black snow

8th March 2022


2 minutes read

Anna Terék

Black Snow

translated by Valzhyna Mort & Owen Good

8th March 2022

2 minutes read

We barged along the silence

of that winter. Wheat fields


in the choke of ice.


By the barracks my father

shifted from foot to foot.

Nothing else moved

in that frozen country.

My mother, stock-still and angry.

My sister and I, motionless.

Motionless, other soldiers.


By the barracks he swayed

with eyes half-closed,

damned by each swig

of fiery palinka.

So are all soldiers, they drink,

there’s no swaying from it.

Is there, friend?


Around my father the snow was black.

He swayed and strayed so

one couldn’t tell

whether Mother was afraid

that he’d be shot down in battle

or, maybe, she worried

that he’d never be shot.


In reserve, from the barracks,

my father little

by little

stole for us,

bringing home flasks, leather belts,

green coats, army backpacks,

long johns and heavy boots,

cutlery and metal plates

on which we melted sugar for dessert.


My favorite

was a wide leather belt.

Father showed us

how to attach to it

a hand grenade.

I wished so much

he’d bring a grenade



In the end, my father was never drafted.

He idled around the barracks

and when he came home, he’d bring

it all with him.

No longer a reservist,

something in his bones

still needed him

to drink.


From then on, my father

wanted nothing,

neither mother nor us.

Nor himself.

He tried to darken his dark eyes

even darker.

He drank so much palinka

he couldn’t stand on his two feet,

he stumbled into doors, into walls,

he stumbled in the streets.

And with him, the whole world

swayed and stumbled.

There was nothing that could prop

him up.


The winter was dark and frigid.

Ice choked the rooftops.

The villagers smoked the meaty clouds.

That winter, they say, Albanians were burned

inside the waste incinerators.

They flew, these Albanians turned into smoke,

where the sun ought to be, turning

our winter dark and frigid.


And I stood still in that

frigid, dark winter and

stared at my father

who swayed and strayed.

I stood in one spot

but achieved nothing.

Swaying, my father spilled

something from his bones,

all around me.

written by

Anna Terék

More about the author

Issue 01


More about this issue

translated by

Valzhyna Mort & Owen Good

More about the translator


On The Way To Magadan by Anna Terék
In the brilliant translation of Ágnes Marton, Anna Terék's poem about longing, heartbreaks, and tragedies on the way to our mysterious destination, Magadan.
Black Snow by Anna Terék
An alcoholic father is drafted during the Yugoslav war, in a poem by Hungarian poet Anna Terék, translated by Belarussian poet Valzhyna Mort with Owen Good.