Special Operation

Dato Magradze


Translated by Gabriel Griffin

There were neither bombs nor ruins then,
nor the vastness of Russia,
nor Ukraine’s wide plains
when the devil called God up on his walkie-talkie
and laughed at the Special Operation of Cain.
When a merry ploughman broke into song
and the hand that put to the plough was the left,
Cain performed the first of many long
Special Operations in the world –
and I say it here, loud and bold.
Then came Florence [i] …
the Villa Medici…
the Gospel +- Athen’s thought [ii]…
that desire to flush out a devil from every attic [iii] or cellar
and carry out a Special Operation of the Inquisitor. [iv]

The OSCE [v] at that time could send no mission,
and since those years, many centuries have unfurled.
So, the Inquisitor set the bonfire aflame
with faint Burgundy
and the pallid lily.
The symbol of Florence blazed on the pyre,
and left nothing behind to remember it by
at dawn, when the ashes were swept away,
and Michelangelo stole sky from the earth.

Who weaves these words into a graceful verse?
Whose pen will be consumed again?
Who will shaft [vi] the advocate of Cain:
– Hello!
-Hello! again

I wish now to proclaim
that the one miracle of my life to date
is when I got caught in Cupid’s net,
and how the first chapters of my Love, like velvet,
illuminate the rigors of the world.
A barefoot poet won’t be accepted by a greedy parish,
but goes on walking the tightrope of verse, and preaches
that the tradition we all share is the eternal present,
and that will never be transformed back into the past.
What has been… has never been…
The lighthouse of liberalism
announced my denunciation,
and what in Georgia used to be called shit-stirring [vii]
is now accepted as freedom of speech.

I am trying to put a name
to the feeling that has been
catching up with me since morning,
What does the 21st century, my present-day, wish for?
How can it replenish the Holy Grail?
-shunning the ancestors!
-shunning the future!
If it’s trendy, if it’s brandy,
there’s no question: Are you sure?
The sun’s accessories do not reach our sands
and every man and woman will give you the floor,
if you reject Pelé and look up to Messi.
I grieve that a second-hand era
has no time for first-hand verse.

In the beginning, there was no falsity,
there was the Word, and the Word was the draw.
But now, sitting in front of the TV screen,
You sometimes want to cry out loud:
Oh, what an ugly scammer it is!
Buñuel [viii], and not the scammer, will deck
the nun with a virtuous veil.
He is no believer in reality…
That well-known surrealist attaché
will wed [ix] the bride of Jesus to the devil.
If heaven has mercy upon me,
I will do what seems impossible,
I will play Handel’s Sarabande in my poem
as Kubrick played it in the movie’s [x] final scene.

…while I was writing a poem one night,
an UFO shifted the font and stole my walkie-talkie.
Suddenly, I saw a vision, and – let me tell you –
I heard a voice from afar declare:
-go, Horatio,
and make my story known
to every creature on earth,
tell about how I – the Prince of Denmark –
bore the heavy burden that is my lot.
Do not leave my story unpublished,
let it be read and learned
by the young and the old,
and before you leave, give me your word
that you will boldly declare the truth,
about who it was who determined
and what it was that determined
the journalistic Special Operation.

Milan… Duomo…and the morning bright with light,
a cup of coffee, and I add two lumps of sugar …
thinking I have damaged my mind’s composure,
calling up the difficulties of my past.
My regrets follow each puff of cigarette,
and in the space of just a minute
the poet dies and then he resurrects…
As I praise the eternity of the minute,
I stroke the Pietà Rondanini with a word:
-have I heard aright? Does marble play an aria?
-and so I shunned the balcony [xi]
and chose the theatre stalls [xii].
Mary holds her child, crucified, in her lap,
as if teaching her son to walk [xiii].


[i] Florence
[ii] Greek way of thinking
[iii] In the medieval centuries, during the inquisitor’s days, they were searching for demons in everything and everywhere.
[iv] In the first stanza poet words: Ratsia (walkie-talkie) – Ratsio (thinking) and Operatsia (operation). The sound “TS’’ is also alliterated throughout the stanza.
[v] The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe
[vi] The poet uses slang here with the meaning “defeat”. So, instead of “discomfit” slang must be chosen.
[vii] In the Georgian language the poet uses the slang “whoring” which means “slander”. in English, the word “slander” must be changed into slang.
[viii] Luis Buñuel
[ix] Will perform marriage ceremony for Jesus’s bride and devil.
[x] Barry Lindon
[xi] Theatre
[xii] Stall seat
[xiii] In last two lines poet describes Rondanini’s Pieta

Dato Magradze

is a

Wandering Editor for Panorama.

Born in 1962, Dato Magradze is a famous Georgian poet and author of the lyrics of the National Anthem of Georgia. In 1984 he graduated from Tbilisi State University, faculty of philology. At different times Magradze was an editor-in-chief of various newspapers and magazines; worked at various NGOs and organizations fighting for human rights. In 1991 Magradze founded Georgian PEN center and was its president till 2010. He became the Minister of Culture of Georgia in 1992 and held this post till 1995. Magradze authored numerous poetry collections and his works are translated into many languages including German, English, Italian, Turkish and Russian. His book “Giacomo Ponti” is part of teaching materials of the school “Don Bosco” in Borgomanero. He has been a member of the Academy of American poets since 2009. Magradze is a participant and laureate of different literary festivals inc: Lugo, Genoa, Orta, Lugano, Eboli. Among many literary awards and prizes, in 2011 David Magradze was awarded with a title of Cultural Ambassador and Honourable Academician by Universum – Swiss international society of Culture. In the same year the Swedish academy Nobel committee acknowledged Magradze with a nomination for the Nobel Prize in literature. In 2013, Magradze was honoured with the Diploma de’onore Academia mondiale della poesia“ – Verona member of world academy of poetry, Italy. In 2023, Magradze was awarded the Cervantes Institute's medal of recognition in Madrid.

Gabriel Griffin

is a

Guest Translator for Panorama.


Pin It on Pinterest