Katerina Stoykova-Klemer

Translator Statement

These are autobiographical poems that speak of relationships and issues—as I remember them—among members of my family. These poems speak of separation. They feature the distance—both physical and emotional—between a father and a daughter. They speak of the journey of healing, the wobbly path of reconciliation. And they speak of the characters’ commitment, ultimately, to love. 


She got mud on her shoes
and never wore them again.

Many times
when she was little
her father hit her,
so when she left home
she never called him again.

(Well, almost.
Called every week
but [almost] never
loved him.)


тя си изцапа обувките с кал
и повече никога не ги обу.

Много пъти
когато беше малка
баща й я удряше
и когато порасна
не му се обади никога.

(Не съвсем.
Звънеше всяка седмица,
но (почти) никога
не го обичаше.)


Daddy, why is your face so sad?
Because your Mommy died, baby.

Why do you visit the grave every day, Daddy?
Baby, she’s there every day.

Daddy, your pillow is bitter with salt.
Is that a question, baby?


Татенце, защо ти е тъжно лицето?
Защото майка ти почина, Катенце.

Защо ходиш всеки ден на гроба, татенце?
Катенце, тя всеки ден е там.

Татенце, възглавницата ти горчи от сол.
Това въпрос ли е, Катенце?


                  “Nothing gets lost in Nature”

In the lava lamp
of you, grief

travels in warm blobs.
Floats up, sticks

at the exit’s throat,
then sinks

to cool down—
something in a thing,



                 „В природата нищо не се губи“


В лава-лампата
на теб, тъгата

пътува на топли топки.
Изплува, залепя

се за гърлото на изхода,
после потъва

да изстине—
нещо в нещо,



Sewn in like a body in a bag, ancient
like myself—my dolls,
my childhood toys arrive
from Bulgaria by airplane.

With crumpled hair, detached retinas,
ears nearly ripped off, they take as much
space as they did before.

Now what, they ask me condescendingly.
We’ll live together, I answer persuasively.


Зашити като труп в чувал, древни
като самата мен—куклите ми,
детските ми играчки пристигат от България
със самолет.

С измачкани коси, полуоткъснати уши,
и разлепени ретини, те заемат толкова
място, колкото и преди.

Сега какво, питат ме презрително.
Ще живеем заедно, отговарям убедително.

The Wooden Spoon

My mother cooked with it
                 & when she got sick
I cooked with it
                 & when I left
my father cooked with it
                 & when I came back
                 for a brief visit
                 to see
                 if I can love him

I took the spoon

                  & I haven’t
                 cooked since.

Дървената лъжица

Мама готвеше с нея
                  и когато се разболя
аз готвих с нея
                  и когато заминах
татко готвеше с нея
                  и когато се върнах
                  за кратко
                  да проверя
                  дали все пак
                  да го обичам
взех лъжицата
и от тогава
не съм сготвила нищо. 

Katerina Stoykova-Klemer

Katerina Stoykova-Klemer is the author of several poetry books in English and Bulgarian, most recently The Porcupine of Mind (Broadstone Books, 2012, in English) and How God Punishes (ICU, 2014, in Bulgarian), which won the Ivan Nikolov National Poetry Prize. She is the editor of The Season of Delicate Hunger: Anthology of Contemporary Bulgarian Poetry (Accents Publishing, 2014), for which she also translated the works of 29 of the 32 included authors. For six years she hosted Accents, a radio show for literature, art and culture on WRFL in Lexington, Kentucky. In January 2010, Katerina launched the independent literary press Accents Publishing. Katerina co-wrote the independent feature film Proud Citizen, directed by Thom Southerland, and acted in the lead role.