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Syndic Literary Journal

You Asked Her


For Corina in Transylvania


            … and that I mustn’t kiss you and that I mustn’t sleep with you….

                                                               Vladimír Holan  “She asked you”


Written by Milan Richter

Translated from the Slovak by Ewald Osers

Narrated by Bill Wolak


You were sitting with a girl by the swimming pool

(a butterfly’s flight away from the seashore),

you’d once more read her poems about transparent

beings “between worms and birds”

and were asking her soft lips and dark eyes:

“You’re like a Pasha butterfly on a pin.

Why don’t I feel fatefulness in your poems?”


She wanted to tell you: “The fact that you are, that is my fate, that, too…

You who yearn to kiss me and pour your sorrow into me,

you who don’t suspect that at night I’m a cocoon, a larva,

that until morning I drag my wounded wings

through mud and puddles of unshed tears

till under a fierce sun I turn into

a creature with a honeyed voice with a light blouse

under which sing breasts not fondled by anyone…”


She fell silent. You raised your head from her verses and only saw

a big butterfly with black eyes and a bright blouse.

It leaned its wing against the breath of your horror

and the wind caught it and slapped its towards the sea,

to the Orient’s larvae, butterflies and birds.

It was singing, believe me, that butterfly, singing honey-sweet,

but you’ll never learn what it was singing about.



Milan Richter was born in Bratislava, Slovakia, and is a poet, dramatist, translator, essayist, publisher, and former diplomat. From 1993-1995, he served as first head of the Slovak Embassy in Norway. From 2017-2020,  he was President of the Slovak PEN. Richter has published 10 books of poetry and 3 theatre plays. His poems were translated into 40 languages. Richter has translated more than 80 books and theatre plays into Slovak, including poetry of Emily Dickinson, Rainer Maria Rilke, Pablo Neruda, Paul Celan, Tomas Transtromer, large parts of Goethe‘s Faust, and aphorisms and short prose of Franz Kafka. His awards include: Bjornson Prize, Swedish Academy Translation Prize, Norwegian Royal Order of Merit – knight of the 1st class, and Prize of Slovak PEN.
Ewald Osers was a Czech translator and poet.  Osers was born in Prague into a Jewish family. Since 1938, he lived in Great Britain. He translated mostly poetry from Czech, German, Slovak, Bulgarian and Macedonian, including the poetry of Jaroslav Seifert, Miroslav Holub, Jan Skácel, Reiner Kunze, Mateja Matevski, Milan Rúfus. Osers wrote a book of his own poems and a book of memoirs. He received the European Poetry Translation Prize and the Hviezdoslav Prize.








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