Besieged City and other poems

Besieged City and other poems

Besieged City

And once again great Achilles to Troy shall be sent.
— Virgil, Eclogue IV

And once again Troy shall be discovered
In every place where
Great Achilles turned 
Into the child of his anger,
Into the parent of his madness.
And once again arms shall be forged,
The world shall shine in the shield’s morning,
Mute iron shall begin to speak in the squares,
And once again shall cities be besieged,
In the besieged cities one shall exchange
Days for nights, and days for years,
Kingdoms for submissiveness,
And once again walls shall be torn down,
So that we can, finally, return home,
Among the unknown household members,
So that the besieged city be built once again.

Translated from Serbian by Dragan Purešić

Last Photograph with Father

I have not kept 
The last photograph with my father.
We were sitting in my father’s car,
And I was silent,
He was talking and breathing heavily,
Struggling for air.
What is left of the photograph
Is just a strip of light,
Although it is more important to me
Than the preserved photographs.
But I remember
That I was looking right ahead,
With my eyes wide open,
As if I could see
What was coming.
What had already come
And placed itself between us,
In my father’s light yellow car.

Translated from Serbian by Dragan Purešić


Reality has occupied the space of poetry.
Crossed the river
Whose inaccessibility 
Has been described by tired swimmers.
Elements of survival are explored on the other bank.
The earth loses weight
In the eyes of successors.
Conversations are extinguished around the camp fires.
The air is becoming a conductive vowel.
Water spills over insecure hand palms.
Together with the traces of dreams
Born before the emergence
Into reality.

Translated from Serbian by Radmila Nastić

Above water

I felt we were sinking.
Water penetrated ship's foundations,
Water, oily, black water,
Heavy as the earth itself,
While we were leaving the deck
In unresolved dispute
Descending into the underworld,
Through water and mud,
Imagining the limits of the lower deck
As the limits of a terminated world.
And nobody would look up
To keep head over water
And examine the contours of the island,
Promise of a distant land.
I felt we were sinking
Something more powerful than water lured us into water.
Something as old as water.

Translated from Serbian by Radmila Nastić

City Limits

In order to know the limits of the city
And the limits of our lives,
We erected the tower.
Those to come,
As water comes,
Those to come to the city square
Using the air 
And the properties of water,
Fire, the unsurpassable fire,
And the fruits of the earth,
Will be guided by the tower
And in the fall of the city tower
Will recognize the hour of their victory.

Translated from Serbian by Radmila Nastić

Nearby Deities

Nearby deities no longer know stories
That could help us do
Daily and annual jobs,
Harvest the crops,
Gather the remaining visible shadows,
Find the source of ever colder water,
Make bread and on the bread
Purple from excitement,
Put salt tried between fingers,
Discover the nest in the forest,
Trout in the river,
Connect the moon with the high tide,
And the foot with low tide,
Then glands with other glands.
Nearby deities no longer know stories.

Translated from Serbian by Radmila Nastić


Not far away from the spot where
The town scooped up, finally withdrawn within itself,
Transforming itself into an easily imagined point
From which radiate the streets,
The big ones and small, noisy and filthy
Those peopled and those with echoes
Resounding because of loneliness,
The space is filled up with houses
Almost flattened to the ground
Without any urban height.
Carefully I scanned the space
Ingrowing into the sodden earth
So that I could jot down something.
But the longer I watched
The more I became aware of darkened areas
Say, the one behind the fence with chipped off green paint
Beyond which the view wears out.
It became clearer to me why it is impossible to describe
That which cannot accommodate itself into one view only
Nor into one life for that matter.
From there the shadows got through, 
The sounds ranging from concealed to heavy
Not heeding whether they will be heard by others,
The steps that bring no one to the open. 
I saw what could be seen.
I changed my position frequently so that I could test
The winding slope of the street.
Then I waved off with my hand.
Not only because of futility
But as a salute
To that that was seen first
And then gradually became a foreboding.
A haze of sleepy eyes.

Translated from Serbian by Djordje Krivokapic


In rough times
I saw scared people
Their look wasn’t relaxed
It was lying in wait for possible dangers.

But most often I saw
Reconciled people
Apathetic to any thought
Accustomed to any pain

Translated from Serbian by Djordje Krivokapic


Between the air raid siren’s two signals:
The one that transforms the fear of death
Into a fear of life
And the one that changes the fear of life
Into the fear you might become
Unknowable, even to yourself-
Between two departures always to the same shelter,
If in one shelter
The same man can enter twice-
While I was waiting for the bomb
To change nothing into nothing
I was reading
As if for the first time
The novels of Ivo Andric
Written during the war,
Which we had thought
Could be safely forgotten
Along with their contemporaries.

Time usefully used
Particularly because I didn’t know
Whether there was any time left for me.
Like shells stuck to an old ship,
As is said in The Travnik Chronicle.
I always thought
Old age creeps up on us —
Although there were always doubts
About all I believed,
And doubts
About all that I already doubted.

During the destruction
Of everything that had been created,
And everything the human hand had touched,
Even those things that couldn’t be seen-
Things were written about history
Which, despite its humble resources
Did as much evil as it could.

Writing during the war,
When I wouldn’t bet a nickel
On my life,
On history that had just passed,
The author was looking for shelter
Just as I
While reading
Went down into the shelter
Thinking about history transformed into a story
And life transformed into history.
Into what we are living now, my dear.

Translated from Serbian by  Djordje Krivokapic

An Elegy to Joseph Brodsky


When, together with John Donne,
Fell asleep all that the poet
Suspected and saw, started and put off,
All good intentions and rotten events of everyday life,
Movement and touch, the step of a child
Which, only yesterday, could have been described,
But now only a drowsiness
Among many dreams,
Objects left at
Places chosen randomly
Or pushed forward by an unexplained intention,
Words uttered with ease
And left for another instant
In the void-like space,
Or caught between
Purposeful lips,
After they fell asleep, too,
Both men and landscapes,
And the passions of all the people
In the forms of all landscapes,
Was that dream,
Begun when John Donne fell asleep,
The name of a sound,
Was it some new dream
Or was it the continuation of that old uncertainty,
The numbness before the morning drowsiness?


He also fell asleep.
The watermark sinks into the mud and into the dream.
The Empire that banished him has fallen asleep.
The Empire on whose strands
He wrote in two languages, is dreaming.

Such motion we have not called upon.
Of the sealing wax grated from
The seal of the Empire
Some remained under the nails
As a trace of all that strain.

All the people are sleepy.
In all languages
The words speed up
Before they become a murmur.
Dream is the time of absence.


What do we do with a dream
That cannot to be retold to anyone?
If by it experience will not be inhabited,
If by it life is not held up
To be started anew?

Simply, it is a dream.
And to be in a dream means to be displaced.

What can one do with such a dream?
What can one do with his own drowsiness?
In the dispersed light
Or in the reduced light.
It doesn’t matter, it really doesn’t matter.

Translated from Serbian by Djordje Krivokapic

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