Albena Todorova




how much text

how much text
makes a book
how much applause
makes an audience
how many words
make a poem
how much silence
makes patience
how much effort
makes a family
how much what
makes happiness




Two toothbrushes in the jar

Two toothbrushes in the jar
In a small voice I wish I could have said that
Second one’s yours
But it’s not
Second one’s
For the road 





run away 

run away, she said
from hairdressers who work only on aunts
from men who skillfully elaborate on their feelings
from nearly all shades of pink
from taking on someone else’s responsibility, including your children’s
from despondency
from cities where women look down





I Would Have Been A Great Husband

I would have been a great husband.

A taciturn hairy man, his bushy eyebrows hidden behind a pair of thick-rimmed glasses,
always choosing lavish but useless gifts,
the wrapping paper looking slightly crumpled despite best efforts and intentions. 

A steadfast gaze,
and steadfast reliability,
steadfastly strict about whose turn it is to walk the dog.
The one soft thing about him would be his belly.

I would be the one driving,  
with nothing but the Stones and Guns’ playing in the car,
and you would hear a lot, no sweetheart, we ask for no directions.

I would still be unable to say I love you;
I would still be helpless when I see you crying;
I would still be missing you when missing home. 





at the emergency room, looking at the woman with no loved ones

some day
I’ll get there
someone else taking care of my family
someone else
or simply nobody
in vain I keep telling myself I am a mother everywhere
my conscience already planning
a day off





Wherever You Are

It might sound very dramatic to say
That I will not be forty when you turn fifteen
That we might even never meet 
At least not this time, not on this tour. 

Sometimes the air between my arms gets so inexplicably dense
and smells of boy’s hair, mercilessly bathed in sun
and dust
and your grandma’s tomatoes,
I almost feel you pulling back when you sense how
I long to kiss your shaggy crown. 


I no longer have the urge to yell at the noisy neighbors yelling
over their phones with their windows wide open on Sunday mornings
And it’s not because they will wake up the children
But because 
Anger kills the wish I could have met you. 

I don’t imagine what would it be like if, or how
you’d look like, sound, or laugh, 
Or what you’d say when you see my face 
splashed in that greenish wrinkles mask 

I am afraid that every naming and every image
is eating out your light and makes you sadder. 

Wherever you are. 



—“how much text,” “run away,” and “at the emergency room, looking at the woman with no loved ones” translated by Katerina Stoykova 

—“Two toothbrushes in the jar” translated by Ioana Stoyanova, edited by Albena Todorova

—“I Would Have Been A Great Husband” translated by Albena Todorova, and “Wherever You Are” translated by Albena Todorova, edited by Momchil Milanov.