Poets of the World, Amelia Licheva, Bulgaria

my great grandfather
sent a postcard from Vienna
with the Prater on
and wrote,
“A must-see!”
And my mother,
who did not keep the postcard,
but remembers the story
and remembers dreaming of Vienna
speaks to me of this city
as the centre of Europe,
which I must see

in a new century,
I stroll along
an enormous park,
past shooting galleries and roundabouts
and stalls selling cotton candy
it is not all that different
from the Sofia
and the Boris’ Garden of my childhood
the taste of candies is the same
only there are more languages
and the fun is more real

I get on the Ferris wheel
I look at Vienna below my feet
and I realize
what my great grandfather had written and why


A Maths Lesson

The problem is simple and clear,
and the solution –
straightforward obvious:
a person is walking
from point A to point B,
a second person is walking
from point B to point A,
the distances are a given,
so are the travellers’ velocities.
And the question – as you know – is:
when are these two
going to meet?
Begin the calculations now
and whoever’s ready –
may leave!
because time
is not for losing or lingering,
nor for overthinking,
time belongs to the speedy
and the active…

clear? how come?
and is it easy
to think the obvious
and to realise
there’s nothing obvious,
that certainty is a kaleidoscope,
a grinning clown,
a mirror that you sink into…
The solution doesn’t add,
there’s no way that it adds,
it can’t add,
the trajectories are so different
straight and curving,
easy and difficult,
soft and hard,
hospitable and lonely,
mine and yours,
because the man from A
might wish to get through,
but the man from B might not
(or vice versa).
In my case B is either tired,
or afraid,
or hesitant,
or unhappy,
or different,
but either way,
B stays in one place,
B refuses to move
and the problem can’t be solved.
Or, even if it can,
this is the solution:
in the impossibility to meet,
in the impossibility of numbers
to impose an order,
in the unreality of precise
of projections
and promises,
in the zero…

one never gets through
one never gets through



I refuse…
to eat
a Roquefort sandwich
because I had made myself one
for supper
on the day
when I first realised
how death came,
to buy a cheap French perfume
of the evasion brand
because it was
the last luxury
my grandmother afforded herself,
while she was trying to breathe life
through the scents of death,
to dress in white
because it is arrogant
and through it
lurks the challenge
that you are innocent and protected,
and of course
to look at photographs,
of people gone,
to read old postcards and letters
that crumble in my hands,
to enter old houses,
to climb to attics,
to descend into cellars…

I refuse to remember
I start hating specific objects
I avoid repeating situations

I allow the world
to narrow down


First Time in Love

He is a man,
who has long since got used
to living alone
and who has his steady habits,
which by default
exclude affairs.
He speaks slowly
not because his thought is idle
but because he tries to rein it down,
and he utters lines of correct
and memorable sentences
that hypnotise.
His body -
well trained,
not in the obtrusive way
of active athletes,
when muscles burst with strength,
but rather more discreetly –
his posture -
of a slalomist,
his hands –
so healthy,
so precise,
ready any minute
to meet the partner’s blow.
He has
despairingly blue eyes
that pierce you
and you don’t know
whether they stuff you
or refuse to let you in,
whether they undress you
or mock at you.
A man
who sets your blood cold
and whom you can’t resist.

I get off at strangers’ stations,
I take to wrong directions,
I walk backwards,
I get in instead of out,
I don’t notice people,
I don’t recognise voices,
I am deaf,
I am mute,
I am dull,
I fidget,
I am nervous,
I fail.

I still can’t make out
Is it the brains I love
or the body



Here is the chosen one,
the knower,
the masteress,
the woman who guesses everything,
who speaks with the netherworld
and contemplates it,
who aligns fates,
rearranges lives
and prevents,
you have a wide choice –
she reads coffee,
does the solitaire,
reads Tarot cards,
makes horoscopes –
you can make sure
you can receive
more options for the future,
you can find out
which are your bad days,
which are your lucky numbers,
what signs ought to be the people
you communicate with,
what you must do
in order not to sever
the line of your life…
yield to her,
be frank
and you will see your fate
transparent as a mirror
and ordered
like the blueprint of an architect.

I am afraid
of the woman
who holds the threads
and messes up fates,
who arrogantly
overturns the laws
and changes nature,
if I have a wish
it is
not to know,
not to know what will lurk
at the next corner,
who will meet me in an instant,
what I shall do
on my favourable
or my unfavourable day,
how long will time clock for me,
what I shall be like,
when this happens…
my wish
is to remember
and to live
with that which has been,
with that,
which is possible
without being dependent
on symbols, numbers, stars and signs,
without turning myself into a reader
of myself

not to know,
not to know anything for sure,
so I may have my tomorrow
such as it is
and as much as it is


Eulogy to Everyday Life

If you ask me how I am
on a day,
when the hours change regularly,
despite the fuss and buzz outside,
when I meet
every one I know,
although it feels nervous
and there isn’t enough time
for conversations,
when I am not forced
to take up new things
and I accept the presence of boredom,
and on a night,
when I am not startled by dreams
and I avoid
the unpleasant waking at four a.m.
with the dangerous silence
and the panicking fear,
but hear instead the alarm clock at seven

then and only then
you should know that I am fine


Amelia Licheva is Professor of Theory of Literature at Sofia University “St. Kl. Ohridski”. Author of theoretical  History of the voice (2002), Literary Theory (co-author , 2005), Voices and Identities in Bulgarian poetry (2007), Policies of today  (2010) , Glossary literary and linguistic terms (co-author , 2012 ) , Literature . Binoculars. Microscope  (2013) , as well as the poetry collections Eye, staring at the ear  (1992), Second Library of Babel (1997), Alphabet (2002), My Europe ( 2007) and  Must See (2013). Her poems have been translated into French, German , Spanish, Polish, Slovak , Croatian, Hungarian. Editor in chief of the Literary Newspaper; editor of the journal Literature. Member of the editorial board of the journal Language Learning .