Octavian PALER

The Game

All I’ve got left is a conch shell and some pebbles,
how can I weave them into a sea
and a shore to lie on its sand beach
and how can I persuade myself I’ve been on such a shore
happily pursuing a bird
that wouldn’t let me sleep peacefully ?
A conch shell and some pebbles
and a weird name
which nobody can understand
and my hope of getting
to never grasp it myself some day.
The street parade is over,
I’m waiting for my punishment by the empty tribunes,
in spite of all I’ve beheld a cloud burning at midday
and I’ve heard the birdsong which enthralled the wild horses,
I tell you, that shore certainly isn’t a mere fairytale,
I myself have seen the cloud and listened to the song
and, before overmastering me,
the sun made me happy.


The Death of the Words

A face of sand
and arms of sand
and my tongue is but sand as well
I cannot speak in my own defense
in this lawcourt of sand
with lamplights of sand
court clerks of sand
memories of sand
and someone turns the clepsydra upside down.


All that I’ve loved has turned into sand
all that I’ve misjudged has turned into sand
and judges of sand
pronounce my sentence
and condemn me to death
on a scaffold of sand.

English version by Gabriela PACHIA