National Poetry Month Selection: "Lacquer" by Tomaž Šalamun

Words and the World

April is National Poetry Month, and for the rest of April we will be posting poems from our poetry titles and from those of our distributed presses. Our selection today is taken from Chinese University Press’s outstanding collection of poems from around the world, Words and the World: International Poetry Nights in Hong Kong. “Lacquer” is a poem written by Slovenian poet Tomaž Šalamun, and is translated from Slovenian by Christopher Merrill and the author. To Read: To Love, an individual chapbook of Šalamun’s poetry, is also available separately from Words and the World.

Tomaž Šalamun

Destiny rolls over me. Sometimes like an egg. Sometimes
with its paws, slamming me into the slope. I shout. I take
my stand. I pledge all my juices. I shouldn’t
do this. Destiny can snuff me out, I feel it now.

If destiny doesn’t blow on our souls, we freeze
instantly. I spent days and days afraid
the sun wouldn’t rise. That this was my last day.
I felt light sliding from my hands, and if I didn’t

have enough quarters in my pocket, and Metka’s voice
were not sweet enough and kind and solid and
real, my soul would escape from my body, as one day

it will. With death you have to be kind.
Home is where we’re from. Everything in a moist dumpling.
We live only for a flash. Until the lacquer dries.

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