Irakli Qolbaia: 'Healing Poem'

[An example of the geographic and cultural range of English-language writing, this one a recent work from the Georgian poet and translator Irakli Qolbaia. Qolbaia, who has appeared earlier in Poems and Poetics, writes elsewhere of the deep sources of language and psyche: “Could the embrace of all languages and all consciousnesses not then be seen as only an initial stage on the journey beyond the strictly human and into all-language / all-psyche: vegetal-language, animal-language, night-language, dream-language? If so, then I hope this may be our contribution to Paul Celan’s command: ‘there are still songs to sing beyond mankind.’ And, finally, in evoking dream or dream-language or dream-work, I also have in mind Stevens’s ‘the vast ventriloquism of sleep’s faded papier-mâché’ which, of course, ever leads to ‘a new knowledge of reality.’” What follows, here, is the latest instance from his own work in English. (j.r.)]


     Yesterday all cries                where we lay

                                   our hearts to their

dead       and everyone that met me struck me as familiar

       stranger                they see me and cover their

    face                  everyone I met       another and me

in him         at the place between me and myself

           am by myself    without me       but quiet

quiet      something is heard       white noise has increased too much

lately         thickened, grown     nothing ever knows

          how to grow on its own        and this feeling, misborn

      mine,      towards you       will grow so much with what is missing

until “it overcomes the ways of year and sun”       Virgil

                                     has these words for you               I

have adorned with hellebore the silence, where

              your wound says, has

healed                               music unknown, inscaped, otherous

                         inborn,   as if all night long I’ve been listening

to your ear,           when my feelings towards you are over,

       my misborn       feeling for you                the solstice of my life

will cradle the vision of you        as for now, my nightside is breathing you-air

— I am up to this pain: am adeep with it           “I lose you to you, that

is my snow consolation”     — your snow skin, a honeysuckle to

your eyes,     your deep scent     its lavender flesh        I wanted for

                 from you         as grass in the summered

                                   sun                           by my life

                                                                       I kissed it, that scent, and it gave me

                                                                 present hunger, though full

I am   (as Will & Walt before us)     “I find I contain gneiss

                       coal, longthreaded

                            moss, fruits, grains     esculent

                   roots     /    and

               am stucco’d with quadrupeds and birds

all over”                                —in the garden, where I slept, that which

                  was to disappear, wherein I was

                        to disappear,     the sun was borne, the rays

have flown, from the garden, as rays has flown the garden, and returned

                          through the front, to which it hooked itself

as threads, to my solar plexus,       the garden

                             spectre, I heard, rustled         with grave steps            — mirror

deepened with our dreams?

         no, my dreams are beyond the mirror      and only my

mourning deepens the mirror                    we lay our hearts to

their dead            où leur conscience d’etre soit moins

douloureuse                when you lose everyone you hold

              dear to you         remember me        so that

my waters          can      pass into

               new vessels                   flow of animals

is expected             if it be your will

                take this cup from me

                   am I the healer or the sickness

                               am I the healing or

                       the rupture        am I the solitude or

        the multitude       am I inspired or

                       am I the curse     am I boundless

or am I blindness     am I boundless or

           am I the bound

                   am as beautiful as

             dream in stone

you shall be a swan tonight, and question me

                                                                                          we lay our hearts to their dead

        we cannot lay her in this cold earth, say

             all seven of them                her      in cold earth, the woman

that loved me                         for a night              (“I shall tell you

       of elsewhere that is

                 inside”)         in the earth, where

I enwrapped my guirlande inside hers’, my hair

      in her occino      in her dream-hair      in winter’s

             wet leaves                    her winter earth

grassscent               cannot wake her, cannot take

       my eyes off her, cannot

           take my eyes off her        I fail not to

look at her, must            not to lend my

      shoulder for her oreiller    to lay her head      I want

her to sleep,      I want stones

            I’d be for her,      the stone where her heart

pounds           and dream in stone         of those who dead from stone

              to dead from stone, to dead from stone

to dead from stone

                these dreams, the ones

I love                     each one of them a killing dream in stone, lethal

stones in my way      none of them am I willing to

             get over