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Vladimir Levchev (1957-)

Vladimir Levchev is the author of five books of poems, among which are 'Who is the Dreamer of my Life?' and 'Someday'. He studied at the Bulgarian Academy of Fine and Applied Arts, and at present works as an editor at Narodna Kultura Publishing House. In the autumn of 1989 he was dismissed because of his political activities but subsequently has been restored to his former position. He is the editor for the once illicit almanac for literature and political journalism 'Voice' (Glas), and a member of the executive committee of Ecoglasnost and the Bulgarian Independent Literary Society.


The world has grown very old, Maria,

The world has grown very old . . .

But we are young.

So how is it that nothing

Can surprise us?

Even the coldness of the Gothic church

With dusty sun-rays on the altar,

Even the Saviour eaten by wood-worm,

Even the old man with the face of an inquisitor

Who drops money in the box

With the inscription:

'Ecce Homo'.

The world has grown very old, Maria,

The world has grown very old.

And we have already forgotten

That we come from the same mother.

Even our faces

No longer bear any resemblance.

Your skin is transparent and soft

As if you were painted

By Jan Vermeer.

My unshaven face is burnt

By southern winds . . .

Now we are sitting in the old town square, Maria,

Now we are sitting in the old town square.

The sunset screaming there beyond the church,

And we are listening to the horse-driven team-

It is distorted by the crowds of tourists

Pattering the pavement

And sudden bursts of doves

Rise up

And we converse politely in a language

Equally foreign to both of us.

We speak about the insensibility of prices,

About the cosmos

And the desperate hysteria of terrorism . . .

The world has grown very old, Maria,

The world has grown very old,

And has forgotten the meaning

Of words:

Words created us long ago.

Now they destroy us.

And we repeat our countless names

With a narcotic passion.

Our laughter


and free

Resounds over the church, Maria,

Resounds over the two black towers.

And these two semi-solitudes

Of ours

Strive irresistibly

Towards the critical mass of nuclear explosion . . .

They can remember vaguely

That in the jungle of their childhood

They were never divided

By borders, newspapers,

By gold, by war

Or peace . . .

But here comes the night:

It's crawling towards us with electronic tentacles

And Fear spies on us everywhere . . .

Let us stand together against the night, Maria,

And let us be an explosion tonight!

A universal explosion

Above the nuclear storehouses

Of solitude-

Let the reviving fire burst into bloom

Wiser and more red

Than any banner.

translated from Bulgarian

Belin Tonchev

Last modified: December 6, 1997