Danijela Kambaskovic-Sawers


Lit.-Mag #36
Home & Homecoming

Six poems from Balkan homes

‘Out of my house a tree is growing’

Selected and translated into English by
Danijela Kambaskovic-Sawers (Belgrade-Canberra-Geneva)

Željko Ivankovic
(Bosnia & Herzegovina)

Out of my house a tree is growing
(Iz moje kuce raste drvo)

Out of my roofless house
a tree, growing for seven years.
Out of my house a night is growing,
A large, glutinous night is growing,
a night, seven years long:
seven Biblical years.
Out of my house a tree is growing,
Its budding canopy home
to new tenants: the wind and the cold,
and the unease
of my mother’s final prayer.
Its budding canopy home
to waiting – waiting as green
as the grass was on her grave;
And we are gone. We are gone.
Our house is gone;
Seven years, seven long
Biblical years.

Jovanka Uljarevic

The Red Algae Coast
(Obala crvenih algi)

I live on the coast of red algae
And I have never worn
A fox stole around my neck

In the absence of light
Crocodile hunters say crocs go quiet
But, you see, on the red algae coast
This is not the case at all

Maybe because there are no crocodiles there
Or because the algae can go blue

Stick to my feet
Like loyal co-swimmers

Of the kind you cannot imagine
Unless you are accustomed to engraving
Your initials into the surface of the sea
Sensing that to the surface, this makes sense

Mehmed Begic
(Bosnia & Herzegovina)


the view goes on
to the hills
they brought me up
to miss the sea
but to always
at home
amongst them
A perfect image of nature
sliced by
On the table before me
a pencil
a box
a lighter
a mug of white coffee
turning back
to look for you in the room
we’ll think of something

Živorad Nedeljkovic

Belgrade, a desire to magnify
(Beograd, želja za uvecanjem)

I am relishing my fourth apple,
but peeling words and using only the husks.
I hear a childhood friend, who dropped in
After ten years or so, chatter about the metropolis,
He is grown into its labyrinths, the rat;
Safely drunk, he roll-calls the names of actors and singers,
Bolding bullet points of biography, he focuses on
Skin imperfections, not heeding
The futility of this work. He worms his way still deeper into the fruit,
And I find out about who never sobers up, which one is a whore
And the like detail of urban planning.
Curled before the sudden vivisection,
I foretell needles and narcotics. My friend
Is up to the challenge: he drinks with authority;
Homesick for his birthplace and its distilled beauty,
He skims the unripe cream.

In a short piece on criminality
And murders, he says, You touch nobody,
Nobody touches you, it’s simple. He bears down
On his disbelief, slurring. Is it possible
Not to touch anybody, I wonder. Unaccustomed
To visitors, I shelter behind sober words,
Inside the hollowed-out layers of the predictable
I wander, as always without haste, to the periphery
Of my body’s excavation site. And feed it, like tonight,
Avoiding the worm-ridden parts.

Dinko Delic
(Bosnia & Herzegovina)

A Democratic Dialogue
(Demokratski dijalog)

You live in a fairy tale,
my friend, driver and mechanic,
in a café called THE GARDEN OF SHEHID by
the gravestones marked with lilies, lawns
growing marble;
a discharged
combatant, entrenched in whiskey and barricades
of smoked meat, his blood-shot eyes
locked on my herbal tea. You’re wrong,
I retaliate under the table,
the intention of forcing him
to sign a badly thought-out truce. A fairy tale
is a logistical term belonging to the field
of literature, but in the war, it stands for a strategic base
for top-secret, tactically astute
planning. You see, and then I sipped some of my tea,
it would be stupid if I were to tell you
about the carburetor.

Danijela Kambaskovic-Sawers

Laughing at the bottom of the well
(Smejem se na dnu bunara)

Deep at the bottom
I clang like stairways
I peal with laughter
knee-deep in water

spinning in circles
gyrating maelstroms
my outstretched fingers
scratching the wall

in this furrow cities are growing
tiny buildings
circular roadways

in my furrow music is playing
kitchens are bubbling
men are pleading

in my furrow live the poets

of a questioning eye

Sarajevo, Summer 2004 (Foto T. Lukic)

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