Arvis Viguls









He scrubs his father’s back.

His father doesn’t understand anything

and doesn’t reply when others

call his name.


He is too deep

in his body’s wrinkles and folds,

too deep for him

to come out of.


Once he awoke in an unknown place.

He put on his glasses.

The lenses steamed up

from what he saw

and his nose began to bleed.


When he returned,

he refused to talk,

forgetting everything

that he had acquired over the years.


His windpipe froze over,

and the circulating blood is still

fighting in vain

to thaw it.


His heartbeats –

they are tracks in the snow

beyond the polar circle.

The wind covers them with snow.


Only the wrinkles

on his skin

are deep – deep

like surgical scars.


Time has left gashes all over his body

like an unskilled surgeon,

who couldn’t save anyone,

but just cut and cut, and cut.


He doesn’t talk.

His hair grows,

his nails grow,

but he doesn’t understand anything.


With a rough towel

he dries his father’s body –

a soft towel is of no use to anyone,

a soft towel doesn’t absorb moisture.


When he shaves his father’s beard,

his father sits in front of him, just

like old times, as he sat in front of

the mirror while shaving himself.


He puts on his father’s suitcoat.

It seemed too big.

His father shrinks

a few sizes a year.


The suitcoat’s pockets are empty

like his father’s memory,

its buttons are as dull

as his father’s gaze.


He combs his father’s hair

and ties his shoes.

He places his father

where the man of the house sits – at

the end of the table.


His father doesn’t understand anything,

his dominion an arid field,

and he – his son – humbly nurses

that withering legacy of his.






The metal instruments shine on the tray

like a memory of a nightmare.


Gloves on his hands, a mask over his mouth

and he becomes a faceless executor,

an expert on pain.


His needle cheats pain through pain,

but the drill is not sure of it

and does everything so it is sure.


The lamp for the interrogation is right in my face

so that I would confess – the flesh is weak,

it feels.


I spit out blood as a reply.

It is all I dare to say.


My mouth is bound

by a dental impression tray.


Afterwards he carefully records it

in my file.


“I made that

tooth as good as new,”

he says

with the smile of a satisfied creator,

who has already taken off his ritual adornments.


I left without looking back,

hoping to never return.


But time and sugar will have its way,

I will be too weak

and one day I will come crawling back,

calling for mercy, begging,

for his sterile metal

to free me from my pain.




Commentaries: Johannes Bobrowski


The grass is stretched out in all its height.

A singular column of smoke rises straight up,

measuring the low-lying clouds.


In the orchard

the green branches

are tangled up with those that are withered –

life lines and death lines.


The foliage frees itself from the ballast.

The hollow steps of the apples ring out.


Darkness comes,

a forest creature follows its tracks,

looking for fallen fruit.


The flight of a bird –

dark and mute lightening –

slowly flashes across the sky.


He was here

and saw it.


Language opened eyes

like someone who awakens in the night

from his own screaming.


What merciless lowlands!

What an unbearable forgiveness!












Arvis Viguls (1987) is a Latvian poet, literary critic and translator from English, Spanish, Russian and Serbo-Croatian. His first poetry collection Istaba (Room, 2009) received Annual Prize of Latvian Writers Union for the best debut and Poetry Days Prize as the best poetry book of the year. After his second critically acclaimed collection 5:00 (2012), he is now working on his third book Grāmata (Book), scheduled for 2017. His poems have been published in anthologies and literature magazines in more than fourteen languages.  His translations include poetry of J. Brodsky, F.G. Lorca, W. Whitman, W. B. Yeats, V. Popa and others. He has worked as the host of the literature programme on NABA radio.




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