VLADIMIR LEVCHEV Poetry in English

Video from Griffis Art Center, New London, CT:

Books, published in the USA:
The Refugee, 2011
The Rainbow Mason, 2005
Heavenly Balkans, 2002
Black Book of the Endangered Species, 2000 
(electronic version : the present edition is published by permission of Word Works' Board of Directors. LiterNet is grateful to Karren Alenier, President of The Word Works of Washington, DC. Most of the poems in this book were translated from Bulgarian by Henry Taylor with the author.)
Leaves from the Dry Tree, 1996 ( out of print)

Here are some poems from my latest Bulgarian poetry book "Любов на площада" (Scalino publ., 2014)
 It is a collection of  44 love and political poems, which I have written in the past 35 years. You can read 22 of them in English.



Poems translated from the Bulgarian by Tom Philips, Henry Taylor, Alicia Ostriker, Carolyne Forche, and the author


Why don’t we do it in the road?

The Beatles, The White Album, 1968

          Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?

Mathew 6:26


When I was young I had a dream:
I’m walking down the street and realize
I’m naked from the waist down:
passers-by shoot glances at me
and me, I’m dying of shame …
Or it dawns on me
that I am late for school
a whole day … a year … many years
and I won’t be able to graduate …
Or Evil’s chasing me
into the square
and my legs go weak,
tangled like my tongue,
betraying me …

I had a good dream too:
I’m naked in the public square,
but I wave the shame away –
the stone falls from my heart –
I shovel the air and swim –
breaststroke, sweet and slow –
I rise above passers-by, the flowerbeds –
I love them!
I fly through the May air
naked and free,
like a storm-bird, like a seagull –
naked and free
like the soul after death.


translated by the author with Tom Philips



Art can turn
manure into flowers.
Just like nature.

A cool song, a nice blues,
something like: “ Мy baby left me…”
“I think I’m gonna die…”
can make you happy.

We need more music,
more life in nature.

Let our misеry be
manure for the Garden of Eden

translated by the author


For Milena

You love the fire of the desert
on the way to Zabriskie Point.
You love your isolation.
You love the dry sleepy desert
because you can fill it with an ocean of madness.
A dolphin leaps at the sun
in the mirror.

Blue snowflakes fall through your white hot mind.
Black snowflakes drift on your white road.

Sunk into the seat
you watch through the rear window
how the road narrows
and recedes
towards the quiet
sunset ocean.
The spirit of a silent Indian drives the car.

We will meet in a bar
to the south of Sozopol
thirty-five years before.


translated by Tom Philips


The sea the sea the sea the sea
opens a casket on the beach
casts up bodies of the beloved dead
and granny’s folded white lace
October rays sigh through the leaves
and an inner darkness creaks behind the door
beneath headlights flaring across the ceiling
and for a moment fish jump across the quilt
the cold drowsy sea beneath the sheet
a clock in the ear of the clam in the cupboard
and the circular cry of a lunchtime gull
and the clams with a sharp smell of age
rusty masts planktonic dreams
the dolphin learns how to fly
the sea which once drowned the child
surges massive and alive
the lapping water’s glare is mute sand
but everything that’s no more is there
everything forgotten is inside
I sink
I sleep
I make the rendezvous


translated by Tom Philips


To A.

I am a rotting open boat.
You are the white crab
that crawls through my curved ribs.
It wants to fall overboard.

I am a reddened chestnut wood.
You are the moon which flees
back through the leaves
in its sleep.

You are a mournful Eleusa Virgin.
Where is your Christ-child?
I am the worm in the black wood
on which you are painted.

I am in you. And you are in me.
The hands of the clock
circle freely without end …

Don’t forget me when you wake up!


translated by Tom Philips

                                For T.

I am alone
in the empty room of my heart
waiting for the last train
at midnight.

You are alone
in your family home.
The sheets are folded neatly
in the white dresser.
Every day, every hour
has its drawer.
it smells of pine trees and waterfalls,
harbors under the sunset
and April storms.

It is silent and while in your room.

We meet in the station waiting room.
We are naked
under the clock and the stars.
We make love.

We meet in the station waiting room.
you go home.
 am at home.


translated by the author


                    For Athinula

An unhappy man
cannot be a poet
                  Branko Miljkovic

The storm is close.
I can see white continents drifting
through the dark sky — oceans 
opening to engulf
            moon mountains.
I can see the thoughts 
which float on your face — 
            they smile
and watch me intently.
I can see the wonders of the world

The world is a map
of Spiritus Mundi:
it constantly changes.

The serpent of the universe twitches
with its lustrous lunar body — 
it opens its mouth like a rose 
in you
to bite its swelling tail
          in me.

A lightning flashes through our bodies
           and the ancient flood is gushing:

so the circle must be closed —
we are one.


translated by the author


                In memory of Tsvetana (Athinula )Panitsidou

We surfaced naked from the pond,
and it coursed into our senses.
We climbed a long, shady slope
and the sunset chill enflamed our bodies.

Far off I saw us on the road – walking.
But our road led into me.
The bonfire in the yard wasn’t just smoke.
The stars still singe me as I fall asleep.

On a damp sheet on an old bed
Is when I entered your dream.
Now it pulses on my forehead,
Makes love to my naked soul.

The desk and the lamp – a circle of light
in a churning creek, in the mountains …
A scent of pine and snow and menace
and, down below, a blue dusk prowling.

Withered summer breathes from the grass –
It’s sweetest smelling when it’s freshly mown.
Today’s blue sky seems warmer and closer
Beneath the dark and empty universe.

The moon is silent. Red. It looks
Like a wound that’s opening in the dark.
Life bleeds, expires, it’s poisoned.
The death of the world is eternal.

translated by the author with Tom Philips


You are beautiful
like a warm autumn sea:
the sun’s a ripe quince,
the horizon swims with haze,
your movements are shadows
on the burning sand …

You are beautiful …
And a swift smile passes
like a gull-shadow over the water.

You take hold of me
like the loneliness
of windswept white dunes at sunset.
You take hold of me
like the last calm moment before sleep …
like a ride in a stroller under
golden poplars in my first year.

You are untouchable like the day that’s passed
(now that dreams rush in and startle me:
a sea-surge in the cold night.)
You are untouchable like the past
of the man who has no future.

Nothing else is left for me,
but to imagine we are together
and to kiss you in the cold
under the solitude of stars.

I love you,
because you don’t exist.


translated by the author with Henry Taylor 

                    For M.

Like a drowning man
I embrace you.
I turn to you in the dark
аs a sunflower
тurns toward a lighted match.
I speak to you
as the lone tree in a long night
speaks to the wind.
It is cold.
And you are only a dream…
The one I love
is not here.

I embrace you,
because you are
His shadow in everything:
You are the great absence
that’s filled the world
with love and sadness and death.

translated by the author with Henry Taylor

(A cry through the Iron Curtain)

For Maria Van Erp

The world
is already old,
Maria …
But we’re both young!
And nothing can
surprise us.
Even the Gothic cathedral’s chill
and the dusty light on the altar,
even the woodworm-riddled Saviour
and the old man with an inquisitor’s face
who drops
coins into the collection tin labelled

The world is already old, Maria.
The world is already old.
And we have already forgotten
our common matriarch.
And we no longer know each other.
Even our faces
have nothing in common –
you have light, downy hair
that might have been painted by Vermeer,
and my unshaven face is burnt
by Balkan winds …

We sit in the old square, Maria,
we sit in the old square
and the sunset
clamours behind the cathedral,
and we listen to the horse-drawn trams
going by in the road
listing with tourists
and pigeons fly up
in brief explosions
and we talk
in a language equally foreign to us
about unstable prices
about the pollution of nature
about the cosmos
and the desperate hysteria of terrorism …

The world is already old, Maria,
the world is already old!
And the meanings of words are lost.
Once words used to create.
they destroy.
And with the ardour of addicts we go back
to our countless names.

Our laughter –
and free
resounds above the cathedral, Maria,
resounds above the two black towers
and our two half-lives
uncontrollably strive
                        for explosive
critical mass …
They vaguely recall
that in the damp forests of childhood
we were not separated
by borders
and newspapers
by gold
by war
                  and by peace …

And here already
the night’s crawling towards us with electronic antennae –
fear spies on us from all corners …
And so let’s be together
against the night, Maria!
And make our own explosion tonight!
A joyful explosion!
Above the nuclear entombment
of our desolation
let the reviving fire bloom –
         and redder
than any flag!

Krakow, 1980

translated by Tim Philips

(A chronicle of burnt-out years)

Apocalypse – now!
The Valkyries to Wagner.
equivalent to 200,000 tons of TNT.
And us –
helicopters of the Apocalyse
with frenzied sweaty fins.
And us –
naked Vietnamese children
who run from us
in terror.

The twelfth floor of sorrow.
The moon.
The wind.
The blue advert below.
The blue sky
over the mountains.
And us –
the prolific family of the Apocalypse.
Us again –
children with an untold inherited wealth
of gin, rakiya,
disjointed rhythms,
lonely orgasms
and unexpected tenderness
in the end ...
The walls collapse
and in comes the wind.

Fonny, the alcoholic, wants a mission.
You have a mission, Fonny!
You’re a horseman of the Apocalypse –
a half-finished child –
a sweet grinning killer
of yellowed wedding photographs,
worn slippers
and new money ...
We are
children who play with fire.
Children who play out memories
with vodka ...
Children, we need to clean the house!
To be white!
To fuse into white!
So that everything then starts
from the beginning.

Because all of us has a mission!

And Stoshka who fries us onions
and plays us magical guitar
and cleans up our mess.
And loves Eva – without wanting to –
And Zhiga with his black
Gypsy body
and his sleepy
snow-white soul ...
And you! And you!
All of us were born with a great mission!

The endless party now looks like
a cloistered sect.

The twelfth floor of sorrow.
The blue advert below.
The wind.
Let’s destroy our bodies!
Let’s strip bare our souls!
And the point?
The point is purely mystic.

But let’s not despise the world.
For anything in the world!

Then Eva comes.

Oh, child with eyes of moony silver!
Oh, spirit, cruel secret inside
the body of a child ...
Once you wanted to release it
from your veins – to freedom.
But another mission awaits you, Eva!
Do you know –
people are sometimes born
predestined to see it before they die.
You know what.

Because of your dark, earthly mission –
I want to live with you and for you,
for your child.
Be my angel!
I’m frightened of myself ...

And let this evening rise up
the Stairway to Heaven
(it’s all forgotten already) – look,
the poplars are below us 
and the sunset’s below us –
the pink, flattened car – the rusted
frog down in the swamp,
mosquitos, neighbourhood kids and the windows
watery and burning –
And everything else
is far below us now.

Even the moon
It’s blue.
Where are you taking me, Eva?

Nobody can know.
Nobody should know.
Nobody does.

After the end
always comes the beginning.
(At least in this world.)


translated by Tom Philips


It is a flower quite insidious and rare.
It fails in the hands of the biologist
who decides to pick
or plant it.
Hypnotic thing
that the wind bows in from places unknown
and sows it in the corn.
Watchful farmers weed it out
because it bodes disaster …

But the careless ones pay no attention.

It grows and ravages their fields;
steals forth, lays siege to the houses
and they fall; it slips into dreams,
suffocates the dreamers  – debases them –
and so they laugh,
insisting they're happy.

It can even crack open their skulls
and blossom fire into the sky.

It's an insidious creature:
subtle as everything so tender and fugitive.
It wakens quietly and multiplies in Death's bones and brain
and lungs – it spurts metastases
so incurably alive.

And it is contagious:
latent as sadness in the eyes
of a yearning woman,
in the eyes of a lonely man,
or in their bodies:
hidden like sorrow, gathering, abiding,
until such time as its victims writhe
with fever and laughter.
It is desperate, ravenous:
feeding on everything, transfiguring
what it eats, consuming foul slums
and turning them into new worlds.
It swallows banks and factories,
converting them to children's laughter.
It swallows loneliness  –
which becomes the voice of God.
It swallows sick bodies
and turns them into stellar music.
It consumes minds
and they become nights lit up by crickets.
It engulfs all anguish
and engenders a galaxy of love
violently opening in the dark ...
And in the end the Flower
will be the end of the earth.
It will open its sweet maw of fire
and swallow the unwell world
to become its meaning.


 translated by Carolyn Forche


                            In memory of Danila Stoyanova (1962-1984)

In the hurricane, amidst the stubble
the bright bluebell, nothing’s eye,
is too small for the lightning to strike.
The sycamores, red-hot, hiss in the rain,
a bolt strikes the field, rocks are scalded. . . .
Unable to take cover, the flower stands watch
and at last becomes the blue sky.

Sky – short-lived and fragile flower,
brightened by magnetic storms,
breathing in the darkness, blue atop green,
it flickers, blooms, fades,
beholds the death of stars.
In the horror of the dark cosmos
who blew in the seed of the sky?

Who loves all fleeting things  –
a ray of sun, each conception,
the history of the earth itself?
He could be as small as the tear
that for a moment brims in your eye
in the storms of constant parting:
a flashing beacon in the sea of death.


translated by the author with Henry Taylor


There are three ways to make poetry:
with your mouth
            when you kiss an icon,
with your hand
           when you stretch it to the fallen in the mud,
or with that
            which unites two lovers in bed.

"Poetry is made in bed like love,"
              says Andre Breton.

Those who make
art for the sake of art
kiss themselves,
shake their own hand goodnight,
and go to sleep alone
in the cold bed.
I pity them!

My icon, my world and my bed
are in your room.

translated by the author


The postmodern is old-fashioned and boring. The modern, with its slogan ‘L’art pour l’art’, although not so boring, is also old-fashioned.

Art must have a mission. It must make announcements: the way Gabriel announced the good news to Mary.

Art must annunciate, not just enunciate. It must display, not just say. It must conspire and inspire. It must defy and smile, even in front of the firing squad. It must hug and kiss, and make love to the people in the square.

Art is not merchandise, and it is not just a game. It is not a game of hide and sick, but a ritual: a message from the other world.

translated by the author


       Only through time time is conquered.

Т. S. Eliot, Bunt Norton


The world woke up
and realized 
it had been invaded
by its bad dream.
Where is the sun?
The icebergs of a new age
flood the sky from the East
and from the West —
as if it were sunset —
Night springs back.

like a contagion,
like a climate change,
like paralysis
a leaden dream takes possession
of all peoples’ minds,
all computers and show programs
and they transmit
the same commercial:
“lasciate ogni speranza, voi ch’entrate.”

November 9, 2016


 Albion recedes
in the shining sea fog
at sunset
like Turner’s “Whalers”
like an old man’s memory
in yellow-red radiance
“if a clod be washed away by the sea, 
Europe is the less”
in yellow-red radiance 
the world  is “whirled
Beyond the circuit of the shuddering Bear
In fractured atoms”
the memory of the world goes away 
in the shining sea fog



We are the soldiers of king Samuil
blinded by Basil,
the emperor of Constantinople.
We are fifteen thousand men.
One in every ten of us
has one eye to lead us.
We hold hands, walk and trip,
like a ring dance
from horizon to horizon
under the light of the sunset.
We were returning home
to our king Samuil.
The king saw us
and died of a heart attack.
But we didn't see him.
So we continue our dance
barefooted in wild forests,
on the embers of camp fires,
sliding on frozen lakes
under the cold sharp constellations . . .

We are dancing towards a new millennium
and all we can see
in our future
is our past.

translated by the author with Henry Taylor


It is December.

What is Santa bringing

this time?

Alas, there is a lack of wild bores, 

But let’s hang our Winchester rifles on the walls

above the fireplaces

and listen quietly

to the vespers of the pigs


in the evening blizzard... 

The pigs — those pink premonitions... 
The pigs — those sad angels... 

According to the latest findings
hey are among the most intelligent mammals: 
they are, like humans, omnivorous.

They swallow everything:

the saucers of tasty hogwash,

the flying saucers,

the remains of breaded brain,

the steaks from former brothers... 


whispers the choir of innocent animals, 
we must eat up everything!

Because sooner or later

we also will be eaten for Christmas.

Pigs have a philosophical attitude, 
and if their mouths were not engaged with the music of meat,

they would have warned humans 
with such words:

There is universal retribution,

and you, who eat us today,

you are also earmarked for someone’s 
December feast! 

translated by the author 


A southern sea and trees
white with cement dust.
Sweating concrete buildings
turned green.
Novorosiysk is proud
of its ugly monument to the perished heroes
of a senseless troop landing.

The city resembles
that young wrinkled widow
in torn stockings,
a dressing gown and slippers,
who walks the boulevard and stares at the tourists.

She knows
it is no good to be pitied.
And she does not want to be pitied.
But she hopes to embarrass.

Novorosiysk, USSR, 1989

translated by the author with Alicia Ostriker


Mustafa eats fire
with a stone face
under the shadow of the Flamboyant Gothic.
The cathedral
hides the sunset.

The crowd applauds Mustafa
on the square.
The green snake sign hisses at the cathedral.
The night with its stars and wind
attacks the sunset.

The moon is red and slow.
The building are already dark.
Mustafa is Italian.


translated by the author


                            For Ismail Kadare

For millennia we have quarreled,
for millennia we have built and demolished
the Balkan bridge
(over the Drina,
over the Danube,
over  the Ujana e Keqe
in Albania) . . .

For millennia we have asked ourselves:
Where is the Golden City –– East
or West?
Where is the real Prophet?
And what will be our profit
from that bridge
between the Sunrise and the Sunset?

With knifes in our teeth,
we have asked ourselves:
Is it true that living people,
our people,
have been immured
to make the bridge stronger?

For millennia we have quarreled, and fought,
died and killed,
built and demolished . . . 

the airlines were invented. 
Today no traveler can see
our ancient bridge.


translated by the author with Alicia Ostriker


“No man is an island entire of itself. . .”
We all live in Manhattan. . .
At 8:45 in the morning
I was walking downtown.
The streets went murky, the towers stood bright,
the House was deserted, the wind slammed a door. . .
A radio kept singing: “Downtown, downtown. . .”
Then I saw the tower of the world,
the sunny double tower.
And I saw the airplane hijacked by a dream,
I saw the swift shadow of the Unconscious,
I saw the archangel of Death
sink in the mirror,
sink in the sunny high tower
downtown. . .
Then the blast of bad dreams. . .
Then the late summer snow
of a million silenced letters and pictures,
the delicate snow of memories
pouring over the world. . .

“Flood-tide below me! I see you  face to face!
Clouds of the West – sun there half an hour high – I see you also  face to face. . .
Stand up, tall masts of Mannahatta! stand up, beautiful hills of Brooklyn!”
. . . a snow of letters, pictures and shoes
falling, falling on Mannahatta.

Then I saw the black wall,
the hundred and ten storied wall of depression
approaching on the narrow streets,
midnight approaching at noon
I met the midnight of global madness. . .
“. . . if it be possible, let this cup pass away from me. . .”
Then the night passed away and I saw
Durer’s St. Anne with swollen big eyes
in a nurse’s green dress
walking through the rubble,
through dusty asbestos ambulances and wind. . .
I saw the faces of the dead and the faces of the living
walking together downtown.
I saw the faces of the world.
I saw your faces.
“And death shall have no Dominion.” 


written in English   

                       For Raina

It's been like in those dreams:
you are at the beach,
in August, in high school,
green airy waves and laughter
of girls and seagulls.
And the snow begins to fall:
slow letters and shirts
from a heavenly explosion.
And the smiling faces
of teachers and kids
morph into monsters.
Later black kites and ravens
fly by low
over the leaden ocean.
And you realize
that your dream has come true:
you have grown up.
And you can't wake up anymore
in that warm
other country.

Washington, DC,  9/11/2006  
written in English    


When a poor man begs at the door
it is a shame.
When the rich man’s company begs on the phone
it is commercial strategy.

If a poor man sends someone
to kill his neighbor,
this is a terrible crime.
If the President sends his troops
to kill some of the neighbors,
this is patriotism.

The rich man can buy himself a senator.
A poor man can buy himself
the newspaper of the rich man
and read about the senator.

Yes, the rich kid goes to law school.
Yes, the poor kid
sells drugs in the alley.
Justice for all.

Washington, DC,  2006  
translated by the author with Alicia Ostriker     



The dark blood of the late sun
slips in under the bars
of your kitchen window.
The backyard smells of pot and rat.
You hear gunshots.
You are free!
You are free to buy a gun,
and even shoot yourself.
You are free to watch television the whole day
and drink warm Bud
waiting for the eviction notice.
Yes, you are free
to buy that million dollar home on the screen
with the surreal blue sky
and the green lawn with the kids.
Or at least you are free to dream.
You are free
to apply for all the great jobs on earth
that you will never get,
because of bad color or bad karma.

Yes, you are free, brother!
You are free to dream the boldest dreams
alone, under the stars, or under the rain.

Washington, DC,  2006     
translated by the author with Alicia Ostriker


In the moonless night
above the meadows
the wind scatters
empty plastic bags.
They appear like ghost.
But they are soulless organic bodies:
They never rot. 

Is this a prophetic dream
of human immortality?

Bulgaria, 2008

translated by the author


…What?! The dead are resurrected? We are the witnesses:
The eternal rulers move to new excavations.
The Blachernae palace stands alive again in Istanbul
five centuries after the fall of the Byzantine Empire.
Dark princesses wander in rotten galleries…
Naked like his ancestors, in shoes of ancient dust,
one sleeps on oakum in the celestial hall,
adorned in ruby leprosy …
Empires grow, bloom and fall like people.
Only the kings of universal fatigue are immortal.

The kings of fatigue are always born the same –
they rush to affluent empires and make lame
the brain clogged with projects… Hectic prophets:
They observe with a smile the new Sheraton Hotel – 
this concrete bastion is also doomed,
with its darkened windows shining in the dusk…
Like music, the mobs rush diminished by hunger  — 
delirious light in the perplexed brain of a genius.
(Among them is father Gandhi – undressed like a beggar.)
Oh, beggars, you are the allies of the prophets!

Heraldic termites, dream of the rotten planet,
if anyone’s, let the poet be yours!
In your eyes of sunset this world burns…
Locked in your miserable black flesh 
the Sky is waiting for its stardom.
No one in this world can conquer you:
you store no treasures on earth 
“where moths and rust corrupt.”
Dictators and tycoons anxiously watch you…
You are the rulers of hope on earth!

Istanbul,  1987

translated by the author


the rain 
beats against my window
it startles the shadows
the sky on Mars
is rusty and rose
the Sun is small and distant
by night the Earth is blinking up there
something well forgotten
beats against my window


translation by Theodora Lalova

           Mother, should I trust the government? 
                                             Pink Floyd

We asked  the wall:
How is it possible for socialists and ethnic Turks to be in coalition with neo-Nazis who hate minorities?
It did not respond.

We asked the wall:
How is it possible for Bulgarian patriots to wish that Bulgaria exits the European Union and enters Russian Eurasia?
It did not respond.

We asked the wall:
Why those who were supposed to save Bulgaria from corruption and the mafia tried to give away National security to an oligarch who owns the media? 
It did not respond.

We asked the wall:
Why those who were supposed to save Bulgaria from corruption and the mafia go on appointing to government positions people investigated for corruption and ties with the mafia? 
It did not respond.

We asked the wall:
Why the socialists, who claim that they defend the poor, didn’t do anything for the poor, while in power during two thirds of the last 25 years?
It did not respond.

We asked the wall:
Why the Socialist Party which claims it is not Communist anymore, never condemned the concentration camps, the murders, and all the crimes of Communism?
It did not respond.

We asked the wall:
Why the National Assembly is being guarded from the nation with armored vehicles and heavily armed police?
It did not respond.

We asked the wall:
Why don’t you ever respond when we ask you questions?
It did not respond.

The wall can’t talk.
(Although some, like the Berlin wall, could shoot.)
The wall responds only
when people ask it with hammers.


 On August 31, 2013, while the protests against the government of Oresharsky were going on for months, during his concert in Sofia, Roger Waters wrote with Bulgarian letters on the wall: Resign!

translated by the author


Navy blue free lonely
Swaying green 
Blind sunny white

Hope had no words back then
but it was as big as the world.
We dreamed of a western sunset future
with no border walls.

With no border walls
we already live in our bright future,
older and older like the world,
less and less hopeful are the words.

A wall —
sunny white, blind.
A tree —
green and swaying.
A sky —
navy blue, free ,and lonely.

translated by the author
 Nadezhda (Hope) is the name of an old working-class neighboruhood of Sofia, Bulgaria.

(a fairy tale)
            For my son Boyan

Once upon a time
there was a stone
with a Thracian inscription.
But even the Thracian couldn’t read it anymore,
because the Greeks and later the Romans
had taken away his tongue.
The Thracian died in the end and his stone
was built into a Byzantine church:
two rows of limestone, two rows of red brick,
a low dome
with golden mosaics within.
Time passed
and the church became Bulgarian.
More time passed 
of weddings, baptisms and burials,
and the church was burned down
together with the people inside.
Then it was turned into a mosque
with a sharp minaret piercing the sky.
Even more time passed
and the minaret was blown up.
The decapitated mosque,
weathered by Danubian and Black Sea winds,
was turned into a church again.
But only 70 years later
the cross was cut down from the church
and a red five-pointed star appeared above the dome.
The building became a warehouse
for truck batteries.
A human head was smashed
on the ancient stone.
45 more years passed
and the weed-grown walls of the warehouse
finally collapsed.
Then the ancient engraved stone,
who remembers
without talking,
unlike people
who talk
without remembering,
was taken over the ocean
by an emigrant family.

Now it is the cornerstone
of a family home in Northern Virginia.
It shines like new
under huge whispering maple trees.
And the child born in America
thinks about it
in his English language…

But what else is your past, my son,
if not you yourself
with the little you can remember,
with the frightening lot you have forgotten?

And what else is your future, my son,
if not you yourself
with your dreams of becoming an archeologist,
or a prophet
who will decipher one day the meaning
of the cornerstone
of your house?

The stone stays silent and waits.



                        In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
                                    John, 1:1


                        For Georgi Roupchev

Over the garbage cans,
over deserted muddy sidewalks,
over the forgetful anguish
of this midnight city, over the anguish
an ancient wind falls
driving in
the cold crystals of hope.

The snow comes: a rattle
of dark shop windows against the wind,
the hiss of the blue snake sign
above the pharmacy —
it mesmerizes me, the blue snake of time,
it paralyzes me,
the time that heals
and kills.
I observe:
a snowdrift shining high up in the mountains,
dark blasts of wind ring,
foxes howl, lit-up yellow kiosks; in the snowdrift
skin pores gape — the chasms
of the benumbed mind, ripening … I observe
and lough

against the snowfall, against the icy wind
moistening my pecked-out eyes
I lough… 
                I know
the grass is sleeping, waiting
warm under the snow… I know --
“when forty winter shall besiege thy brow”
the wind will be a sign 
that soon, very soon
grass will grow from your hollow skull --
living, poisonous grass.

The snow brings
a whiff of summer
and hope —
a whiff of desired
and lost love…
The summer grass
smells of snow
and desolation…

And what else is left then for us
but  to wait 
for the winter again?
Because the goal is in the waiting only.
Because the promised bliss
is in the anguish.
Because God exists
only in our faith that he exists.

I wait,
but I don't know for whom.
I see
and don’t understand.

Life maybe is a dream.
But who is so anxiously dreaming
my life? 



Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to  be tempted of the devil. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred. And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.
                Mathew 4:1-3

We ourselves
turned the bread into stones.
We ourselves
called the angels to help us
jump from the pinnacle of the temple
into dust and blood.
We ourselves
worshiped the devil
who was showed us the world from the mountain.
We worshiped the devil
but we were not given the world.

Then the tempter
cried with our own voice
to the world:
Look how you have  abandoned us in the desert!
Look how we are dying of hunger!
Look how because of you, because of you, because of you
we are suffering!

And our moan
filled us with the satisfaction of martyrs. 

translated by the author


This street towards the sunset
shines like a string in the grass.
The next one is in the shadow
of a concrete building —
windows lit up…
If you take the right street
in twenty years you will be the granddad
of two kids.
If you take the left one —
a tipper truck will run you over in a minute.

And if you continue, 
among how many dirty intersections
you will have to chose —
eyes closed,
at the spring wind in January?

The most reliable GPS is your intuition.
But you don’t really know
where you are going…

The street is slippery, the cold is bitter,
your fingers bleeding on the string…
Sleet, solitude and litter…
Not one perfect thing!…

Then what is left for you,
but to believe that in Paradise
all strings sound together…

Do you sometimes here
forgotten music coming from a window
against the sunset?
Do you sometimes hear 
the divine music?


 translated by the author


The Devil is the difference between us.
The Devil is the secret
everyone knows about himself.

God is something we have in common.
God is what we don’t know.


God is something very small
and transient.
It trembles inside us.
Outside is death.

*      *       *

But if a man sings out
when stood against the wall,
is he not greater than death?

For is not man
stood against the wall?

Let him sing!


translated by the author with Henry Taylor



Every minute

has its countless cities

and skies,

briefly illuminated clouds,

windows lit by the sunset. . . .

Every minute

has its secret corridors

leading to dark rooms.

Who lives there?

What would we have said to each other?

How would we have lived there?

I don’t know.

Every minute I pass

endless doors

to eternal life. . . .


My soul,

we have guilty knowledge

of our loneliness, of the end.

And our guilt keeps us

from Paradise.


The clock is that cherub

with  two swards 

which guards

the paths of minutes

we might have traveled

to Eternity.


translated by the author with Henry Taylor

             *                        *                          *

Here is the whole book Любов на площада (Love in the Square, Amore in Piazza) in Italian translation:


Here is the book in Macedonian translation:

And here are some of the poems translated in German:

                *                        *                          *

Here are two poems from Painless Poetryа poetry textbook edited by Mary Elizabeth, and published  by Barron’s in the USА ( the second edition came out in 2011). The first poem, Hen and Egg is my own, translated into English by the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Henry Taylor, and the second one is my translation into English of  “Mirror”, a poem by the famous Bulgarian poet Atanas Dalchev. I am publishing here both the English and the Bulgarian version of the two poems.

Vladimir Levchev


The hen has hatched
She leads her chicks
down by the river.
Suddenly they jump in
and they swim.
The hen flutters and clucks
in terror by the river.

At night you walk on water,
or sink in a bog,
or jump from the 15th floor
sweating, terrified by your own self.

What you are in your dream
is not yours.
It jumps in the river and swims away
talking in an unknown language.

Владимир Левчев


Кокошката е измътила
гъши яйца.
Води своите пиленца
покрай реката.
Изведнъж те скачат вътре
и плуват.
Кокошката пърха и кудкудяка
в ужас наоколо. . .

Ти ходиш нощем по водата,
или затъваш в блато,
или се хвърляш от петнайстия етаж  –
потен, ужасен от себе си.

Това което си в съня си
не ти пртинадлежи.
То скача в реката и отплува,
бърборейки на чужд език.

Atanas Dalchev


You've been expecting it for many years,
but the miracle is here every hour.
Look at the mover passing by your house
with a heavy mirror!
As he walks, the streets, the buildings,
and the fences zoom,
people come up from the shining bottom,
cars fly out in rage like birds from a cage.
Town squares and trees begin to sway,
roofs and balconies fall down,
blue skies flash. . .
You don't need to wonder why the mover
stoops and makes so slowly every step:
He is holding in his human hands
a new and amazing world.


Атанас Далчев

Ти го чакаш от години цяли -
чудото дохожда всеки час.
Виж хамалина пред нас,
който носи огледало.
Той върви. И в огледалото израстват
улици, къщя, стобори,
а от дъното му светло идат хора
и като от клетка птици автомобили изхвръкват бясно.
В миг разлюшкват се площади:
стрехи и балкони падат.
Блясват сини небеса.
Ти не се учудвай, че хамалинът
е приведен и върви едва!
Носи той в ръцете си човешки цял един
нов и дивен свят.

1937 г.

         The poem "Hen and Egg" has been published in two of my American books, Black Book of the Endangered Species (1999) and The Refugee (2011).


   From the back cover of the book:

“Vladimir Levchev’s work has been for several decades an important poetic bridge between Bulgaria and the US. This book will surely strengthen that reach.”
                                                           —Elizabeth Kostova,  
bestselling author of "The Historian"&"The Swan Thieves"

“These spare, beautiful poems—so imaginatively rich and expertly distilled—vibrate with a restless brilliance, reminding us, as Levchev writes in The Refugee, that ‘every minute/ has its secret corridors/ leading to dark rooms.’ Reading them, I felt as if I could hear the silences from which they are made now begin to gather themselves into these true and necessary words.”
                         —Richard McCann,
 author of “Mother of Sorrows”

“Vladimir Levchev’s poetry: An original voice, wise beyond its years. A dark vision, but beautiful all the same.”
—The late William Meredith,
Poet Laureate of the United States
“His poetry is a place you’ll never want to leave. We are in the presence of a large spirit who writes in the greatest tradition of European masters. The world of literature is lucky to have him.”
                                                                                                                                                          —Grace Cavalieri,                                     Prooducer/Host "The Poet and the Poem from the Library of Congress”


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