“Shoulder the Sky, My Lad, and Drink Your Ale”
transl. Brian Henry

Thinking in poetry is white iron
fertilized in a snake. The mountain roars, the fire

waits. Thinking in poetry is a sweater whose
threads are torn and a sprint swimmer.

This one touches the edge of the phallus pool
and wins. The battle is famous. The hands

are red. Flashes of lightning prepare the umbrella.
Thinking in poetry is the DAF, which fails

because the state doesn’t defend it. O Dutchmen,
you cost me my reputation. The door is

black, the reptile has a beard. A finger licks
molasses, a wound in the sky. It sleeps and shakes

through the felt, shakes cubic meters of firewood. The sun
shines—the bee is red, again—and sets. 

Translated from the Slovenian by Brian Henry.

Brian Henry is the author of eleven books of poetry, most recently Permanent State (Threadsuns, 2020), and the prose book Things Are Completely Simple: Poetry and Translation (Parlor, 2022). He has translated Tomaž Šalamun’s Woods and Chalices (Harcourt, 2008), Aleš Debeljak’s Smugglers (BOA Editions, 2015), and six books by Aleš Šteger, most recently Burning Tongues: New and Selected Poems (Bloodaxe, 2022). His work has received numerous honors, including two NEA fellowships, the Alice Fay di Castagnola Award, a Howard Foundation fellowship, and the Best Translated Book Award.


“Shoulder the Sky, My Lad, and Drink Your Ale”
Tomaž Šalamun

Mišljenje v poeziji je belo železo, ki se
oplaja v kači. Gora buči, čaka

požar. Mišljenje v poeziji je sviter, ki
se mu trgajo niti, in plavalec šprinter.

Ta se dotakne roba bazena falosa in
zmaga. Boj je slaven. Roke ima

rdeče. Strele preparajo dežnik.
Mišljenje v poeziji je DAF, ki propade,

ker ga ne brani država. O Holandci,
stali ste me ugleda. Vrata so

črna, reptil ima bradúc. Prst poliže
melaso, rano na nebu. Skozi klobučevino

spi in trese, trese kubične metre drv. Sonc
gori—čebela je rdeča, spet—in zahaja.

Tomaž Šalamun (1941-2014) published more than 50 books of poetry in Slovenia. Translated into over 25 languages, his poetry received numerous awards, including the Jenko Prize, the Prešeren Prize, the European Prize for Poetry, and the Mladost Prize. In the 1990s, he served for several years as the Cultural Attaché for the Slovenian Embassy in New York, and later held visiting professorships at various universities in the U.S. A comprehensive volume of selected poems (edited and translated by Brian Henry) is forthcoming from Milkweed Editions in 2024.


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