The Kiss

How it rises out of waves in the bay
and shudders like a gentle thrust
of the sea, which sooner forgives
than punishes, doomed as it is to feckless birth.
How it wakes me up, takes me inside
with a slender hand, with shimmering dust,
gliding like a guess or premonition, up and up
to the eyelashes, the eyebrows, the mouth
and spilling across the face and over the ears,
where the cries of gulls are caught.
A hymn to the moment that lasts
and lasts, so nothing belonging together
will separate, like a boat that worries only about
its arrival in the harbor, dropping its anchor
next to a dock, so the story will reach
the close it was meant to reach. And the sailor,
once turned to a pillar of salt, will forever remain
doubled over, where lobes of water
linger like wedding guests
years after the flood has folded back.


Exercise for the Renewal of a Family Line

Small boats in the harbor, slack ropes
rest at evening, quietly whisking the poles,
but everything is as it should be, this calm.
Without it, impossible to feel the muscular
hand that stretches from above and from the side,
out of waves and out of air, heavy with pleasure
it reaches under me and carries me.
I am diffused along its endless fingers,
bloated sails inhale the wind, though
the time is not quite right. The mast begins
to crack when the stuff of prior miracles
stirs within, and the boat recoils across
the surface and drones like a shooting star,
hailing from a minor key, vanishing before
it’s echoed off the face now emerging
from this foam. It agrees with me: in the warm sea
of membranes and marrow, the world is rising again.
Again, only one of us has an inkling of its shape.


Poet, cultural critic, and translator Ales Debeljak has won the Slovenian National Book Award, the Miriam Lindberg Israel Poetry for Peace Prize (Tel Aviv), the Chiqu Poetry Prize (Tokyo), and other awards. His poetry volumes in English are The City and the Child (White Pine, 1999), Dictionary of Silence (Lumen, 1999), and Anxious Moments (White Pine, 1994). He directs the Center for Cultural and Religious Studies at the University of Ljubljana.

Andrew Zawacki is the author of the poetry books Anabranch (Wesleyan, 2004) and By Reason of Breakings (Georgia, 2002), as well as of five chapbooks: Arrow’s shadow (Equipage), Roche limit (Track & Field), Bartleby’s Waste-book (Particle Series), Georgia (Katalanché), and Masquerade (Vagabond). Coeditor of Verse, he edited Afterwards: Slovenian Writing 1945-1995 (White Pine, 1999).

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