Wild Court

An international poetry journal based in the English Department of King’s College London

Three Poems from Centres of Cataclysm

To celebrate 50 years of Modern Poetry in Translation, Bloodaxe have just published an anthology – Centres of Cataclysm – edited by Sasha Dugdale and David and Helen Constantine. Below are three poems from the anthology, which launches at King’s on 5 May 2016 with readings from contributors including Frances Leviston, Paul Batchelor and Ruth Fainlight.


Bitter Waters

See these lines on my upturned palm.

They are the rivers of tears
that have washed my face.

They are the rivers of blood
that have washed my land.

Flowing first in trickles, then streams,
then in torrents:

they are the swell of voices
that have cried out our shame.

They lie etched on my skin,
coursing through the creases and ridges

to pool into stories and tales,

I shall tell of these
for the generations to come.

See these hands all twisted and bent.

These are the scars I bear
instead of children.

O Motherland, look not to me
for your warrior.

By Shash Trevett


Hope Climbed

Once upon a time I saw: 
hope climbing jagged crags, 
while our eyes were lowered to its reality.
Our life was a garden
longing for footsteps,
a short journey
in unhitched sleeping-cars. 
Once upon a time I saw: 
the doorstep moving to meet
the weary body of the traveller,
a hand lowered to the clothes on the chair,
a bird landing on the dust on the lampshade
seeking attention.  
A hope
was climbing towards the roof of the house
and no one woke to throw a stone at it.

By Nikola Madzirov. Translated from the Macedonian by Peggy and Graham Reid.


2nd March: Al Rabweh

The poet’s earth is everywhere
beneath the dry autumn grass
around the tombstone
upright on its hill

A man-sized pyramid of glass
contains flowers mementoes
some sprigs of green wheat
sheltered from the pressing sky

Facing the palace of culture
flags threadbare by the wind
at the top of their mast
declare nothing

Further off an armed guard
carries out his chores
and some dogs search for food
on a garbage dump

The hum of motors
the call of solitary birds
the hubbub of the town
drifts over the hill

Here lie the son’s bones
washed by the tears of mothers
Here once the sun has set
light glows from the rocks

By Yves Berger. Translated from the French by John Berger.