Eireene Nealand and Ilya Kaminsky translating Blagovesta Pugyova


Blagovesta Pugyova has degrees in law and finance, but two very different terms come to mind when thinking of her as a person: books and children.  Born in 1987, Pugyova is the founder of Podarete Knigi, the ‘Give a Book’ Foundation, which matches orphans with adult mentor-friends who reach out to orphans by sharing books with them. (An invitation to visit an orphanage will not be far behind your first meeting with Pugyova).  She speaks more about her work with orphans than her writing. Yet, the two can hardly be separated. Meet Me at 10 on the Moon, from which these poems are taken, does not just flirt with the sentimental, it lives with it, and marries it so completely that activism and fierce caring are understood to be as common as dish towels or sponges. Poem after poem in Meet Me at 10 on the Moon engages—with a surprised innocence—a number of characters who do not share this view. Remarkably, however, the poems are never preachy. They don’t leave us merely with lumps in our throats or tears in our eyes. While the poems make one feel emotions, in them characters, like the quietly revolutionary hero that emerges atop the Statue of Liberty, do not bother much with lumps or tears. They are too busy leading you over to the bus to the orphanage. There, you will sit with your book, nervously waiting for the child who will open it for you.

In this, Pugyova is quintessentially Bulgarian. If known at all, the country is often described as the poorest in the European Union or—due to a number of self-effacing polls—“the saddest in the world.” An extended stay in the country, however, reveals some quietly concealed riches. Everyday Bulgarians don’t just stop to help an elderly person across the street, they’ll also pause to talk and learn something wise. Too, Bulgarians will note with a knowing smile that the unpainted buildings of their capital are beautiful—not a sign of neglect, but a sign that the state has chosen, instead, to feed people who are hungry. In contrast to the anger necessary and present in American politics, Bulgarians quietly get on with the business of being humane without a great deal of fanfare. Historically, such an attitude has allowed Bulgarians to survive a large number of dramatic invasions, and it’s this quiet humanness that I remember when I read Pugyova’s poems. Straightforward in their style, they remind us of the value of quietly being certain. Anything else would distract from the business of getting on with what one, of course, is doing.


She’s gorgeous, the old woman again outside.
I see her through the window
barefoot in the courtyard’s snow
long white hair camouflaged
thin legs grown as blue
as her silk nightgown.
Hidden by a slim overcoat she again looks for roses.
—Hey lady, it’s December. There aren’t any roses. Don’t stay in the cold.
—Ah, child don't try to teach me. You don't know.
    You haven't seen roses in the snow because you haven't looked.
I don't know whether she managed to find her roses
on this or that December morning
but now, after so many decades,
I also go out in the mornings to look for roses
and sometimes I forget to put my shoes on
because for me finding roses is more important
than my fear of dying.


Красивата стара жена пак е навън,
виждам я от прозореца,
боса стъпва по снега на двора,
с дълга бяла коса като него,
малките й голи крака стават сини
като синята й нощница от коприна,
прикрита с палто отгоре, пак търси рози.
—Но госпожо декември е и рози няма,
недейте, не стойте на студено.
—Ах, дете, не ме учи, не знаеш нищо,
не си виждала рози в снега, защото не си ги търсила.
И не знам дали тя намери рози
във някоя от тези декемврийски сутрини,
но сега, след толкова десетилетия,
и аз излизам сутринта да търся рози,
и понякога забравям да си сложа обувки,
защото ми е по-важно да намеря роза,
отколкото ме е страх да умра.


She can’t cry
because her eyes
are cubes
     of sugar.


Тя не можеше да плаче
защото очите й бяха
бучки захар.


Through gate he entered:
the hungry one who had more than me
succeeded in smiling at his food
like a lost concubine, and all was well with him.

With a knowing look he scolded me:
—Are you looking for love, silly girl?
Your love eats you like a goat eats roses
but the invisible beyond is absurd.

—Shut up! My hunger is beautiful
a meadow brimming with snowdrops
that even in August I can love,
and August is when I feel the most love.
Underwater is where a fisherman finds me with his pole.
I, a timid sturgeon,
traveling forever though I am quiet and tired
and always come home.
I have never felt more alive than when I swim eleven kilometers deep
and further—to places I’ve never been.
So, shut up, leave me alone!

—What kind of love are you searching for, silly fish?  
Your love eats you, like a goat eats roses
I scavenge for food, but you, what will you end up with?
The invisible beyond is absurd.

—Shut up! My hunger is beautiful.
When I love I don't see faces, I don't see colors.
I don’t even see goats or roses.
That’s because true love doesn’t need colors or faces.
My hunger wants everything all at once and that  
is satisfying
the whole universe—what others call god—all that hurts
because true love seeks all that is Him
and He is everything.
So I can’t be like you!
My love is so huge I can’t find a place for it on the table.
It isn’t in my body
like yours.
Hey, dirty sniveler, don’t you see that?
Do you, old sniveler, even love?

—Ah, silly girl, a love like yours can’t be shared,
it eats you
from the inside like a thought
attached as unreliably as a stillborn child
so you will always be starting over
pregnant again and again, without result
How can that feed you?

—Shut up! My love makes death insignificant.
Whether I live or not doesn’t matter:
my love will live.
even if I jump into the Pacific Ocean.
my black hair will remain braided into the tails of fishes.
All the hungry beasts of the ocean
will nibble at the white of my skin until they reach the part
that is blue.    
That’s because my love doesn’t depend on my body.
It remains, eleven miles under the sea
and in the sky.
I, whom you see, want to be
closer to the center of the earth,
where stone becomes molten lava.  

But your hunger: where will it be?
Where will your hunger live after you’ve eaten?
Once you’ve eaten your fill
you, too, will want to love like I do.


През вратата влезе гладния,

и гладния имаше повече от мене,
успя да се усмихне на храната
като на стара позната и му беше добре.

Усмихнатите му очи ми се караха:
— Каква любов търсиш ти, глупачке,
та тя те изяжда като коза, която яде роза,
нелепо е всичко, което очите ти не виждат.

— Остави ме, остави ме да се мъча,
моят глад е тъй прекрасен
избуяват поля от кокичета, когато
дори през август обичам.
А през август най обичам.
И въдиците на рибарите ме намират
и аз съм котката-риба-есетра,
пътуваща вечно, а днес кротка и тиха
се прибирам вкъщи,
на единайсет километра под водата.
И по-жива не съм била. Остави ме.

— Каква любов търсиш ти, рибо?!
Та тя те изяжда като коза, която яде роза,
нелепо е всичко, което очите ти не виждат.
Аз виждам това, което търся, ти кого виждаш?

— Остави ме, моят глад е тъй прекрасен—
аз не виждам лица, не виждам цветове,
и козите, и розите даже не мога да видя.

Любовта, която е истинска няма цвят и лице,
любовта е току що задоволен глад за всичко накуп,
за цялата вселена, която другите наричат Бог,
и боли, защото обичаш всичко, което е Той,
а Той е всичко. И не мога като тебе,
да го побера на масата и да го имам.
Моята обич не е в тялото ми, като твоята.
Ти, кучи сине, не виждаш ли, не обичаш ли?!

— Ах, глупачке, такава обич ще е винаги несподелена,
и ще те яде отвътре като мисъл, и ще я изпуснеш
като мъртво новородено и все ще почваш отначало
и все ще обичаш мъгла. Тя ще те нахрани ли?

— Остави ме, моята обич прави моята смърт незначителна,
и моето тяло вече няма да ми трябва.
И да живея и да не живея любовта ми ще е там.
И ако скоча днес в Тихия океан, там, където е най-дълбоко,
моята обич ще остане, а гладът ти къде ще е?
Черните ми коси се ще се оплитат в опашките
на огромните скатове по дъното,
и гладните зверове на океаните
ще ближат белотата на кожата ми,
докато епидермиса й посинее от водата.

А моята обич не е зависима от тялото ми.
И на единайсет километра под водата ще остане,
и на небето пак ще остане. Твоята къде ще е?
Аз, която виждаш, искам да съм там,
по-близо до сърцето на земята, неговото.
Защото там камъкът е просто топла магма.

Когато се нахраниш, ще поискаш да обичаш.
А когато обичаш, ще поискаш същото.


I dream of standing barefoot atop the Statue of Liberty,
on top with the flame.
Amidst the confusion people will come from cities to witness the spectacle
and shout, “Miracle, O, Miracle! Speak to us!”

And if I say, “We are guests on this Earth, headed for a heavenly beyond
of gardens and rivers, and butterflies,”
mass suicides will begin
because everyone believes the words of the one above. 

Or if I say: “Man is born alone and dies alone,
the world’s mingling produces confusion,
comforting others weighs us down,
and makes wars, take care only of yourselves.”
Then selfishness will reign; Following that, too, will be mass suicides—
from loneliness
because all believe the words of those above. 

But today I—
I step atop the Statue of Liberty,
and whisper only: “Give. Come on, give—
it’s not taking but giving that’s central.”

The masses don’t move.
Doctors with megaphones arrive from the madhouse:
“Don’t jump. Don’t do it, child,” they say
As a helicopter hovers to save me and a fire brigade
rushes to put out my thoughts.
But I jump, become a blob of flesh on the pavement
because I cannot live among people
who believe, but do not know
how to give.


Мечтая да стъпя на партийния дом отгоре,
с боси крака на върха там, където е знамето,
ще настане смут,  ще идват хора от градове да видят,
ще викат „чудо, ох, чудо! Говори ни да слушаме“.

И ако им кажа „на земята сте гости, и после се отива
на друго място, с градини и реки, пеперуди“,
тогава ще настъпят масови самоубийства,
ще вярват на думите на тази, която стои горе.

Или ако тогава им кажа: „човека е роден сам и сам да е,
светът е объркан, защото се объркваме с другия,
загрижеността влачи назад и после ви прави войни,
грижете се само за себе си“

Тогава ще възцари егоизма, и много бързо после
ще настъпят масови самоубийства. От самота.
Но всъщност аз ще стъпя горе на партийния дом,
и ще кажа само тихо: „Раздавайте, де. Раздавайте.
...не взимането е важно, а даването.“

Но тогава няма да настъпи нищо масово,
ще дойдат от Курило лекари с мегафони:
„не скачай, недей дете, всичко ще се оправи.“
Ще дойде хеликоптер да ме спаси от мислите ми, и пожарна.
И тогава ще скоча. Ще стана петно от месо на паважа,
защото не ми се живее сред хора, които
във всичко, което искат вярват, но не умеят да дават.

Blagovesta Pugyova

Blagovesta Pugyova was born in 1987 in the city of Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria. She has degrees in finance (UNWE, Bulgaria) and tax law (LSE, UK). Blagovesta is the founder of Podarete Kniga, the Give a Book. Foundation, a network of volunteers who donate books to orphans and become their mentor-friends. For this initiative, Blagovesta was awarded various honors, such as Human of the Year, Contributor to Freedom Award, many others. Her first book Meet Me at 10 on the Moon was published in December 2014 by Janet 45 turning her into one of the most popular young contemporary poets in Bulgaria.

Eireene Nealand

Eireene Nealand was a 2014–2015 Fulbright Fellow in Sofia, Bulgaria. In 1993, she traveled to Bulgaria to intern for the US Embassy during Bulgaria’s transition period. She returned to Bulgaria in 2003 for a Fellowship to the Elizabeth Kostova Foundation's Sozopol Fiction Seminars. Her collaborative picture-storybook, Nest, about the ebb and flow of populations into and out of Bulgarian villages, will be published in May by NovaKultura.

Ilya Kaminsky

Ilya Kaminsky was born in Odessa, Ukraine, and currently lives in San Diego, California.