in a literary tearoom

by Mária Ferenčuhová

in a literary tearoom

1/ in a literary tearoom where coldness gathers

close above the floor: oppression.

over the glasses and next to the humming

voices of retired grammar school teachers: it’s

impossible to move one’s shoulders.

I read the proper way: I read.

you already know that in big cities speech

permeates the posture and willy-nilly implies


2/ exact dimensions of anxiety: how not to be

scared of the determination of one’s time?

certain women in photos of their youth,

ingeborg bachmann, say, cannot look foreign:


with no more smell, you’ll apprehend another

loss: the one whose shoulder yesterday you

pressed your nose to in the dark, he too has

passed away. Even so, it’s all right: movement

disappears from the past and the pressure on

your skin would be uselessly painful.

3/ but you also feel faint: is there anything

you haven’t been through! thus you admit to

calloused knees and a feeble smile, a bitter taste

of coffee; the smell of it clings to your palate.

we remain sitting. it’s still necessary to discuss

why somewhere the top of the oral cavity is

called a roof and elsewhere a palate. and also to

name the fatigue of the dragging day, of slowed

gestures, of a stiff back. finally we agree that any

short dog-name will do.

© Mária Ferenčuhová, translated by Marián Andričík