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Star on High

He loves no less who does not waste his words,

but asks and cares too much, though seeming dumb,

and his whole scope of loving (like a crumb

of bread to feed to hungry teeth), he hoards,

preserving it to give some star on high –

his soul, his heart, his distant destiny.

His silence says: in this world’s alien loneliness,

flowers and sonnets occupy my dreams,

with plant-pots perched on seasoned wooden beams –

our poverty’s pure, simple lines of loveliness.

beneath the veil of day and night’s clean blue,

I’m dreaming: I shall come, I’ll come for you.

From The Necklace (1926)


Come closer, darkness, lay your hand

across the horizon’s wilderness

and cover all of no man’s land

with secrecy and cloudiness.

Come closer, dusky haziness

till midnight thickens through the whole

wide world with dreams and drowsiness,

and while it sleeps, sing – from the soul.


These words – ripe harvests of black light,

these songs – ripened in silence – reach

cracked and bursting from deep night –

like beggared hands outstretched, beseech –

I’m no poet, but I do know pain –

so I must love my human hurt.

So, from my tears, I’ll braid a chain

to ornament a dowry shirt.

– With pearl and coins of minted gold

worth more than any poet wrote –

if only, my beloved child,

you’ll wear my necklace at your throat.


Amid the pressing milling throng

without a guide and fatherless.

I’ve lived alone and groaned too long:

groans bear my seal of hopefulness.

I hunted every sound and sight,

I gladly parcelled out my soul,

I flexed my bow, my aim was right,

and every shot attained its goal.

I blazed to give out more to all,

with light my letter, God my trust,

and my own spirit criminal

if thorn and bramble were my crust.

But now the dreariest to end

all things is, in this dreary hell,

my spirit’s dead – my oldest friend –

and I a cracked and empty bell.


Each smile strikes a fresh flare ablaze,

each word, sharp as a gunshot, sounds

into our breasts, torn many ways,

in through our hearts’ constricted grounds.

We dream green pastures, where peace shines,

hearthsmoke misting in blue breeze,

clustered grapes strung on their vines,

and deep sad summer-ripened seas.

We weep whole babbling mountain springs,

for moss of secret haunt and hollow,

and when done with such sorrowings

yearn for cleaner tears to follow.

Our pain is endless, like the wail

of mourners at some village death,

and misery, like alcohol,

sears fire, fire, on my every breath.

Each smile strikes a fresh flare ablaze,

each word, sharp as a gunshot, sounds

into our breasts, torn many ways,

in through our hearts’ constricted grounds.


Tonight, my forehead gleams

and sweat drips in each eye;

my thoughts blaze through dreams,

tonight, of beauty I shall die.

The soul’s core is passion deep

in night’s abyss, a blazing cone.

Hush, weep in silence. Let us weep

and let us die. We’ll die alone.


Who’ll understand why – no one will

I rail at God each time I pray?

Within my flesh my soul lies ill.

A woman makes me waste away.

Instead of staying in my shell

when young and green I sought renown

in the wide world – but here in hell

now wear this thorn and wormwood crown.

With each tear, more tears long to blend,

consoling each sad syllable.

Aye, Hope is all: but here’s an end,

my life, my world, my hope – farewell.


Deep in that heart, black wounds he dare not show;

he’s weary, cursed, a being in distress,

that sparkle in the eyes, that starry brow –

you’re dead, Tin. All your paths are emptiness.

Death is your love, in every step you take,

death, in your belly and in every breath,

death is your drink and daily bread you break,

in expectation and attainment, death.

What use blind love or hope without a goal,

what use desire’s wild dash, when there’s no cure

through breathing lungs or heartbeats, for the soul,

and though your loves are beautiful and pure

like faded perfume in a broken bowl,

none of your babbling larksong can endure?


The Gulf! Whole oceans scaled over my head,

and gold fish fashioned out of crystallites,

I ask where Madam Moonlight’s lain abed,

and blue horizons haze blue mountain heights.

The dawn is spiked with delicate clear dread,

thought’s needles – piercing, lucid – snap and freeze.

No scales or spirals raise me, spirited,

nor mirrorings of rocked realities.

The heart’s a world unfathomed, fertile, deep,

and man, beneath his lead sky, breaks and sinks,

while life, a seagull, soars above his head.

Aye, well-fed easy woman, stuffed on bread,

thought’s rhythms broke our last connecting links,

but oh, how heart and pulse beat, beat and leap.

Translation: Richard BERENGARTEN & Daša MARIC