Nikola Vaptsarov

(7 December 1909 - 23 July 1942 / Bulgaria)

A Letter - Poem by Nikola Vaptsarov

Do you remember
the sea, the engines,
and the holds full of wet dark
and that great longing for the Philippines
and for the big stars over Famagusta?
Can you think of one sailor
who did not look thirstily into the distance
to where the breath of tropic winds
blew softly in the dusk?
Do you remember how, in us,
little by little
the last scraps of hope and faith in goodness
and in man
in the romantic
and in empty
grew cold?
Do you remember
how very quickly
we got caught in the trap of life?
When we came to our senses
it was too late.
We were trapped.
Like animals in a cage
our eyes shone
begging for mercy?
We were young,
we were so young!
And then...then
a sort of hatred
began to take hold of our hearts.
Like gangrene,
no, like leprosy
it spread,
destroying our souls,
knitting its cruel nets
of emptiness
and dark hopelessness,
creeping into our blood, howling menace,
and it was all so early, all so very early...
And there -
high in the sky
the wings of seagulls
still vibrated.
The sky still glittered
like mica
and still it was all
blue and boundless,
still sails sank slowly
over the horizon
every evening
and masts disappeared in the distance, but we had gone blind.
For me all this belongs to the past - it is unimportant.
But I shared with you the straw on the same plank bed,
and I feel I have to tell you
how hopeful and how optimistic I am now.
This is what stops me
from putting a hole
my head.
It changes
the bitterness in my heart
into a force
to fight
which is in full flight
And it will bring us back to the Philippines,
and the big stars over Famagusta
and the joy
which has diminished in our hearts
and the love gone dead for the engines
for the vast blue of the sea
where the tropic breezes breathe.
It is night now.
The engines are singing
a song with a beat
suggesting warmth, faith.
If only you could know how I love life now!
And how I hate
all things
It all seems clear to me,
as clear as it is that the sun will rise tomorrow,
that with our heads weґll break the ice.
And that the sun on the dark horizon,
will shine.
So let it single
my wings
like those of a small butterfly!
I will not curse
or complain,
because I know
we all have to die.

But to die
when the earth is shaking off
the poisonous mold,
when millions of people rise again,
that is a song,
yes, it is a song.

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Poem Submitted: Wednesday, July 23, 2014

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