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Light of the Day

Aleš Šteger

What are our poets smiling at?

What are our poets smiling at?

What are our poets smiling at?
There’s nothing funny in our tribe.

Many lie murdered in gullies.
Our women and children are hungry and barefoot.

Unknown illnesses are mowing us down.
No new villages built and soon it will snow.

Despite all this, the smiles don’t fade from our poets’ faces.
As if facing sorrow brings them irrational, secret joy.

When we ask them what’s funny, they silently shrug,
And do the same when we demand they cheer us up in these dark times.

They guard the reason for their smiling just for their own enjoyment.
We trust them less and less, believe their sparse words less and less.

The smiles of our poets are truly mysterious in these poor times.
Did their minds burn out? Do they mock our common misery?

Their smiling sometimes cuts more cruelly than the weapons of our enemies.
But they are wrong if they think they will deceive us.

We will kill our poets only when we squeeze their secret out of them.
We will leave alive only the biggest blatherers, somber-faced and resembling us.

translated from Slovenian by Brian Henry
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