Levchev and I

Lyubomir Levchev and Jack Harte outside the National Palace of Culture, Sofia, Dec 2001

I met the elder statesman of Bulgarian poetry, Lyubomir Levchev, in 2001. He was instrumental in having my collection of stories, Birds and other Tails, translated and published in Bulgaria. Since then we have been the closest of friends. Strangely, he does not speak English nor I Bulgarian, and yet when I reflect on our twelve years of friendship, I am not conscious of such a barrier to communication. When I visited him recently, and sat drinking rakia with him, he gave me a copy of his latest collection in Bulgarian, and the translation by Valentin Krustev of one of the poems. Since I feature in it, I thought I might share it. A substantial collection of Levchev’s work is due out in English translation from the US on foot of his having been presented with the William Meredith Award for Poetry. Called Green-Winged Horse, it carries the apt quote from William Saroyan: Lyubomir Levchev, the poems you write are written by the sky and the street and the old people who died 400 years ago and the little kids who will be born in 400 years from now and they are poems of profound joy and swift sorrow …

Here’s to you, Lyubomir.

Любомир Левчев 

Последно желание

Като че ли

спомените ме забравят.

А забравите ме помнят.

Като че ли

ми дават право

на последно желание.

Добре.

Искам да изпратя

нов имейл

на стар приятел,

като Джек –

магическия келтски бард

Джек Харт.

Той ползваше компютри много преди мен.

Бе сменял три.

Ала не ги изхвърляше,

а ги оставяше в градината

да удивляват гостите.

Къщурки на джуджета,

които си въобразяват, че са идоли

от остров Пасха.

И ето,

аз съм гостът удивен.

Аз съм, който минава

по вълшебната пътечка.

От небесата пада лист.

Аз съм.

А от корубата на първия компютър

се плези странно животинче –

мишле,

което иска да е мишка на компютър,

да намира всички данни,

а не да плаши дами.

Компютърът е симпатичен,

но не може да обича.

Прилича на набожен,

но не може да вярва

и затова

се провъзгласява за бъдещ бог.

Компютърът е твърде точен,

за да може да се надява…

Джек Харт ми се усмихва добродушно:

– Бъди по-снизходителен.

Компютрите са вече станали

първа необходимост.

А ний, приятелю, ще си останем

нещо последно –

желание на времето, което си отива.

Идва магнитна буря.

Идват електронните богове.

Lyubomir Levchev

Last Wish

Memories seem

to forget me,

while oblivions remember me.

It’s as if they

are granting me the right of

a last wish.

All right.

I want to send

a new email

to an old friend

like Jack,

the magical Celtic bard

Jack Harte.

He used computers long before I did.

He had had three of them.

But he wouldn’t throw them out—

he would leave them in his garden

to amaze the visitors.

Cottages of dwarfs,

who imagine that they are

Easter Island idols.

Lo and behold,

I am the visitor amazed.

I am he, who walks

along the magical narrow path.

A leaf falls from the skies.

It’s me.

Meanwhile, from the hollow of the first computer

a weird living creature pulls out it’s tongue at me,

a little mouse

that wants to be a computer mouse

with access to all databases,

rather than a mouse scaring ladies.

A computer is a nice thing,

but it cannot love.

It looks like pious,

but it is unable to believe,

and that is why

it proclaims itself a future God.

The computer is too exact

to be able to have hope…

Jack Harte gives me a good-natured smile:

“Be more lenient.

Now computers have become

things of prime necessity.

While we, my friend, will remain

something final:

a desire of the passing time.”

A magnetic storm is coming.

The electronic Gods are coming.

 

Translated from the Bulgarian by Valentin Krustev

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