Poetry by Ilmar Laaban

by Ilmar Laaban
translated by Richard Adang, Andres Ehin

Silence and Violence

Long ago on a windy hunt
a horrible happiness abruptly bloomed in me   
and the landscape congealed only its pungent
blood rustling through my veins the gun smoked
incessantly the hound did not bark
as it gazed at the clouds tightening
into meat and skinning over with fur
streaming tangled by despair

Because on the horizon a stout tower appeared
which swayed slowly between emptiness
and the overflowing clamor of hideous joy
like a gigantic latrine
the sweaty sun mottled Earth and Welkin
until suddenly it was eclipsed by cold
ravens of freedom who carried my eyes
and fresh images like flags in their bills

At twilight which was only flashes
as the sea is but the triumph of the drowned
my hunting jacket was freed of its heavy
web of lust I simply ran forward
along the mute moor coming across
animals with shining coals for hearts
I shot them so many that the road home
was finally choked with grass

Long ago I seized the empty beaker
and faced its inflexible challenge
and ever since this endless draught rinses -
my gun-barrel mouth which sparkles
in the starry sky and when it sees
some too-warm nebula defiling cosmic night
it proclaims ponderously and clearly
I DENY DEATH BUT AFFIRM ICE



To Live Free Or Die

To weigh the sun on the scales of leaves
to  proclaim truth to each gust of wind
to bear on the brow the reflection of wells
               to live free or die

To kiss stones kiss the keys of azure sky
kiss animals amid thunder and oblivion
to sing in the desert in a snowy voice
                 to live free or die

To gather up all lost words
to sway in the orgasm of flowers
which shatter the opaque sky
                to live free or die

To listen to the fountain of fair blood
declaiming in the garden of terrifying grass
to know vengeance and the value of stars
                 to live free or die

To know that the decayed eyes of traitors
become the spawn of the fish of hope
without dreams of ferns and iron
              to live free or die

To bemoan the petrified bees                               
to find the crack where the moon will be reborn
to smile in the face of the swirling storm
              to live free or die

To see the black cloud blossoming
above the barren landscape’s gaudiness
to embrace the translucent sculpture of madness
               to live free or die

To recall the shame to recall the sea
to understand a child’s earthy question
to remain faithful to a melted ice floe
               to live free or die

To watch the dawn growing in the valley like a tree
to watch it from the ridge of the sierra of abomination
to unite hail and a butterfly in a human face
              to live free or die

To live as flying fish live
to live in wintry fires and in the night of benevolence
to live endlessly vanishing
             to live free or die

To live as grass on the murderer’s grave
to live a rock in one hand and joy in the other
to live to discover the heart of waves
             to live free or die