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Poems and prose poems.


Translated from Bulgarian by Tom Phillips

Speak: so at once you disappear

From The Cruel Ring

Speak: so at once you disappear
and in a moment merge
with noise on a holiday street –
you yourself and your grief;

in the multifaceted crowd,
be faceless and light,
trace of the mirage
of bright pedestrian fate –

and lest dark sentries stalk
your faint-hearted drowse,
nor din nor knell recall
that You and They are – Thing and All;

and stripped of superfluous pride,
with no time, no image, no word,
cherish your ultimate joy,
magnificent, simple: Today …

speak: do you see through the lie
of these destructive dreams?
Ah, the truth and the lie
are a ring – and you a ring inside it!

Oh! Ripen in the sacred breast
of your silent, material sin –
and sacrifice everything to it:
rage, your fear, your grief!

The Wrathful Earth Opens

From The Cruel Ring

The wrathful Earth opens
and speaks in tongues of fire:

– Apostles! Martyrs! Saints!
Leaders of spectral councils!
Crusaders! Alchemists! Monks!
– the burning expanse of my soul
craves for your ashes!
A lie without joy and deceit,
all are blind without fire and delight
in the desert of their own dreams.

When I bore you, I gave
solace — not weakness and grief:
solace in springtime leaves
and joy in white lilies,
roses wild and berries ripe,
the autumn’s vernal purity,
pineapple, pomegranate — bridges
— of serenity, silk and crystal —
before your grief I spread
a feast, inviting all as guests,

– of gold, azure and purity!

From As Durs

Allegro vivace

My heart beats!
Cries out through the world in solemn joy –
The red wolves in my blood
in my ears are howling –
and my nerves are quaking –
: Oh fiesta and fear!
Colours exult in parks, in piazzas, on posters
and wind whips and snaps my soul –
: long-tattered flag
over strongholds burning –
I furl. —
I wait. One. I vanquish the years:
and ripen.


I’m in love with you! I love you! I suffer!
– I’ll follow you to the grave! I’ll follow you wherever!
One hundred metres down the stairs I fall
– into the restaurant on my knees before you
(smitten and pale).
Detectives are trailing me, stalking me
through secret doors (of this I am sure)
and in bare fields, despairing, I cry
to freezing wind, the night and rain …

Bound with ropes around my waist,
I hurl myself into the sea – but again they haul me out …

Days and nights without sleep …
With bandit gangs
I race
down mountain paths …
I settle
for sleep –
and hunting posses track me
in my dreams …
Max Landa is hunting me.
Max Landa is trailing me –
I race
down mountain paths, steeps –
Max Landa is chasing me with gun in hand …

I run … and I know
– bang! bang! –
– he’ll kill me
his face screwed up with cruelty, rage
– bang! bang! –

Oh hue and cry of harmless films,
reflections in the glimmer of burning coal.


With twenty-four thunderous blows
the clock completes its circle.
To now.
And tomorrow you’ll be you
– alone again with God –
Time’s grotesque beast
with legs, arms,
elbows, fingers, palms
– east to west –
on the torn, bloody drum of my heart …
My blood stops a moment.
Here the song ends.

Da Capo!

From Expressionist Calendar for 1921


On this day I was born.
On this day the snowstorm’s last blast fell silent, bitten off by the cold’s icy teeth. The great bear, frozen – white – bristled with ice – the shattered disc of the Pole Star between its glistening icy teeth.
The blue frost’s stillness and silence: under the unwavering rays of the radiant north.
The white-haired old man Aquarius stands on the threshold of my fate: the never-ending stream of my fate that he pours out – frozen, my fate.
On this day I was born and my heart, new-born, froze in an instant: a great bright piece of ice.
I believed that a translucent angel brought my heart between his gentle fingers – a long way from the sacred bounds. He didn’t come: he expired, exhaling the gentle heart into the icy talons of frost.
On this day I was born. My heart froze: a great bright piece of ice.
I can’t love. My heart is ice – stone, iron – cruel. I can’t love anything, anyone. No love!
O, book of enmities!
I grasp my heart in my hand – a great icy stone – and wait: ready to fight.
Bitterness of gentle brows!


Thousands of factory chimneys draw the horizon’s azure ring in tight. And black dragons – of sparks and soot – flourish dishevelled wings above the grey suburbs.
The azure smile of God? The world without sky. The world without love …
Malice. Bad blood. Beneath the black wings of angry dragons of sparks and soot. Ruthless murder of the azure …
And in the evening when thousands of whistles raise a dreadful shriek across the black fields – o, black hands of labour trembling from malice and bad blood …
O, angry song of black hands!
Unlock the azure ring of the horizon. Give us back the sky.
The sky! The sky! The sky!


Day of wrath

Presto 1

Fly, fly,
with all haste
don’t question
you’re the goal!
Life’s catapult
fires me whole
into the star-vault.

fall on
irresistibly onward
– no rank, no order –

The cause! The cause
is our cry
all’s pure
pure love, pure hate,
pure stars
– onwards
through prisons
through towns
fly on!

Presto 2

poor folk
peasants –
in your hundreds
like beasts,
shot, sold –
to be so is pointless:
let us rise
– go forward –

Through smoke
smut, black, soot,
no rank, no order,
just as a crater
The final day
the final hour
is now:
100 years ago:
Camille Desmoulins
to the mighty Bastille.
The final hour is now.
With one last push
let all of us
get up
on our feet!


GEO MILEV (1895-1925) was a Bulgarian poet, translator, critic and visual artist who sustained a serious head wound while serving on the Macedonian front in WW1 and was extra-judicially executed during reprisals for a Communist attack on the then right-wing leadership in Sofia. Key works include his symbolist cycle The Cruel Ring and the prose poem sequence ‘The Expressionist Calendar for 1921’ – parts of which are translated here – as well as the long poems ‘Hell’ and ‘September’ – for which ‘Day of Wrath’ is thought to be an early draft. He is widely regarded as a key figure, not only in Bulgarian, but also in European modernism.

TOM PHILLIPS is a writer, translator and editor living in Sofia, Bulgaria. His poetry and translations have been widely published in magazines, anthologies, pamphlets, and full-length collections including Unknown Translations (Scalino, 2016) and Recreation Ground (Two Rivers Press, 2012). He teaches creative writing at Sofia University St Kliment Ohridski and is the editor of Peter Robinson: A Portrait of his Work, published by Shearsman Books, who also published Robinson’s The Personal Art: Essays, Reviews & Memoirs (2021) and his translations from Pietro De Marchi, Reports after the Fire: Selected Poems (2022).

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