Cornelia Travnicek, Parablue: Conversations with Sylvia II




First, the silence hits
You: flying insects,
A bark, though neither
Come from there

Because nothing
Comes from here.
Metal shrieks across metal
When the last

Gate is forced shut.
Thirty pieces of silver sway
The owner and now you’re
Just awaiting

The iron chain of exclamation.
Behind these high windows,
Our great-grandmothers,
Then only young women,

Bestrode heavy machines.
The ones who didn’t hide
Their hair under scarves were
Scalped on the assembly line

Now the motors stand
still, stupefied servants.
Slowly, the city empties
Itself, but for souvenirs,

Copper penny-presses.  


An enquiring light sways over you,
The lamp cranes its neck: Are you still here,
Are you still whole? : That shouldn’t be.
Tools, instruments come into your field of vision
And back out. You feel your circulation
Beat a vortex in the crook of your arm

Until it reaches your heart. Steel
Clamps pry open the eyes as
You lay still. Incision in the sclera,
Cleaned up and shut under the lid.
Carotabus! You say the magic word
And conjure up a snowy scene,

But the image is pixelated. A haflinger, colorless,
Steps out of the forest. Consider the snow,
Unwritten pages, the white
Of your eye. I e(r)ase. Bit by bit
Trepidation rises with the poison,
With the thought of the icepick, poised to pierce,

You can still find yourself in the mirror
In the mornings, and it doesn’t matter to you.
It will still have been inserted, withdrawn. Your pupil
Dilates, as if to clear the way. Don’t go, I call, from
Behind your forehead. You poke yourself in the eye.
The horse trots into the Hall of Mirrors.


First they took one leg from him and then
The other. They made him
In the hard heart of Europe,
He was enthroned
In his west-eastern divan, dug up
Out of rubble – three rooms
Danced around him, the whole house:

One just a display room, the other
Frigid as winter, even in summer, where they slept
As if in cold storage, self-preservation.
Grandfather once plucked me up
By the sides of my ribcage,
And after, I never saw him again
Leave the divan–and I have never
Again breathed so freely.

A yard adjoins the vicarage. A Roman City?
A Latin name? Really, what
Do I know. Alcmene and
Green beans in the garden. One
Lost generation, the other
Thrown forward. By the time
Grandfather finally got four wheels,
He had already given away all his legs.  

Old Wood

After a nap, after a walk in the oblique
Light of October’s end, the family
Found themselves in a cellar.
Between the four of them, they’d furnished
Their home in the traditional manner,
With old wood,
Down, feathers, and fur.
A double, a triple, a quadruple
Standard – but none for justice. Without them
Knowing, the caretaker had carried
Them in a bundle into the cellar–coal, dust and all–
Where the cat, the old yellow eye,

Swished its tail in anticipation of the four
Mice. How they longed for winter’s cracking
As it expanded around the house – though now
The fireplace crackles, and later,
so will bone. Hard discipline.  


Cornelia Travnicek is an Austrian poet and novelist who studied Chinese Studies and Computer Science at the University of Vienna. She works part-time as a researcher in a Centre for Virtual Reality and Visualisation. Her literary works have won numerous awards including the Anerkennungspreis des Landes Niederösterreich, for her debut novel Chucks [Converse] (DVA, 2012), and the Kranichstein Youth Literature Grant awarded by the German Literature Fund. In 2012 she received the audience award at the Tagen der deutschsprachigen Literatur [Festival of German-Language Literature] in Klagenfurt for an extract from her novel Junge Hunde [Young Dogs]. Her publications also include various texts in newspapers, magazines and journals. Her novel Chucks  was filmed in 2015 as an Austrian production.

Meg Matich is a Reykjavik-based poet and Icelandic/German translator, and a current Fulbright grantee. Her translations have appeared in or are forthcoming from PEN America,Exchanges, Words Without Borders, Asymptote, The Best Icelandic Short Stories, Aarhus, and others. In 2015, she received the PEN Heim Translation Fund grant for her translation of Magnús Sigurðsson’s Cold Moons, which is forthcoming from Phoneme Media. She has received grants and fellowships from the DAAD, the Banff Centre, the Icelandic Literature Center, and Columbia University. She is currently assisting with the 2017 Reykjavik Literary Festival.

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