Tuesday, June 28, 2016

(who is playing around with the elevator?)

"Easy Ways"

For a week now
the black suits have lain ready,
liberated from mothballs.
The relatives grieve,
they grieve.
The departed is still alive,
yet about that he feels no guilt,
but even so he is ashamed,
experiencing the uneasiness of the guests
when the host accompanies them out
where they wait for the elevator to come.
And in this painful pause
(who is playing around with the elevator?)
the man brings the empty bottles back,
orders milk, clears up the room and tries to decide
if his mourning guests' slippers will stink.
Then the elevator finally comes,
roaring slowly nearer.
On the other side the day is so peacefully clear.
On the other side!
A person is a person then,
when he's on the other side!
From Kleines morgendliches Verbrechen, a book of poems by Georgi Gospodinov. Translation from the German mine. I am reading this book in the corners of my days, so short of time lately. I don't know quite why that is.


  1. you most likely have too many things to do... interesting poem, compared to the Chekov; the latter anticipating his own demise; the Gospodinov weighed down in grief while ephemera decorate and perhaps support his temporal being...

    1. Yeah, maybe the little irritations of life are keeping us alive, and to be at peace is not to be a person at all.

    2. some truth to that... unfortunately...

  2. Scott, I read the poem you've posted, and I recall Emily Dickinson's "I heard a Fly buzz -- when I died -- ", especially as both offer representations of expectant grievers gathered and waiting. I also wonder about humans' preoccupation with death. We are, I think, the only animals cursed (blessed?) with the knowledge that we will die. Very difficult wondering.

    1. For me, it's the knowledge that my loved ones are mortal that's hard. I am sure that animals don't understand death, but surely some of them mourn the loss of their fellows, and of the humans to whom they've bonded. The knowledge that I myself will die isn't a curse; aside from my promise to Mighty Reader that I will outlive her, I am otherwise indifferent to my death.

      What's interesting about Gospodinov's poem is that it's unclear if the dying man is also the host of the visiting mourners. If he is the host, if the guests are coming to visit him at the news of his impending demise, then it becomes more of a comic poem, and the ending implies that the dying man/host becomes a real person only after he's dead and is free of all the burden of guests and housekeeping. There are some ambiguities in the German-language version; I have no idea about the Bulgarian original, of course!

    2. i died once; nothing to it... (rear-ended in a vw bug: instant blackout; next thing i knew it was a half-hour later...

    3. Well, Mudpuddle, how lucky you are! The one time that I came very close to dying, I remember being surprised (at least in recollection) by how very calm I felt, and how only a few simple thoughts came into my mind.

  3. I feel sure the visiting-slippers are black--mothballs, black suits, milk. And the living make them stink, as he will stink later on in death. Why does he bring in the empty bottles? Usually you put the empties out (if you're so lucky as to have milk delivery.) And yes, is "the departed" also the host, the man? For them all, it is the "between" state that is uncomfortable--the border zone between life and death with its unknown crossing time or the elevator which doesn't come when it should but when it will (or when someone quits fooling.)

    1. You're probably right about the milk bottles; in the German he brings them zurück, back, and not weider hinein, back inside. Maybe he's bringing them back into the hall, where the elevator is. That makes more sense. My clumsy translation. I think I'll edit that.

  4. Elevators being vertical events,
    I wonder about everything beneath
    and everything above,
    even as everything in the middle
    commands my everyday attention.

  5. I hadn't noticed the obvious elevator symbolism! We don't know if he leaves by going up or down, though. And yes, who is fooling around with the elevator, keeping us all from leaving? Death? God? The bratty neighbor kids?