My thanks to Donal O'Callaghan, who both inspired and assisted with this translation.

To my delighted amazement, Bonnie Larson Staiger, a North Dakota Associate Poet Laureate, responded to this translation by a poem of her own: Still.


Just as moisture concealed in the air awakens at dawn,
And descends into grass so that the Sun may be greeted by a myriad of lights,

Just as wind dies down on a summer evening,
And the boundless peace of the approaching night stills all but clouds trailing after the Sun,

Just as the conflagration of moonrise above a forest turns into the cool silver of a full moon,
(And werewolves drown in the fiery ecstasy of transformation),

So here, by the river of rivers, I tame my unquiet pack,
And teach myself to listen.

But on summer evenings bluish mist rises over meadows,
The moon wanes, and my pack, perhaps scenting prey, has scattered into the night.

Only the wind lasts, and in unquiet gusts, shivering through my body,
Brings fragments of words, perhaps being spoken by someone on the other shore.

P.S. A while back I was asked: where did werewolves come into it? Trying to explain poems can be a mug's game, but I still think my (very much post factum) exlpanation had some merit. In tales I know, werewolves are humans turned into wolves by the magic of full moon. This transformation can be dreaded or desired but in either case it is painful, involuntary and overwhelming – the erotic sub-text is rarely explicated, but is easy enough to hear. In the poem, the conflagration of the moonrise changes into cool, soothing silver of the full moon, but the fire, the strangeness, the violence that was promised by that moonrise, all of that is still there, only hidden – manifesting itself in the secret, private, primaeval transformation. That's also why the line is in brackets. It speaks of a reality "bracketed away" into an experience only some (un)fortunate humans can know. It is a kind-of counter-weight to the main theme of the poem, like an underwater keel, which gives a boat its stability.

Once I am at it, it it worth pointing out that in the Czech version, that line, in its last three words (all containing the R consonant, following the three L's of the first half of the line!) breaks the very "spaced out" spoken flow of the whole poem in a quite choppy manner. This prefigures the other line that also breaks the flow – the one about learning to listen, after which the smooth flow returns once again. Sadly, I was unable to approximate these effects in the English translation.

On the other hand, readers familiar with both Czech and English may also spot that the translation changes "cruel extasy" into "fiery extasy". In this the translation is actually closer to my intention. I needed a reference to fire, but the cadence of that line required a word with an R in it. With some regret, being unable to satisfy both requirements in Czech, I settled on the imperfect compromise of "cruel extasy". The English version fixes this defect.

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Mike Arnautov (23 November 2021)