Hello and Welcome to Trafika Europe Corner, a new column on Ohio Edit! Over the coming months, we’ll share with you some great new poetry and fiction from authors across Europe – exclusive stuff you won’t find in our regular journal. But first, please let us introduce ourselves.
Trafika Europe brings you some of the best new literature from Europe, with our quarterly literary journal. . . and featuring (from Autumn 2015) the first online “literary” radio station! Trafika Europe wants to be your meeting point for great new literature from across the 47 Council of Europe countries, to showcase what is exciting in emerging voices across the continent, to explore issues toward a greater sense of belonging and attraction, and ultimately to create a more shared identity through European literature. By extending our vision to Council of Europe (twice as large as the EU), we’re exploring a “fresh-page” approach for European literature – there sure is a lot of it to enjoy. It’s remarkably expanding to encounter a great range of cultural voices in Europe – and we’re finally finding out what all those obscure vowels in the font set are really for.
Our third issue will focus on new writing from Latvia, so today on our debut Ohio Edit column, we thought to share with you a poem by Inga Gaile. She’s a Latvian poet and playwright, with two published plays and two books of poetry out so far. Her first book won the Klavs Elsbergs Award, and the second earned her the Anna Dagda Foundation Accolade for Excellence in Poetry. She studied at the Latvian Academy of Culture and has worked at TV3 Latvia.
Inga Gaile has a distinctly different voice than her contemporaries – her poetic concern and commentary is focused on the social reality in Latvia. For example, several of her poems deal with the exodus of about a quarter of a million people since Latvia regained independence – a stunning number given a total population in Latvia of less than two million.
Here’s a poem from her below, called “On a Bus.” It’s from her latest book, Migla (Fog). It’s not available in English; this poem has been freshly translated just for you by the stellar Latvian translator, Margita Gailitis.
By the way, we’re launching an online –> campaign <-- to help us finish preparations for Trafika Europe Radio. Won’t you please check it out? There’s exciting information there about our radio project – and some super rewards. Thank you so much if you can take a moment with this – we think you’ll be truly happy to see what this new radio is all about.
On a bus
by Inga Gaile
(translated from Latvian by Margita Gailitis)
That’s how we live
dug down in our scarves and hangovers
I erect a fence of gold, of fear,
of bread with sausage, of shame.
That’s how we live –
don’t come near,
and don’t ask.
That’s how we live,
we sit on our lovely asses –
waiting for a man to let us, that’s his duty after all.
I won’t let you, I’m tired, does this bitch even know
how it is to work all night and afterward still
not to get some, not get some, makes me want to spit
Shouldn’t even make out if one can’t buy a car,
if I have to make out in this smelly excuse-of-a-boat
that floats blindly
in the dark.
That’s how we live,
we don’t let anyone, don’t smile, don’t say hello,
for fear something shall be taken from us, be begrudged, be undone,
the last bit of food plus our teeth wrested from us,
fifty pounds overweight, but that’s from the stress
better that I just sit here and not look
oh heavens, it’s full of cripples there,
I also don’t see that,
I gaze at the trees
reciting mantras and thinking loftier thoughts
If I could just manage, only manage
precisely to be the one to luck out
a son-in-law with money, a key to a BMW.
That’s also how we live,
not seeing anything,
a kid laughs,
I do not hear, I do not hear, I do not hear
the sun breaks in through a small gap
take a rag, stuff that hole shut,
we’ll let out the warm air, then what?!
This shit of a government doesn’t feed me,
doesn’t make me smile, doesn’t extend honor
doesn’t make me proud to be human.
Doesn’t allow me to stand up tall
so seated can be
that girl giving birth tomorrow.
There’s still hope for us.
someone will leave for madrid, the city will get snowed-in with jasmine blossoms,
someone will leave, leaving empty ports, ice bleeding away alongside,
an afternoon nap with tea and a phallus, warm moans and tomatoes
we live healthily, sports, sex, food, smiles, poems, literature, money, the sea
we live healthily, not dragged down, driven forward by ideas, delusion is sweet still
sweeter, more sweet, more, more
no numbness, the winter melts and freezes, melts and freezes, in all the stairwells kisses
sweet, salt, somewhat bitter
ships don’t stop at this port, planes don’t land yet, we live as if on a platform,
as if at an airport, in a lounge, on an escalator, as if temporarily, in-transit
joy, temporarily it’s so good in-transit, we don’t want to part, temporarily
as if on a tightrope, as if meeting, embracing by chance in the eye of a needle,
passion gasps, legs spread
getting in the swing, letting ourselves go, taking off, not mentioning,
not calling by name, asking for nothing, giving no gifts
someone will leave for madrid, someone will go to petropavlovsk, be in niagara falls
a scream on a train bridge, loud against trains,
what joy, what joy, to hew star-signs in the sky
someone, someone, someone will leave for madrid, won’t ask for answers nor answerability
won’t seek, won’t ask,
won’t show an x-ray of the scream, will leave for Madrid, will leave.
someone will remain standing in the central square of the city, with smile-full eyes
and lips salt from the sea,
passing the time reading newspapers, perusing stock indexes, learning languages,
only from the very corner of an eye, eyeing on the sly, squinting at evening news
from niagara, madrid, rome, time shall pass, time will leave behind the railway, after time
leaves behind time, in the most silent of heart-beat moments, unrecognizable –