IDLE LAVA by LYUBOMIR NIKOLOV
2017-2018 Settlement House
American Poetry Prize
Translated by Miroslov Nikolov
The recipient of the third annual Settlement House American Poetry Prize,
Lyubomir Nikolov wasborn in 1954 in Kireevo, Bulgaria. He majored in
journalism at the St. Kliment Ohridsky University of Sofia and worked for 10
years as an editor of Literary Forum, a weekly newspaper of the Bulgarian
Writers’ Union. In 1991 Nikolov came to the United States and has lived in
Montgomery County, Maryland since 1992. He has been a broadcaster for the
Voice of America and a correspondent for the BBC Bulgarian Service in London.
He is author of nine previous poetry collections in Bulgaria, the United States,
Argentina and Austria. Idle Lava is the first of his books published in Bulgaria and
translated in full into English.
The Settlement House American Poetry Prize is awarded annually to a
book of poems by a first-generation American poet.
With a scythe I clear a path.
I swing it among the weeds
and watch how sparks fly
when the steel strikes rock.
I flatten blooming milkweed.
Amaranth, pipevine, nettle.
Sunk deeply in the ox horn handle,
my fingers are blue.
I swing the scythe. Yarrow
falls next to a cut bramble.
Above a drooping hemlock ladybugs
circle m — three rubies.
A scythe whispers over the dead.
A scythe buzzes. A wasp of a scythe.
Over my grandfather
a withered goldenrod.
Over my mother
The wind puts out the candles.
A magpie caws in the thicket.
A voice comes from underground:
has come all the way from America to see us.
Let our graves smile.
The snow weighs
on these old houses.
They hunch over,
Monsters with tarnished copper armor,
emerge one by one from the underwater kingdom.
They circle like melons in a well, weightless and clumsy
and plunge headfirst into the depths.
With satin nets the sun pulls them
from the ancient mud, and slowly draws them up.
Some lie on stone slabs, others on a rotting
willow trunk that fell into the water many years ago.
They get drowsy. They dream that the end of
the world, the end of time is near.
But a small pink heron nudges them,
and one after another
they plop into the river.