January 11th, 2009

Janik’s New York

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Pavol Janik, was born in 1956 in Bratislava, where he also studied film and television dramaturgy and scriptwriting at the Drama Faculty of the Academy of Performing Arts (VSMU). He has worked at the Ministry of Culture (1983-87), in the media and in advertising. President of the Slovak Writers’ Society (2003-07) and the Secretary-General of the SWS (1998-2003, 2007 – ). He has received a number of awards for his literary and advertising work both in his own country and abroad. The below poem was originally published in the Indian literary review, Kritya.


In a horizontal mirror
of the straightened bay
the points of an angular city
stabbing directly into the starry sky.

In the glittering sea of lamps
flirtatious flitting boats
tremble marvellously
on your agitated legs
swimming in the lower deck
of a brocade evening dress.

Suddenly we are missing persons
like needles in a labyrinth of tinfoil.

Some things we take personally –
stretch limousines,
moulting squirrels in central Park
and the metal body of dead freedom.

In New York most of all it’s getting dark…

The glittering darkness lights up.

The thousand-armed luster of the mega city
writes Einstein’s message about the speed of light
every evening on the gleaming surface of the water.
And again before the dusk the silver screen
of the New York sky floods
with hectolitres of Hollywood blood.

Where does the empire of glass and marble reach?
Where do the slim rackets of the skyscrapers aim?

God buys a hot dog
at the bottom of a sixty-storey street.

God is a black
and loves the grey color of concrete.

His sun was born from himself
in a paper box
from the newest sort of slave.

(Original Slovak translated by James Sutherland Smith)