Atanas Dalchev

Novella

The windows – shut tight and blackened
And blackened and shut tight, the door,
And the door bears the fluttering message
“The owner has gone to America.”
And I am the home’s only owner
Where nobody’s made his abode
And I’ve set out for nowhere
And from nowhere I’ve returned
I never take a step from my house
And the years are my only visitors,
But so often the gardens have yellowed,
And I’m certainly not the same chap.
All the books have been read long ago
And all memory’s paths have been trampled
And how here as if for a hundred years
I talk exclusively to the portraits.
And day and night and night and day the clock
Swings its brass sun pendulum.
Occasionally I pose before the mirror
So as not to be always alone.
And my days slowly climb the walls
In the flicker of dying embers:
My life ebbs away with no trace
Of a Not a single love or incident.
It’s as if I’ve never lived at all
And my existence is an evil fantasy.
If someone happens to enter the house,
They’ll find nobody in.
They’ll only see the dusty portraits,
The perfidious empty mirror
And on the door a yellowing message:
” The owner has gone to America.”

Atanas Dalchev 1925

The House

by Atanas Dalchev

As if the devil himself has rented it out.
But the tenant’s quite unknown.
The front door is forever shut
and even by day dark sleeps in its rooms.

The rain gnaws at the plasterwork, runs
piercing the broken lead flashing,
and like sweat on a sick man’s brow
through the grey walls the damp is bubbling.

And at  night (did you see through the window?),
with the shriek of the sudden wind gust
the door banging open and shut.
set the night dogs’ howling in the yard.

And a dark shadow like a spear
was broken up the staircase of stone
And I saw and I knew the dead man there
whom they’d buried nine days ago.

1925

For My Homeland

 

I never chose you on the earth

I was just born in you on a June day swelter.

I love you not because you’re wealthy,

but just because you’re my mother country.

 

And I’m a Bulgar not for your glory

And your heroic feats and military skill.

But just because I cannot stop memories

of the blinded soldiers of Tsar Samuil.

 

Let any search you for success

And honours and power with the selfsame passion.

Suffering unites us, you and me

And one love consigns us to the self same fate.

 

Slogan

 

Everyone who dies for freedom,

Wherever it is, they’re our brothers,

still in blood but just by their bleeding.

 

1954.

 

Silence

by Atanas Dalchev

 

I kept continuously silent,

all thoughts were erased from my brain.

and today from all this silence

it’s like I rose from my grave.

 

Above my soul, it’s floating nigh

the nameless empty dread,

of all the days and nights gone by,

no different from  being dead.

 

Scared rigid and disabled,

although quite free at this stage,

my thoughts continue unable

to fly out from their cage

 

Like someone from his sick bed

my poem scarcely keeps its feet

my words are overfed

with odd pain and helpless heat.

 

And they’re short like the call

the condemned man  boldly scrawled

in his outburst on the wall,

before death by firing squad.

 

1964

The doors

The doors, the street front doors

            of the ancient rotting houses

 you recognise them, don’t you,

            for how many years gone by

they noisily close behind you,

            when at night you come back home,

they make way for you as if to say

            “Please enter dear Master!”


They speak in strange voices

            anytime weekday or Sunday

From morning  through to night

            they sing through yawning mouths

when you throw them open

            and then you close them gently:

Oh, those songs and voices,

            already known from childhood

The doors sodden in the rain,

            rotting from water and winter

gnawed by numberless worms

            stripped bare by the winds

the doors with thousands of scars –

            colours and nameless letter plates

 with studs, knockers and brackets

and their rust running like blood


And last night with all its might

            a storm, unleashed in the gloom,

battered them like a wrecking ball

            and the doors were stretched thin

and through the night till dawn

            they were beating and rattling

like the wings of some black bird

            dying wounded in the shadows.

 

The doors, your very own doors

            there’s little point in locking them

alas you will never feel

            safe and sound behind them.

When the night time fills your ears

            and startled dogs are barking

they cannot keep you safe

            from Her – the eternal hoodlum

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