Last Night (Lyubomir Levchev)

January 27, 2009

Last night I was coming back home alone.
Somebody tapped me on the shoulder
as good friends do sometimes.
I turned around cheered up
but there was no one there.
Only on top of my shoulder glowed
the ruddy palm
of a single
chestnut leaf…
…I was jolly all evening.
So my mother started an argument
looking at me from under a heavy eyebrow:
“You’ve met old friends again, eh!…”


Levchev is one of Bulgaria’s most prominent and popular poets. As “Last Night” demonstrates, he writes in a vein both romantic and accessible, with a light footed, almost youthful vigor. And yet there is also a sense of some drama at play outside of time, beyond description. “Poetry,” Levchev writes in aother poem, “is a criminal attempt/ to translate/ the pulsations of the universe/ into the simple mortal language of our hearts.” Why criminal? Because, as the poem resumes:

     Poetry permits
     the gods
     to assume
     human shape
     and simultaneously brands humans with divinity.

A romantic vision too large, perhaps, for contemporary American readers, and yet Levchev does not fail to moor his vision to life’s inherent difficulties. In another poem, addressing “three billion stars,” Levchev admits:

     I was telling the stars, I think,
     how it is that man rises like a sun.
     And how difficult it is for him to shine all life long.
     Especially with his own light.


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