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  • Davor Šalat

Gas to Heaven: Davor Šalat

The poetry of Davor Šalat is part philosophy, part geography – a symbolic representation of land, a map of a desert region in which the simplest ideas, terms, words, letters of the alphabet shift from one end of the meaning to another. In that process, the meaning gets expanded in almost the same way that deserts of the world expand: slowly, stubbornly, irrevocably. Davor Šalat, poet, literary critic, and translator of Spanish literature was born 1968 in Dubrovnik. Author of a dozen books of poetry and essays, he is the editor of Most/The Bridge, a journal of international literary exchange.

The poems we present here are from his 2009 collection Tumačenje zime (Interpretation of Winter, Zagreb: VBZ).


Gas to Heaven

As if your sentence has come loose and there’s nothing you can do about it. It moves any which way, wears shoes of strangers and there’s practically no hat under which it could hide. Who is who in this sentence and will it restore an already peeled onion, only a perfect language could know this, a language restrained by no person. Nevertheless, it wells up to lips, seeps into a tree of sand and unmistakably recites the alphabet of the desert. Maybe it will whisper to us under which dune our lost car got stuck and how much gas do we need for a trip to heaven.

Star Text

The handwriting is thinning. Everything that got written, now recedes back into the pencil. The sentence of the world got spent. But it continues to be spoken and written, bears grumble even during the winter. And the paper is never fully white. Mistaken are those who sharpen the pencil. In its very wood there is already a script, out of its lead even a star text can slip.

Well-Oiled Name

Just listen to yourself, I tell myself, fire shows mercy to mistakes: by burning them up. Oh, you wobbly man, never admit your unscrewed matrices. The repairmen are on their way with pliers and wrenches, fixing you, oiling up your name. Never admit the fire that melts the mechanics of your stride. For fire is that bright screw that drives itself into milk and honey.

Almost Eternal

There’s no return from the open sea. Worms have eaten through our ship. Omens have baffled us into a circle. Already we fondle the darkness that smiles to us from the horizon. The sea has sown the seeds of demise into our every pocket. Now we’re but the brass of its moans, almost eternal.

Shy Angel

An angel hides his sword. Ashamed of his power. He’d rather pick wild blueberries and test the winged horse that gallops towards the horizon. But he’s an angel. Children stubbornly hold onto his name and demons are looking to pick a fight. His sword is a word, finally he understands. And commits the sin of poetry.

Translated from Croatian by NGORwDAC

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The image of Quasimodo is by French artist Louis Steinheil, which appeared in  the 1844 edition of Victor Hugo's "Notre-Dame de Paris" published by Perrotin of Paris.


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