lamb of God, the wolf
Of my spirit padded the moon-path among the stars.

The ram who saw him in the dark began to weep.
The plaintive bleating of the whole flock joined in his cry.
The cosmos itself burst into tears with the sheep,
And blood-stained stars fell from the grievin sky.

Meanwhile, on earth, my body was wiping the grease
From its muzzle. Drinking and eating so much made it heavy.
On the table before it, instead of the Golden Fleece,
Lay only a mess of bones in a puddle of gravy.

Boris Christov, Spirit
     translated by Robert Pinsky (1992)
     Window on the Black Sea (pp. 35-36)

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