Nine Poems by Marta Podgórnik (b. 1979)

Ovulation Blues

Nothing for it these days but Lipton tea with

chapbooks by Bohdan Zadura or practicing elocution

in front of the brown mirror.


At the bus stop, blowing your nose straight into

the trash, holding one nostril,

and in the Czech manner mixing up the bus numbers,

but it makes no difference: they both end up at the same place.


Nothing for it but washing your hands of everything

that matters and doesn’t, of all the lost battles,

once and for all. Accidentally breathing in the dust

from the soles of your shoes, by the street lamp a winking eye:

a run in your fishnet stockings.


They call this a wide frame of reference

if it means something to anyone.


Nothing for it these days but recycling bottles

for more emptiness, for more.


Translated by Marit MacArthur and Tomasz Dobrogoszcz




It could be another poem like this one: you go somewhere

leaving behind a scorched city, though really you were

the only one smoked out of there. The high voltage power lines between

us haven’t broken down. Beep beep, goes the telegraph.


“Read poetry or you will be fucked up.” Graffiti on the wall

of a music hall brings out smiles in the dark room

like photographs. (Nobody signed it. The least literal

of meanings is the only one that lasts.) When you’ve had


eight beers the next one no longer matters, the idea comes back,

a hiccupping drunken declaration: “Read poetry or …”

(In the morning no one will remember.) Another

bar where you’re just like a letter — all burnt up.


Translated by Marit MacArthur and Tomasz Dobrogoszcz




Recent Times

She came back to the starting point, beyond the light,

calm and certain. Optimistic about people and reading,

conscientious, at the keyboard six hours a day.

Winter is over, and the bottom line is that we got


through it warm. Numbed by the cold

I discover new forms: MTV without sound, a monthly magazine,

Your Cell Phone, a diary years afterward. The mess

aggravates beyond reason, the lack of cigarettes


is so annoying it’s funny. The pile of papers

contains one simple story, without a moral. A man

gets lost in the ending, the story is fragmented

and the point makes a small impact. Leave it, I’ll clean it up.


Translated by Marit MacArthur and Tomasz Dobrogoszcz




Class of 1994

Advanced French. Our bible is Sartre, our Faust

von Daniken. A new sensitivity is yet to come.

Sex hovers at the edges of enviable dates,

the notion of obligation we grasp vaguely, time relatively.

Some girls have the bad luck to understand to the fullest

the complexity of chance, others worry too much

about the fate of Leukon. The channels of perception will burst any day

releasing the fruit of the very first choices. We know nothing,

but already the end of our history is being written;

though each believes she can protect herself,

if not she will not —


Translated by Marit MacArthur and Tomasz Dobrogoszcz




A Long May

I can accept I can hand over my new life

you’ll express your opinion about it in a letter or in a while

unexpectedly sensibly when I start to think us

when they start to talk about us when you suggest

to them these are still adjustments speaking tactfully

vague impressions out of concern for me

because we do have intuitions sometimes so

what’s important is corpus christi is coming up my birthday

you’ll explain your decision unless you don’t want to

then I won’t insist I won’t accept I won’t hand over

I am a carrier now only that


Translated by Marit MacArthur and Tomasz Dobrogoszcz





A certain woman read a lot: feminists everywhere

put up a sign HEIDEGGER YOU KANT, no idea

why, for lack of something else to do? The 2000 dictionary

is silent on the matter, their drinks got cold, before going

to bed she liked to pour herself a nightcap. As a victim

of bad circulation (the second cycle) love made

her ill (you can’t make fun of illness)

but she was brave she went to war she blew down

a paper house, and then she dug up

the telephone in the park.


Translated by Marit MacArthur and Tomasz Dobrogoszcz




Not a Word

One two an omen’s due

dark woods I’ll go through

I’ll watch it all as I go

croaked the old crow


Far away a dream betrayed

two people one shade

your half my quarter

death baked the cake to order


Tick tock who’s gone

darkness waits beneath the limes

the sky it seems has gone away

over me the sky remains


Zip zap darkness light

I’ll have it all a while longer

the bad old crow died of hunger

it didn’t happen twice


Translated by Marit MacArthur and Tomasz Dobrogoszcz




Scenes from a Good Day

Yes I was even from birth a daughter an engineer

a love of perfection and a fondness for details

with difficulty I choose with the glue of chance that has no taste

sometimes even Mohammed must go to the mountain


sometimes even Mohammed must go to the bathroom

no one is a prophet in his own bathroom

the world hardly tries to provide me with an episode

in someone else’s life yet unfortunately such scenes


don’t win Oscars hastily prearranged smaller

prizes dilute the bitter heartburn a little apart to the end

on the spinning reel you will stay young

and forever you will go toward the iron sun


Translated by Marit MacArthur and Tomasz Dobrogoszcz




People Are Bad

People are bad. Let him know, the one who dreams: he’s wrong.

Even in a dream they boil tar that rhyme stirs.

The tar made of names and hearts is boiling; we made love today in

the poplar dust; we waded in hills of leaves,


by the playground, in a dream. Without swearing until the end;

the sun will throw down leaves; the hurt song will awaken

a call for blood. People are simply bad. Newspapers give you to edit

just like a death contract. This park is clenching into a fist.


They aren’t bad at the bottom of their hearts, no. They could have loved

you even; but to read? No, none of this: From

a veil, her black train, she made curtains out of it (and

she knows and I know), you know: People are simply bad. They will dig


a hole for you, wherever you want. Each one will throw you a little clod

on the surface of the lid, which will stifle sound. They peck pigeons

and they will fondly recite the poem from your letters; they will bring back to life lying

and fading tears. It’s not enough for you? So go to sleep, people are only bad.


Translated by Marit MacArthur and Tomasz Dobrogoszcz