from "Mister Today
At two in the morning the average European
sends love letters to the stars
over his village.
An old goat, upside down, bemoans the fact
he cannot master even more extravagance.
I am experimenting with myself, it occurs to Mister Today.
A black raven under the whiteness of a naked lightbulb.
Wingless fish fly around my head, seven thousand
fish of Swedenborg’s from the topmost heavens over Notranjska.
One day someone will write an essay on this. What will he consider?
What is generic here? A distant train rumbling across
the old Austro-Hungarian bridge near Prestranek?
How far is this from the supermarkets in America?
The yellow morning light in my computer’s blue guitar,
a glass giant river gliding across my soul with the sky
above the village,
but nothing bothers me, even if three times this size
the river will devour the sky and night
and my little fortune, occasionally no bigger than
a few lines of poetry,
which make my life quite decent,
THE SKY OVER BERLIN
A German Poem
A modern-day poet talking into a mobile phone about life
in a big city. Telling things to someone on the other side.
Very interesting, he says, to lose a thousand Deutschmarks –
no joke. You sit in a bistro,
guzzling first-rate dark wheat beer, the best beer for the late evening.
Lively conversation. You bend, and the vinyl cards fall
out of your pocket. This story about globalization is a load of crap, says Jun,
telling us instead about the civilization of Martians,
which is based on a thirty-six-hour-and-twenty-minute day.
The world can be understood through
a different concept of time. Alexandra runs off.
Irina is all in a flurry about the football match –
Ukraine vs. Germany. Though football is not her thing, the equalizer
got her interested. But she has no idea what this means for Ukraine.
Football's been introduced as a compulsory subject in schools all over the
country, she tells us. You must go with the times. Join in with the masses
that work and consume, cheer on stadiums and turn it all into poetry. And
why not? The modern-day poet makes poetry out of anything he touches. I
will throw Versace vests into the bin.
It seems I have enough change, if that's not the case, God help me,
I'll use Visa, Master Card, Discovery, Diners Club or
American Express. On Friday night we're going for sushi.
Jun carries on talking, explaining about the upside-down pyramid,
at the bottom of which a thatched barge was found. With it the Pharaoh
will go to Mars, the third solar system.
Just think, he says, how these things were worked out when there were no
PCs, Macintoshes, lap tops, notebooks, working stations.
Imax, Cinemascope, grand pianos, digital sound systems,
three dimensional films, creditcards and phonecards, travel passes, plastic
hotel keys, health insurance and ID cards, holograms and chips
that give the exact bearings of their owner. But who to?
Cameras in front of banks, traffic lights, on borders, road signs, on top
of staircases, corridors, foyers, entrances, bathrooms, kindergartens,
lifts, cars, ski helmets, motorists,
on boats, trains, buses, on top of computer screens,
under tourists' armpits, personal trainers, on airports, in airplanes
which've been falling down lately like ripe pears
or have gone crashing into tall buildings. They either drop bombs, missiles
or parcels with ten thousand left-leg shoes
or bags of flour maggots that had eaten two years ago.
Long live democracy of the countries of the West.
Long live the global empire.
Long live the IMF. Long live the International Trade Association. Long
live G8. Long live the World Bank. Long live control, censorship,
Long live the police, CIA, FBI, MI5, KGB, Moshad,
basic human rights, international law, etc.
The poet whispers into Nokia, Motorola, Erikson, Siemens,
throwing suspicious glances,
but the secret agent is invisible, made of chips and processors,
like a spider, he becomes one with his web, everywhere present,
in all the phones and invisible electromagnetic waves turning the earth into
the nucleus of an atom.
Listening out for the buzz words, the poet records them on the hard disc.
He won't let himself be distracted, he goes on talking, he has set himself up
with a water-proof phone for Antarctica, an organizer, GPS, a terminator,
he bought a bottle of Chilean red wine, white wine from Brda,
Beaujoulais nouveau. Visa is made for, live today, pay tomorrow;
brand new shoes for six-hundred Deutschmarks,
a leather jacket for a thousand, the world is open to all sides,
it's all in your head really, in your guts if you go for it;
who loses, disappears, perhaps to be one day remembered
by a poet, where was it again, he leans over the sink and spits out blood,
yesterday he got rid of his old computer and got a new one,
none of his old discs worked in the new programme environment, no
worries, you sit, put down your mobile, connect to the internet,
one hour and thirty minutes for two Deutschmarks in Easy Everything,
the place reminds you of a Las Vegas gambling house
with one-armed bandits or of Pachinko Halls in Japan,
the world's grown so vast,
its only limitation is your head, your ideas and
your understanding of things, though even these are no longer yours; their
copyrights are in the hands of Bill Gates, Warner Brother and Sony,
America On Line and New York Times, Church,
Compaq and CNN, which – at bottom – are one and the same
gigantic network, so, why bother going against the flow, trying to create
something truly yours,
much easier to just sink in the glorious images, to throw yourself into the
waves of ever-new gadgets, lovers, marriages, children, cafés, clothes,
jargons, trends –
yes, it all seems to depend on your interpretation of things,
on your status; occasionally, from somewhere, from the inside,
the deep-end of your soul, a wee panic bug shoots up,
and you sit on the underground thinking, yes, it's true, man consists of
a body, a social status, a bank account, all the tongues he speaks,
cash is dying out, you look up, put down your paper, stop staring at the
woman opposite you,
you are trying to guess how she lives, what sort of a life she's got,
if there's something you don't like about her, no worries,
there's another one sitting right next to her,
there are plenty in a city like this,
but neither does she quite satisfy your expectations, and besides,
why do they have to be wearing trousers, true, they feel more comfortable
in them, trousers are practical, leather trousers stick to your thighs,
constant irritant to the shaved skin,
but this is a step back for men,
men want to see legs, skirts sliding up the thighs,
men need a visual aphrodisiac to excite their imagination,
all else comes second,
but the woman stares ahead like a wax doll, doesn't bat an eyelid,
who can tell what legs she's hiding in those trousers under the coat,
but why the strange feeling that she wants to get up and scream –
yes, that's what I'd want, I'd want to strip naked
and throw myself onto the bike of life,
I've had enough of this shit, shopping, preparing organic food,
have your soya burgers and yoghurtless yoghurts, I've had it,
enough of decaf coffee and nicotine-free cigarettes, of fitness,
hair-dressers, fat-free cholesterol, of a man who's never at home,
yes, much like the one next to her, an almost exact copy,
flicking scattily through the newspaper, glaring headlines, almost no text,
colour photographs of football players, impossibly
expensive cars you can buy on credit or by installments,
advertisements, notices, offers, promises of happiness and
who for years hasn't had the courage to look a woman in the eyes,
and who, between phone calls at work,
secretly leaps to the erotic internet pages
to look between the legs of the digital Anabella;
and even before he gets to the end of the paper, his phone rings,
war is a serious matter, shares have tumbled by sixty percent, disaster, why
didn't he sell them a week ago, they were rising rapidly then,
give it another day or two, he thought, then I'll sell them,
and now this. Of course, his wife hasn't a clue about his problems,
she's commissioned a new bedroom, bathroom, living room,
balcony, kitchen, a dining set out of the finest porcelain for the very good
price of ten thousand Deutschmarks, apparently Lady Di ate from it
before she was pushed off the road and her car crashed into the tunnel,
it was awful, Prince Charles mourned her death terribly,
and possibly for the last time had sex with that cross between a horse and
Fernandel, with that camomile freak, but then had to rush off to Scotland
for the highest-ranking golf tournament,
Jun called it the club of the three hundred,
but the biggest hypocrite among the Slovenian
poets shook his fist, saying: Iztok, watch what you read,
it's all lies, Rosthchilde are good boys,
have you tried their wine, but couldn't finish the sentence,
having sped off to greet an eminent new Nobel Prize committee member,
he turned all sugar and honey, making a careful note of every single detail
related to what they like to eat and drink,
whom they respect, who his friends or enemies are, where he'd like to relieve
himself or perform in public, where he's already been and where not,
a shit on two legs, as we would say, but he'd never let himself use such
language, or if he did say shit, coming from his mouth,
it would sound extravagant, almost witty,
but the guy whose phone prevented him from getting through to the end of the
newspaper to find out the latest on how to obtain an hour-long hard on,
a seven-minute ejaculation and perfect bliss with some Polish woman
in the latest BMW roadster, stared ahead
into the virtual landscape formed out of uttered words
and his super-sly thoughts, not to mention his number-one interest
to wheedle his partner out of his share and make up
for the difference he had lost at the stock exchange.
Suddenly his face contorted, the voice on the other side had just informed
him, very sorry, they did not opt for his company, but do recommend
themselves for the future.
He who had been watching the woman opposite him, trying to turn her
into the object of his eros, had some thinking to do.
He looked out the window, the train was speeding across a huge building
site, whining amid heaps of concrete towers, half-built overpasses, bridges,
through a tunnel, past office blocks, the sky crisscrossed with yellow and
a watch tower standing solitary by the side of the tracks from the time
the wall was still dividing the town into the living and the dead,
somewhere at the end of the compartment the digitalized opening refrain of
Beethoven's Fifth Symphony sang out,
he jerked, the train shook as it went over the switchpoint and disappeared
There's the inner world too. You are deep within yourself,
which is not saying much.
Being within yourself means having at least three, if not more, of you
gathered around your emptied-out self.
The one who is keeping a fatherly watch over everything,
directing the traffic, and whose caring hand is ever in command of the
situation, not always rosy. Deep down, below, wedged into a slit, iron is
glowing white-hot, a lava of sorts wanting
out, to spout all over, a surge of panic,
bordering on insanity. Things are unravelling double quick,
you've lost your head or let dissatisfaction go rampant, and the calming
father has a difficult time of keeping it all in check.
Some third party formulates explanations, not necessarily
false, on the contrary, they can clarify very precisely what is going on,
but they lack the power to influence, let alone change anything.
Man, looking into himself as though he were a well, knows that beneath
the narrow slit, dangerous stress has been accumulating for years, made up
of small sacrifices and suppressions, but the separate elements have long
ago melted into a red-hot broth,
into a sizzling little fiend with only one thing on its mind:
to break the armour and disgorge. The pressure he is creating
is not wholly destructive, destruction as such does not interest him,
all he cares about is breaking out.
The sight of the flaring slit of panic unfolds like a movie.
In a flash all the scenes reel off one after the other, everything
that has been pushed under, into the dark.
Too much has amassed, it lights up, now threatening to blow the telephone
man to smithereens, so no one will piece him together again.
But there are pills of all kinds and variety, sedatives,
stimulators, stoppers, accelerators, for sleeping, for staying awake,
against depression, headaches, stereoids for muscles,
viagra for a continual erection,
he could stuff himself with these, and the slit would fill up for as long as it
took him to finish this or that business, get through this or that book,
pay this or that bill, jump this or that secretary, co-worker,
might as well jump them all,
and one way or another await the New Year's Day,
only to collapse into bed, never to wake up again.
But no, man observes that point which seethes with the sense of utter panic,
he watches his quickened, angry and headless rushing here and there,
he listens to the furious hissing and cussing,
and ponders the odd fact that even though he understands perfectly well
what has happened and why it is all happening, there's nothing he can do
to free himself of the mounting pressure and untie the inner knot –
strange that in spite of his honest coming to terms
with what has so disagreeably brought on his fits of panic,
the pressure won't ease, no, it remains a vicious threat.
The devil's lava has no intention at all to spout,
keeping the pressure, stirring panic,
just that. The anger you felt can hardly
be put down to any more serious form of madness.
But he saw more, he saw what
withdrew into itself and was silent.
And ate up the words and thoughts and simply was. The dark sky over Berlin,
which didn't just hang over the city, but engrossed everything
and drew all of man into a form of deafness,
into something that did not answer back.
And a little bewildered, man shrugged his shoulders, coming to terms with
what was more powerful than him, no pressure, no consequence.
And man was looking into himself, sensing the dark, deaf sky staring at him
with all the faces of his own skin: his absent other, five times his size,
staring, as it were, with all the pores of his being.
Man watched aghast: the fiendish slit
that had been disgorging anger and panic,
suddenly seemed a puny yelping dog,
but the pressure refused to give way.
And man stopped looking into himself and looked outside, at the world
rushing past the train windows, and thought
how the world needed to incorporate the speeding train,
which, like his inner world, was immovable on the inside,
at which point his cheap mobile phone rang twice in his hand
and then died in his palm, its battery flat –
a useless, redundant object.
End of transmission.
Berlin, November 2001
Translated by Ana Jelnikar