Forty Four


Forty Four
Southword Editions, 2005.
Poems by Dana Podracká. Translated from Slovak by Robert Welch.

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Dana Podracká's poems explore the interior landscape of suffering; they work to establish a counterweight to the emptiness and loneliness of markets, power and money. Full of startling images and sudden transitions, her poems act as prayers in a world where plunder, cruelty and indifference threaten to rule unchallenged. Podracka's voice is an essential witness to atrocities committed systematically by power elites in the heart of Europe.


Selected Poems from Forty Four


Beauty Will Save the World

(for Fyodor Dostoyevsky)


I swore it, Fyodor Michażloviez,

as I put fresh eggs and apples

on your grave, my first time in Russia,

I swore it: beauty will save the world.


I kept dancing all night long

in a ballroom filling more and more

with love as it grew emptier,

and you were asking who I was and whom

I had met, what I had seen. And I,

just saying, beauty, beauty:

a small bird on a white stone,

its red beak, sweet bread, smiles,

the depth of Lake Baikal

in the steppes of Siberia, kissing

and sighing in Russian, saying

beauty will save the world. Mad

with emotion I embraced

the Russian (maybe Rogozhin)

snaking my limbs from head to heel all around

his body while drinking champagne,

when I touched, on his calf, like a snag

on a silver birch, the duty gun.


Beauty will save the world.

One more short throw on the roulette,



Beauty will save

the poor eaters of potatoes,

breathed upon by the steam of hot food,

rising like a photographic image forming

in the darkroom of lack;

will save those who eat the sacred food

of love breathing from the steam that rises

from a warm wood after rain through which

an airship sails;

will save those who eat the last fragments

of beauty breathed out in the steam hissing

from the showerheads in the concrete gas

chambers. O Christ, I am not complaining.


Seven minutes later, the doors were opened.

Men in gas masks, men who were themselves

prisoners too, came in and carried out

the corpses, which they had to prise apart.

They had, at the last, cleaved together

in little clusters now hard to separate.


In the middle of this chalice of arms and legs

the saviour suffered,

throwing himself into the air,

to the beauty.




A Roman Elegy      


There are these feelings that do not

want to go away: an alcove with seven

windows of rain; a saloon

of stuccoed walls with reliefs

of faces over

garlands of roses.

They call silence back

to the real.


And of course, too, the mug

with the image of a wolf.

Alone, in this hollow room, trying to rest

amidst hillocks of clothes piled high

on a bed supported by four indefatigable legs

with their clawed feet

I was the only prey.


I was his she-wolf, sprawled out,

taking ease after interminable toil

on a bank of the Tiber

down which his basket had sailed.


We were hoped together as in a ring.

In the despair of the one who still

is in love I call to you for help.

I think I can do this because you did not

defame me; you brought me food,

you gave me a coat of arms, a sword,

and a bench in a white church.


And you left also, in me, a resolve,

should it happen that I am expelled

from the pack, to be wolf, lone wolf.




What I Learned from Bodhan  


That, when we fall in love it should be

beautiful, so that when love ends

something remains that is



That, although psychology can unlock

secrets of belief and unbelief,

without love nothing steady can be made

that goes on through the night.


That, in the labyrinth water will stagnate

and poison us with the minotaur of sorrow,

but that, also, only the places where it is possible

to get lost are worth the journey.


That, Uz, the land of Job, was, in the twentieth century,

the concentration camps, where God’s will was amazed

by hope for a new Revelation.


That, after the Last Supper Adam and Eve got married.


That, as we believe less and less in the Heavenly


we more quickly touch the lives of others,

and let them enter into us

while on this earth.


That, a poet being an animal of mythology,

it should be hunted as it runs, so

the two strongest virtues may not vanish from the


resignation and revolt.


Copyright ©2005 Dana Podracká

English translation Copyright ©2005 Robert Welch




Dana Podracka


Dana Podracká was born in 1954 in Banská Štiavnica in Slovakia. She studied psychology at Comanius University, Bratislava, after which she worked as an editor in a publishing house. Poetry collections include: The Moon Lover (1981), Winter Guests (1984); Scripture (1993); Name (1999) Catacombs (2004). She has also published collections of essays and books for children. In 2002 she entered the Slovak Parliament as an M.P. in the People’s Party Movement. She believes that poetry provides a counterweight to the global impulse by looking into the interior, and that this countervailing is essential to human survival.



Robert Welch



Robert Welch is a novelist, poet and critic. His poetry collections include Muskerry (1991), Secret Societies (1997) and The Blue Formica Table (1999); fiction includes The Kilcolman Notebook (1994), Groundwork (1997) and Tearmann (1997, in Irish). Amongst his critical works are Irish Poetry from Moore to Yeats (1980), Changing States: Transformations in Modern Irish Writing (1993), A History of the Abbey Theatre: Form and Pressure (1999). He was editor of the Oxford Companion to Literature (1996). Groundwork was a New York Times Book of the Year in 1998.

He was born in Cork, educated at Coláiste Chríost Rí, University College, Cork, and Leeds University. Married with four children, he is a Professor of English at the University of Ulster in Northern Ireland.





























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