For a long time you carried fire in your mouth. / For a long time you hid it there. / Behind a bony fence of teeth. / Pressed within the white magic circle of your lips. // You know that no one must catch scent / of the smoke in your mouth. / You remember that black crows will kill a white one. / So you lock your mouth. / And hide the key. // But then you feel a word in your mouth. / It echoes in the cavern of your head. // You begin to search for the key to your mouth. / You search for a long time. / When you find it, you unlock the lichen from your lips. / You unlock the rust from your teeth. / Then you search for your tongue. / But it isn’t there. / You want to utter a word. / But your mouth is full of ashes. // And instead of a word / a lump of ashes rolls down / your blackened throat. / So you throw away the rusty key. // And you make a new language from the soil. / A tongue that speaks with words of clay.
Lump of Ashes, Dane Zajc
translated by Erica Johnson Debeljak