Vasko Popa


Bone to Bone

Translated by Anne Pennington

1. At the Beginning

That’s better
We’ve got away from the flesh

Now we will do what we will
Say something

Would you like to be
The backbone of a streak of lightning

Say something more

What shall I say to you
Pelvis of a storm

Say something else

I know nothing else
Ribs of the sky

We are no one’s bones
Say something different


2. After the Beginning

What’ll we do now

Yes what’ll we do
Now we’ll have marrow for supper

We ate the marrow for lunch
Now I’ve got a hollow grumbling

Then we’ll make music
We like music

What’ll we do when the dogs come
They like bones

Then we’ll stick in their throats
And have fun


3. In the Sun

It’s marvellous sunbathing naked
I couldn’t stand the flesh

I wasn’t keen on those rags either
I’m crazy about you naked like this

Don’t let the sun caress you
Let’s love each other just the two of us

Only not here only not in the sun
Here everything can be seen bone darling


4. Underground

Muscle of darkness muscle of flesh
It comes to the same thing

Well what shall we do now

We’ll invite all the bones of all times
We’ll bake in the sun

What shall we do then

Then we’ll grow pure
Go on growing as we please

What shall we do afterwards

Nothing we’ll wander here and there
We’ll be eternal beings of bone

Just wait for the earth to yawn


5. In the Moonlight

What’s that now
As if flesh some snowy flesh
Were clinging to me

I don’t know what it is
As if marrow were running through me
Some cold marrow

I don’t know either
As if everything were beginning again
With a more horrible beginning

Do you know what
Can you bark


6. Before the End

Where shall we go now

Where should we go nowhere
Where else would two bones go

What shall we do there

There long awaiting us
There eagerly expecting us
No one and his wife nothing

What use are we to them

They are old they are without bones
We’ll be just like daughters to them


7. At the End

I am a bone you are a bone
Why have you swallowed me
I can’t see myself any more

What’s wrong with you
It’s you who’ve swallowed me
I can’t see myself either

Where am I now

Now no one knows any more
Who is where nor who is who
All is an ugly dream of dust

Can you hear me

I can hear both you and myself
There’s cockspur crowing out of us

Notes on this poem

This translation was published in Vasko Popa’s Complete Poems 1953-87 (Anvil, 1997, 2011) and is updated from the version published in Modern Poetry in Translation No.1 to reflect the fact that Anne Pennington’s original translations were revised by Francis R. Jones. It is published here by permission of Carcanet Press.