All along our Wooden Cross garden the peonies were dying. . .
The sun was dying on them, too, filling the orchard and
the village road with the scent of warm apricots and
squashed petal leaves way down to the cellar.
I didn’t stop walking, no thought would pin
me down, nothing I saw would make
me turn around and look again,
my head was full of rabbits.
I passed by my grandmother, arranging the flowers of the Cross
before evening, I skipped the tufts of wild chamomile
and nettles by the railings, shrubs of rosemary
and islands of tiny white coo-coo flowers,
lobelias and blue buttons and patches
of crocuses, poisonous to touch.
My uncle came along on
an empty cart behind
a pair of oxen, swinging their heads, bumping into each other,
then pulling apart again, with my aunt trailing behind, bent
in her long skirts and rubber boots with a scythe over
her shoulder and a rake for a walking stick—
all going in the opposite direction,
including a hen. In the world
of scents I was invisible.
I came to the four
cherry trees at the Oak Dale’s end, following a trail of the red holy-
bloods little boy Jesus was shedding on his way to Calvary
in our front garden, looking smart on his old wooden
cross with a crown of daisies and thorns and a pair
of tongs stuck behind his knees in case
he would like to climb down for
the cold of the night when
nobody was watching.
He was about my size, too, but I was growing faster. I pressed on
following the buzzing of insects and flies in the dying light
of the day, jumping the slant stones across the Cold
Water Creek, where you could pick lilies of
the valley weeks into summer. Farther on,
along the raspberries’ path, blackened
by spots of decaying fruit, was
a chicken wire fence
with a horse-pit and a flayer’s cabin behind, hidden from sight.
We dared each other to climb the fence for the stench
of the place when they kept it open for business.
Then, on a sweep of a chill, birds fell silent,
the buzz and the creek observing
the evensong bell from across
the roof-tops of beech-
trees and firs.
Nothing was going to stop me now, yet my feet would take me
no farther into the night’ s wall of silence. I sat on a stump,
daring the moon to come up. No moon came and no
rabbits turned up either. Except the ones in my
head, still browsing about my sore feet,
their eyes red in the night with
the glow of the holy-
Translation of “V večerni luči.” Copyright Marjan Strojan. Translation copyright 2009 by Marjan Strojan. By arrangement with the author. All rights reserved