Call for applications – Traduki residencies for writers, translators, and publishing professionals

Traduki has published a new call for residencies. Eligible applicants are writers, translators and book professionals from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Romania, Serbia and Slovenia. Deadline for submitting applications is April 17, 2022.

For the second half of 2022, residencies are available in 10 cities in Southeast Europe: Belgrade, Bucharest, Cetinje, Novo Mesto, Prishtina, Sarajevo, Skopje, Sofia, Split and Tirana for the duration of 2–6 weeks. Fellowships cover travel costs, accommodation in a fully furnished writers’ apartment as well as subsistence of 250 € per week.

You can apply for translation residencies, writing residencies, interdisciplinary cooperation residencies, practical exchange residencies, research trips and virtual residencies; each with their own specifics.

Selected candidates will be informed no later than May 15th, 2022.

For more information, application guidelines, and application form, visit Traduki’s website.

Stanka Hrastelj

Stanka Hrastelj

Stanka Hrastelj (1975, Slovenia) has published two books of poetry and two novels. For her poetry she was named Best Young Poet at the 2001 Urška Poetry Festival, was shortlisted for the Jenko Award for best poetry collection, and was given the title of Poetry Knight at a poetry tournament for best unpublished poem. In 2012 she won the Modra Ptica Award for her debut novel. Some of Hrastelj’s poems are marked by stark motifs dealing with subjects such as illness, both physical and mental, as well as suicide, issues that still remain taboo in our society and are seldom given literary treatment. Hrastelj believes fostering interest in such subjects could help bring about important positive changes in our understanding of stigmatised subjects such as abortion, suicide, dementia, and old age. Hrastelj also translates Croatian and Serbian poetry and owns a pottery studio.

 

 

Stanka Hrastelj, First Lady
(Mladinska knjiga, 2018)

an excerpt from the novel
translated from the Slovene
by Gregor Timothy Čeh

1. A girl from the provinces

She left home young, she had her reasons, she married young to some high-ranking army guy and ran away to the capital. The wedding was unconventional, local traditions bored her, so predictable – drunken wedding guests, come knocking with the groom at the bride’s door, saying, we have a beautiful flower here, but no vase to put it in, apparently you have one here that’s just right for our bloom, go on, have a look, so the bride’s guests send an old woman to the door, oooh, come on, this one is all wrinkled and stooped, too old for our young fellow, don’t you have anyone younger?, then they stand a young girl outside the door, come on, this one has only just been weaned off her mother’s milk, this won’t do, send us another, and they eventually bring to the door the bride in a lavish, mandatory white wedding dress, the men’s eyes twinkle as they drool, wine flows freely, they all go off to the registry (stopped on the way by the šranga, a roadblock set up by the villagers, demanding a fee for the beauty from their parish, money they will drink away), from the registrar they go on to the altar, from the altar under the shower of rice, tears smudge makeups, then the inn with all the guests, cutting the cake, tossing the bouquet, and a variety of perverse wedding games until the cockerels begin to crow, then some sour soup, and off home – this kind of scenario simply wasn’t what she wanted, and Uriah didn’t care anyway. 

2. Upright posture

The pavement was classically narrow, two could walk side by side without problems, three was impossible. She was walking in an east-west direction and two young men deep in conversation were coming the opposite way. At the moment they met, neither of them moved out of the way and she, the woman, had to step off the pavement. This upset her greatly. She thought about it, analysed the situation, and realised that it was indeed true that the small town where she used to live was almost a ghost town and one rarely met anyone in the street (inexperience of how to react in the event of meeting someone at a narrow spot) and that it was also partly her fault because she doesn’t know how to hold her body in such a posture that others would move out of her way. The key to a commanding body stance is the small of the back, the upright body a vertical line, allowing a flow of communication between the heavens and earth, the eyes forming the horizontal, a determined look.

She continued walking upright. Two others came in the opposite direction. Her gaze straight, as if not picking up on her surroundings, fixed somewhere far ahead, at the level of the horizon, slightly above them, and she smiled lightly to herself, as if her thoughts are with something that is going her way. It worked, they began moving out of the way. 

3. A view on neatness

Uriah watched her, naked, smooth, perfect, and asked whether the hair in her armpits was normally thick or thin, black or golden, I mean, if you didn’t shave.What a question, she smiled. There wasn’t a single period in her life when she had not shaved her armpits, not even when she had infectious mononucleosis and a temperature of thirty-nine. Well, I’m asking because… do you remember that black-and-white photo of Madonna naked, with hair in the groin and her armpits, remember? All bushy, real sexy.

Bathsheba remembered the black-and-white nudes, not at all attractive, plainly simply an unkempt woman, not at all sexy.

4. Concern for the future

A student party a few years ago when her friend from secondary school visited her. When the ash fell off her school friend’s cigarette of truth and the others at the party began showering the girl with questions about all kinds of experiences, she lied but only slightly, more exaggerating the truth to present it in a better light. Yes, she will never forget what it was like the first time, I admit, we were a little drunk, she liked him, all the other girls fancied him but he danced with her, he kissed her on the neck, he led her away by the hand and it was all surprisingly spontaneous and quite different from expectations, and although it bloody hurt, said the friend, it was divinely beautiful, she didn’t mention that he pushed her head in front of his cock in the parking lot, or how the gravel hurt her knees, how he dictated what was for her a far too rapid pace with his hand and slapped her across the face when she didn’t swallow, or that he then offered her to a friend who happened to come and take a leak, watched them and cheered him along, and that her entire body hurt afterwards, and that, ripped and bleeding she hid in the bushes and waited for Bathsheba to appear from the log cabin, Bathsheba the fortress, Bathsheba the friend who would take her home and not ask any questions and never say a word to anyone about it. 

When Bathsheba’s ash fell and it was her turn to answer questions, she lied, but only a little, meaning she barely told them anything, appearing a little embarrassed and inexperienced, what business of theirs are her intimate moments. Bathsheba had a firm grip on everything, she was thinking about tomorrow, the day after and well beyond.

5. Enthusiastic about the theatre

He said, we’re going out for a beer with the guys, come along. She said, you went for a beer on Tuesday, you went for a beer yesterday, let’s go to the theatre today. And he said, oh, come on, not the theatre. She said, why not? He said that theatre was boring. She begged to disagree. He said he had tired of theatres even at school because they were taken to see The Magic Flute every year. She said that that’s an opera. He said it’s all the same. She said that it isn’t quite the same and that she would like to go and see Crime on Goat Island. He said that all Russians, Tolstoy included, are wrist-slashingly morbid and long-winded.

6. Uriah leaves for the battlefront

Saying goodbye was brief. If we made too much of an issue of it, they were silent, it would be like saying goodbye for the last time, but going to the battlefront can be just a trip from which you return decorated and unscathed – although the Grim Reaper constantly breathes down the soldiers’ necks. Bye – God bless – take care. One way or the other, we’ll see each other in a few weeks anyway. (They hoped not the other.)

7. View on comfort

When I think what kind of bed I slept in all those years, she said, satisfied that she can turn and stretch out as much as she wishes without being in danger of falling onto the floor. Uriah, well-built and tall as he is, had had the huge bed made specially for him, long enough to lay on it stretched out, and wide enough that, if he so fancied, he could also sleep across its width, and when he told the carpenter the size he wanted, he also said know what, make me one of those with a canopy. The carpenter made what was ordered. To her this was a dream item of furniture (apart from the bedding and the curtains, she immediately bought new ones), with everything else the lack of a woman’s touch, as they used to say, was pretty obvious, it lacked an aesthete who would insist on putting things in order and harmony, something she shined at. 

Poor Uriah, she sighed after she had been waking up alone for a number of consecutive mornings, he has such a large and comfortable bed and so rarely sleeps in it. Uriah also occasionally snorted with exasperation after waking up morning after morning on the hard bed in the military camp, swollen with mosquito and other bug bites, pulling on his dusty and blood-splattered uniform, brushing his boots, shaving his stubble, straightening up and buttoning up to his neck so he looked tip-top, calling out to the reflection in the shard of mirror he was using, Potentia est imperare orbi universo, clicking his heels and stepping out of his tent into a new day, towards new victories.

8. “I could have been…”

She unrolled the awning, winding the crank handle, and looked at the pale palms of her hands (not pale in the sense of pale as death but pale in a noble sort of way: Bathsheba’s complexion was aristocratically pale), the backs of her left and right hands moving each in their own circle, one slightly higher than the other, the same axel, turning in opposite directions, the crank handle extended another metre up to the top where the hook was attached to the horizontal roller tube with the waxed canvas wound around it. She unrolled it in the morning (her tiny hands evenly turning in opposite directions), this was a south-facing balcony, now, in the late afternoon, she was winding it back up, getting rid of the shade. How fascinating, she whispered to herself, barely moving her lips, how very fascinating indeed: horizontal turns, the crank, vertical turns and vice versa, immediate effect, the canvas opens or closes, isn’t this crazy?! Were I a child now, had I been able as a child to move shadows by winding a handle, I would have surely been so excited by this that I would have wanted to become an engineer or a mechanic, or something like that, and I would have become one too, but now, well…

The sun had not quite set yet, there was still half of it left, tinting the evening with a honey-coloured light, Bathsheba’s pale face appeared soft, it was soft, and dreamy, and gentle, until the sun set completely. (Over the Hills and Far Away.) 

9. Completing her studies

The graduation ceremony coincided nicely with her husband’s leave. After the event at the university they all went for lunch together, the young couple, Bathsheba’s parents, Bathsheba’s friend from school. In the evening her friend commented, well, your guy can certainly hold his booze!

10. Problems with limescale

She did a number two, wanted to flush, but pressed the handle in vain, the water just wouldn’t flow and the turd laughed mockingly at her from the bottom of the toilet bowl. What luck that Uriah happens to be at home on leave for a few days, she ran off to find him after filling a plastic basin with water and pouring it down the toilet, cleaning the bowl with the brush and pouring another basin full of water down it, Uriah, go and check what’s wrong, perhaps you can fix it? He put down the remote, stood up from the sofa, and said, no problems. After fiddling around with the tank for a few minutes, he announced that it was all sorted. But the following evening the water once again didn’t flush away the faeces. Uriah, it’s playing up again, can you take another look? Oh, dear, limescale, shit to sort out, will look at it tomorrow, I’ve arranged to go out with my mates now, would you like to come along?

Half an hour later he was tilting his glass. Bathsheba stayed at home, donned a pair of rubber gloves, armed herself with a plastic bottle of spirit vinegar and a packet of bicarbonate of soda, took the lid off the tank and cleaned and fixed it, the same way she had always seen her mother do it, and, while she was at it, she also scrubbed the bath, the sink and the tiles, then she found a documentary about Bulgarkov on YouTube and watched it. During the closing credits she sighed, what a life, such highs and such lows, unbelievable! It affected her and she knew that she would be unable to sleep straight away, so she prepared a bath with rosemary oil, lay in the hot water and indulged in the scent and warmth. Just as she was getting out of the bath Uriah returned from the pub, desperate to use the loo, rushed into the bathroom without closing the front or any other door, sat on the toilet and bleary-eyed watched his naked and wet wife, and dismissed her with I’d love to, but sorry, I can’t. 

At that moment the gentle scent of rosemary in the bathroom was overpowered by a different odour and the flush worked flawlessly long after.

11. Doubting the correctness of her decision

A few months later she was looking at the photos from her honeymoon, wondering whether she had made the right decision or not. Pros: she no longer lived with her parents, no longer lived in the provinces that are rather tohu wa-bohu, but in the centre of town, right next to the royal palace, more independent than ever, more free than ever. Cons: Uriah is never home and when he is he leaves his sweaty socks everywhere, doesn’t wash much, and pays her little attention. To him she is simply an ordinary partner. And what have I achieved in doing so, she said, same pattern as mother: the old man non-stop at work and whenever he was home he was grumpy, his phone ringing all the time, how is my life different?

12. Bathsheba’s talent

She became terribly interested in Nikola Tesla, exceedingly so. She wanted to know everything about his life and work, wanted, though she wouldn’t admit this, to also discover within herself the source of geniality, for she had read about his childhood, how as a three-year-old he was stroking a cat one dark stormy night, its fur producing a crackling shower of sparks and an aura of light as he did so, and – pff – one of the sparks jumped, igniting the flame, giving birth to his passion, oh, Nikica, there is no turning back. In fact she hoped that there had been some kind of similarly magnificent and fateful gesture in her own childhood too. She tried to jog her memory, searched and searched but there was nothing similar she could think of. The closest was when she had once taken a bicycle totally apart and then reassembled it – everything fitted, everything functioned like before, but she was left with five screws, washers and nuts (Father gave her a spanking), surely that wasn’t it, so she resigned herself to perhaps at least catching a fragment of the genius by researching the life and work of Nikola Tesla, at least that. 

All her efforts and deep searches within were in vain, Bathsheba was no genius and no innovator, in fact she wasn’t even a particularly technical person. She did have other talents, however. 

13. A job interview

She was included on the shortlist but wasn’t the best candidate, this much she knew, two others had much better references, the other four candidates weren’t really a threat. Then she happened to get an exceptional opportunity because the director decided that the second part of the interview would be an informal chat over coffee somewhere in town. He did not ask questions about the job, he wanted to get to know them in a more personal atmosphere. He was open and jolly and the candidates were also witty and pleasant, they ordered and in an apparently relaxed manner chatted about their spare-time passions. Ms Internationalexperience wore a decent sporty-elegant dress and regularly organised top culinary sessions at her house, Mr Theyrefighingoverme could not imagine life without golf and collects expensive watches, Bathsheba said she was consistent, reliable, liked good stories and a good game. In the meantime, the modern gourmet received a phone call from her nanny that her kid was throwing up, begging her to come home because he wants his mummy, and someone hit the golfer’s car, setting off the alarm, so he had to, I apologise, leave the table, and she was left alone with the director, the floor was hers and Bathsheba knew how to take an opportunity. 

And she was satisfied that she had called and paid the people she had, very satisfied.

14. Bathsheba starts work

She liked her job. She was satisfied with the pay.

15. View on the state of her relationship

On the underground a young couple sat opposite her, the girl looked like a fairy, tiny, sweet face and almond eyes, the boy’s hair, eyebrows, and especially Greek profile reminded her of the guy from Twilight Saga. They were holding hands, in fact the girl was clinging onto him and he appeared to be sulking, didn’t say a word, while the girl kept looking towards him, as if checking to see if he is alright, or trying to catch his gaze but he persistently stared at his sneakers. There was a bitter aura about them, as if they had fought or their relationship was hanging from a thread, then they got off the train. Their place was taken up by another young couple, she was blonde, he a redhead, they chatted all the time, laughed, touched each other, their eyes twinkling as their glances shot all over the place, each other and the entire carriage, an air of brightness radiated from them. Hmm, Bathsheba thought to herself, we’re somewhere in between.

16. Bathsheba meets the king

She had read somewhere that they were putting up an opera by Debussy in Barcelona, directed by Robert Wilson, and she found a cheap flight, a fairly comfortable hotel, and went alone to the Gran Teatre del Liceu to watch Wilson’s wonder. To begin with she found it excruciating (slow and abstruse) but then she became used to it and was soon enjoying it, returning home enthusiastic with her batteries recharged. 

A while later she was chatting in a coffee shop in town with a colleague from another department who ranted and raved about the theatre director Tomaž Pandur, but Bathsheba said that she too used to find him original but that she had wondered recently whether too much of his inspiration might not be coming from another giant. The discussion was constructive and without bile or spite, a serious debate, in as much as any debate over an afternoon coffee can be serious, and eavesdropping behind them was a gallant gentleman, they could see only his back, then he got up, bowed slightly to the ladies, paid for their coffees and left. They asked the waiter who the kind stranger was and he whispered lightly, King David, incognito, gently touching his lips with his index finger that this was a secret, and they nodded.

17. A personal question

Her friend from school asked her whether her husband was a good lover and whether the passion of her honeymoon has waned at all. Oh yes, definitely, Bathsheba answered the second question pretending she was answering the first.

18. Bathsheba is enraptured

King David in person… The very idea!

19. Bathsheba handles crisis situations

She heard shrieks from the corridor and went to see what was going on. Her colleague was waving about with her arms, dancing around, hopping as if she had lost her mind because she had found a hornet on the copier and it was now buzzing around her head, wanted to crawl into her mouth and sting her, making her suffocate, the terrible, terrible hornet. 

An entire squad came to watch the scene and help yell and wave their arms. Bathsheba stayed cool as a cucumber, went to get a glass from the office kitchen and when the beast landed on the wall she covered it with the glass, put a sheet of paper under it, stepped to the window, they opened it and everyone jumped out of the way, Bathsheba freed the animal, though before doing so it did cross her mind that she could squash it in her hand, the way you walk across a bridge and for a brief moment think you might jump, nothing serious. 

20. Close friendship

Apart from her friend from secondary school, Bathsheba didn’t keep in regular touch with anyone from her previous life, the place she used to live in, not counting the occasional courtesy phone call to her mother because mother was just mother, was and would be, and the longer they were apart, the better for the both of them since living under the same roof they had simply got on each other’s nerves every day.

They were chalk and cheese, Bathsheba and her school friend, but what both excited and annoyed her was that she always and regularly brought her down to earth (roughly and in a healthy way), and now, miles apart, she lacked this, not that she missed it, it was just that she was used to it. Without you, I’d get carried away, she had once admitted, truly carried away. They mostly communicated via Skype, occasionally Bathsheba managed to persuade her to visit the city and they wandered around together.

21. Bathsheba’s clear vision

If Anne Boleyn managed it and even Theodora managed it, I shall manage it too. These words formed on Bathsheba’s ruby lips one fine day in May as she sat on the balcony, basking in the morning sun, listening to dark Mahler, feeling all dark within.

22. Bathsheba’s persistence

Crush a handful of lovage leaves with your fingers and add to the bath. Bathsheba observed the ancient, modern and shrewd advice. Lovage, a fistful in the bath, regularly and consistently, lovage, Levisticum, ljupčac, luštrek, Liebstöckel, lubczyk and so on.

She undressed at the window, just in case, lights on and blinds up, and from time to time she stepped out into the pale darkness of the balcony in her transparent T-shirt and without any panties. 

She often left home and returned soon in order to be seen in the street, holding reading material under her arm, so it would be obvious that she reads a lot, often reaching for giants of classical literature, contemporary writing and essays in the humanities, a determined woman, beautiful, well-read, a woman of vision.

Branka Selaković

Branka Selaković

Branka Selaković (1985, Serbia) writes poetry, prose, and essays. She has published four novels and a book of poetry. She received the 2016 Miroslav Dereta Award for best novel, the Nušić Award for best satirical story, the Zlatna Plaketa Award, and the Sveti Sava Best Essay Award. She has worked as a philosophy teacher, as well as a journalist for Al Jazeera Balkans.

 


 

 

 

 

Branka Selakovic

 

Coordinates

 

Dear Earnest,

I know you don’t like it when I call you by your name, your cheeks blush out of a sudden and sparks are shining from your mother of pearl colored eyes. Calling you by your name is reserved for extended family members, pub acquaintances and the postman who regularly brings you bills, flyers from local home appliance services, food delivery, magazines, and letters from enamored students of your creative course. What you expect from me is an ornate whisper of silky words in your ear. Ery, Neste, Sweetie, Darling, Sweetheart, Angel, Honey, Pear, My one and only…I gave you a promise that I will as soon as I thread on an unknown land and avoid excessive emotionality and analyze the societies I am a part of. I will tell you about the paintings I see, unusual phenomena, fashion, weather and scents. Is that all right with you? We have not defined everything, and nothing is definite with you writers. Your words are stretchy, multi-layered and may swallow. I was able to immerse myself in your long descriptions of vineyards, flowering branches, and then slip into the jaws of dramatic worlds, the continuum of search, mental elements, and explosions that blow muscles into the air. And you were able to wrap love songs in black canvases and place them in ossuaries from which I ran all my life. I’ll be fine. Once. It would be easier for us to see each other via Skype, even without a single spoken word, but you persistently refuse to keep up with the digital age in which we live.

I don’t have daylight in the room on the third floor of the dilapidated building. There is a window all right, but instead of a view of a park, a kiosk with delicious fast food, I look at a dark gray wall engraved with initials and dates. I touch the outside wall of someone’s room with my hand and imaging that person doing the same. The mattress on which I put my tired and worried thoughts memorized the large, heavy body of the previous tenant. I lie in the imprint of an unknown person and I am trying to adjust to the depression. This can be a good topic for your course participants. I have a lamp under whose warm light I write the letters. Next time I will buy a perfume of playful drops so to spray the envelope, and who knows, maybe there is fragrant paper in bookstores if anyone writes them anymore.

 

♥ S.

 

 

My dear,

Tonight I read about a little Italian town nestled among rocks. There is a beautiful sandy beach, I saw on the booklet left in the public toilet. I would like the ship of destiny to stuck us there, at least for a while. (Stuck, read well. My ports have always been forcibly chosen. Someone else decided for me. Might is right. I think of folk wisdom. How many life lessons in short sentences.) I also read about a family living in cold Siberia, self-sustaining, without contact with the outside world. The short text was accompanied by a photo. As if they came out of Tolstoy’s novels. This is the exact image the writer gave in his descriptions. Siberia is an endless expanse of freedom that increases and multiplies the deeper you go. The building I live in is full of people from the Eastern Bloc. The hallways smell of borscht. The neighbor, Aglaja from Moscow, gave me a bowl full of cooked vegetables. More or less, artists are housed in the building. Some ran for fame, promised engagements, adventure, love, poverty, bans and political parties. When a conversation about politics and war begins, I withdraw, and they engage in verbal and physical battles, everyone proving the rightness of their view. Then, with broken noses, they kiss, toast and swear politicians, sons of bitches, their semen, and curse. The Slaves have a web of curses that make you shiver. When everything calms down in the hallways, the quick paws of rats echo.

I visit galleries and bookstores. I buy damaged books at a discount. A cute Hindu gave me some encyclopedias. I showed the point on the globed where I came from. He hugged me and told me he felt my pain. I cried briefly and told him that I was over it yet. Of course, I lied.

 

The weeping S.

 

Eternity,

 

There was a program on television for some thousands-year-old tree. It doesn’t say anything about the tree but about the people who pass under it.

When I draw outlines in the air, sometimes a mouth twists in an arc that might look like a smile, greeting the character I saw in the shape of a mold, breaking shadows on the table, in the layout of the parquet floor, on the improper coating thick layer varnish. A squirrel is hiding at the closet door. There is a new dress in the closet. I bought it from a sold painting, in fact from a sold sketch. Sitting in front of Jorge’s used bicycle shop (I was telling you about him, a Mexican who has no idea where the Balcans are, and is not even sure if Europe exists or is it another communist conspiracy), I was drawing lines in a sketchbook, trying to catch the scene on the opposite side of the street. A five maybe six years old boy sitting on the sidewalk crumbling a piece of bread to birds. A young woman passing peeks into the work and offered six dollars for it. Jorge told me I had no idea about business. He’s probably right, but I had a good portion of wings for lunch and bought a flower-sprinkled dress at a thrift store that I wore for my first time visit to Central Park. It wiped out the trees. When I close my eyes, the scents remind me of my childhood.

I switched the room. The owner of the building liked I was quiet, meticulous and that I paint. The rest he despises, at least he says so, he does not tolerate their accent, music, arguing in the hallways, cooking smells, children crying, but he is not immune to dollars. I will have to make a portrait of his family. Jorge told me that I had no idea for negotiating.

 

Both yours and mine S.

 

Love,

 

I’m drinking tea and I’m thinking of you. I blow into the liquid, impatient to take a sip, and then I burn my tongue. The same thing every morning all over again, you told me a hundred times to drink a glass of water immediately after brushing my teeth, feed the cells, and only then to make tea or coffee, make the bed and iron the wardrobe. And, that wardrobe. I never took a day to iron everything I washed the previous weekend and hang it on hangers so that I don’t have to go out just before leaving the house. It would be nice to have those dressing rooms and a sofa in the middle. It doesn’t matter, I won’t talk about home decoration, lack of space and cheap subtenant rooms. I don’t know if I told you I portrayed the owner of the building family and his mother’s poodle separately, so he was generous to me when Aglaia and her husband moved out. I got their studio for the same sum I paid for the room. Jorge shook his head, but I was proud of myself. This is progress, but I am afraid to rejoice. (Don’t laugh hard, you’ll cry, my grandmother said.) I was terrified that everything could disappear in an instant. One building, the entrance of which I looked at, watching people rushing in and out every hour, was demolished. I don’t know when the big machines got on the terrain and, like in a child’s game, knocked it down easily as if it were made of Lego bricks. An excavator bucket (If that big machine is called) crushed someone’s memories, dreams, steps, tears, history and geography of life and dug a hole in which they poured a lot of concrete and claws of reinforcement protruded from it. All in one day. I often feel disoriented. I just pick an object, a shop or a corner, as a landmark and I remember well the number of steps, the color of the façade, the furrow on the asphalt, the traffic sign, and the next day it is gone. My sense of smell still serves me well and I smell the way back.

Today I was invited by an organization that helps young people in Queens. They would like me to hold a two-week painting course. I was also in a gallery. The woman to whom I handed over the material nodded at everything I said. She measured me from head to toe and boldly asked me if I was a terrorist.

Is the soul of the world or only my eyes do not see the colors? Say I it‘s up to me! It better be up to me.

Worried S.

 

 

Ern,

 

At first, had the feeling that I was tapping into a place, and then I started to hit the ground harder. I’m still sinking, even though I woke up. I’m trying to call out for you, you hear me and you’d give me a hand, but you don’t understand what I’m talking about and you’re giving me a hand, but you don’t understand what I’m talking about and you’re not fast enough. I’m struggling for breath, my throat constricts. They took me away. I have never been in a hole, and now I am a hole full of monsters. I was taken away. I did not object. They put me in a truck and…why am I in a hole now despite everything I did to prevent it from happening? Why didn’t you come with me? Why didn’t you want to marry me? I’m not good enough? I’m not smart enough? Am I not pretty enough? I’m not in the coordinate system written for you with your origin? Fuck you, Ernest! Fuck you! At the end of the day, no one cares about you. People are only good if they need you, as long as you don’t threaten them. They pull the people aside. People want to grab the colors, not to share your grayness.

“Suffering is one very long moment. We cannot divide it by seasons. We can only record its moods and chronicle their return. With us, time itself does not progress. It revolves. It seems to circle round one center of pain“, this was written by Oscar Wilde in a hotel room in glittering Paris. I could never say that this is a city where people are dying. He wants, loves, deceives, drives you crazy yes, but to be a proper dining place …no. No one is allowed to die in Paris. I admire the proud and cold people who can’t move a grain of emotion in their intentions. I stand between two worlds: the imitation of cold-bloodedness and fiery death. Everything is a demonic beauty that intoxicates. My civil conscience forces me to dress decently, to comb my hair, to pay tribute, and to throw garbage in the right place for that. My civic conscience does not allow me to pull the trigger.

Ernest, maybe death is in color?

Frightened S.

 

Hi E.,

 

I will call this letter “Footages“. Let it be a stylistic exercise for a creative writing teacher.

 

Footages

 

Imagine your life being a movie. At this point, the closing ending credits with the list of characters, assistant cameraman, director of photography, screenwriter, driver, costume designer or sponsors are of no importance. The quality of the camera is of no importance nor the talent of the one who holds it. Be it a black and white film whose shots change following the narrator’s story, in this case, me, which the heroes justify with their expressive gestures and occasional scenes of characteristic activities. There is a five-second pause between the footage that tells one story until the next. Then the canvas is completely black. The spectator’s breathing and the work of someone’s intestines can be heard in the hall. One, two, three, four, five, and exactly half the time until the next issue, a new frame follows, a new character is introduced. The audience continues to nibble on chips, seeds, popcorn, churros. Sacrilege of a masterpiece, many would think, but it is a clear division between celluloid tape, long-dead filmmakers, and current life players that someone is already putting in the frame, and they do not know and do not care what will look lie on the big screen. Each film has a screenplay and a screenwriter who has written down some basic ideas. Each idea has a germ that was sown by some event or feeling. Each event or feeling involves the movement of thoughts. It all has its frame. Millions of recorded frames in a blink. With death, the footage doesn’t stop. A shot with your dead body surrounded with the family, someone is crying, screaming or there are only the gravediggers and a priest in the cemetery. They nail down the casket with nails and throw layers of soil. Someone pays attention to the shovels, someone to the face of the gravedigger who lives frames and they are certainly more important than your frame, because you are the thousand one he buried in his long career. A frame on the monument, name and surname, year of birth and death. You got out of the frame for someone, and you got into the frame for someone else. A frame on the process of decay. A worm comes out of decaying tissues in close-up. Imagine five hundred years have passed and all who know you and those who knew you have died. From the clear sky lightning strikes the tree above your tombstone, which caught the moss, the tree falls and breaks the tombstone. Here, you are again the star of the active frame. A public utility is coming (such utility will certainly exist), pathologists are also coming, digging up bones, taking them to the institute, examining them. You are a mammoth in the eyes of scientists and in the eyes of the observers of the frames they are a part of. You are on display in a museum display case. Students from Memphis, New Orleans, Vladivostok, Kyiv, Zenica, Uzice, Split, Belgrade or Ljubljana come in organized tours to observe the unusual forehead bone. There are legends about you. You are a part of the cultural heritage. The frame is always there. You’re always in focus. Am I lying? Am I a voyeur? Yes, making love, caring for intimate parts of the body, releasing gases, nose picking, and smelling your armpits are in the frame as well.

Your life is a one-shot film, but only to you and God, if you believe in it, if not you and the cosmos or to you and the energy. For others, the film is shown from a mosaic of shots because their attention is not constantly on you. You intertwine… Yes, only He sees a one-shot film. You get in and out of each other’s shots, but don’t worry, each moment is archived. It feels good to be the lead actor, no matter how long the film lasts, isn’t it? Don’t be ashamed. It’s nothing I’ve never seen before. Do you know how many fellacios will happen on Earth in just one minute? Yes, I saw you brought your hand closer to your mother’s back, wanting to push her out of the window. Then one camera was on your irregular heartbeats, another on a drop of sweat that poured lightly down your forehead, a third on agitated thoughts, a fourth on a trembling hand a fifth on your eyes, no to mention cameras aimed at your mother. Such moments are very tense. Life is an unnamed genre or better genre over genres, a meta-genre. Did I upset you? Yes, your mother saw it in the reflection on the glass beads that hung on the Dream catcher, remember?

P.S. I wrote this one evening while waiting for Aglaia. She was late. She probably was busy shopping for half an honorarium to celebrate her new engagement. I didn’t know you could have a private theater here. Her compatriot hired a troupe that occasionally gathers and performs plays by young drama writers. Elderly emigrants are very cordial in helping the work of such ensembles, but they are expecting proven pieces about the great homeland on the stage. She adapted the text. The story of a married couple of expelled, poor, misunderstood artists in a distant, cruel world is now a happy story about a princely couple on a vacation.

P.P.S. The frame is on you. The narrator goes: “Seated in the soft sofa, he loved to sit in after dinner and read the daily newspapers, novel biographies and epistolary novels, he ran onto an interesting photo. He didn’t understand what it said because the language of the country the newspaper originated was unfamiliar to him, but he looked at carefully the sculpture of an elephant carrying the globe on his back. There was the artist’s signature on the rare leg. One letter, S. He looked at the pile of letters at the table. He sied deeply and turned off the lamp.“

 

Your perspective artist and maybe college S.

 

My dear,

 

Today colors seeped through the leaves on the cheeks of the girl reaching her arms to the sky while laughing loudly at the clouds hung on the tips of the branches. I wanted to look at her much longer, so to remember every child’s movement, every crease of her dress, the vitrages of her lacy socks, by I didn’t dare. I didn’t want to cause any doubt at the mother seating on a bench a few steps away. You can easily find yourself in jail for that here.

You didn’t congratulate me when I sold my first painting. Jorge says that there will be more orders, family portraits, pets and former girlfriends, but in between, I paint for myself. I wrote an email to the consulate. No reply so far, but I believe they will answer. Put me on disposal. They are probably fucking tired of emigrants (O, how I started swearing!)

I spend much time with Aglaia, who decided to leave her husband because he wants to come back to Russia. She doesn’t want that. She is adapted well. I think she’s in an emotional relationship with the main actor of her play. They want me to paint the scenography.

Jorge’s wife gave birth. He got a third son, although he wanted a daughter. He says that it’s better to have female children than males. Female children bring to the house, mail only take away and make damage.

Everyone is talking about the economic crisis. They fear hunger, increased crime, immigration. Impatience is often felt in the streets. You came to take our jobs and women from us! A man shouted at the entrance of the subway. It wasn’t the first time for me to hear that. It just sounded different in a foreign language but hurts the same nevertheless. They have no idea what inflation and bullet whistling are.

Sometimes I write. Here is a short story I called “Bodies“. I don’t have a copy, I didn’t type it on the computer. Keep it for me. Feel the bodies of the distant world. We touch.

 

Bodies

 

Bodies fold, spread, pray, forgive, challenge. Bodies would kiss and cuddle. Bodies would lie, to trick, outplay, mistify. Bodies run away. Bodies turn into fornication. Bodies bring life into the world. Bodies fight. Bodies are desired. Bodies are naked. Wet. Bodies yearn for life. Bodies are late, repent, and would bring back time. Bodies do drugs, scribble, stigmata, sag, butcher, sell themselves, love, rape. Bodies are a coffin of divine riches and cosmic dust with which we can sow small goddesses and spread love. Bodies make love with the screens. They take parts of the body and send them in small notes to businessmen who masturbate on their organs and the organs in the letters they receive. They touch themselves while checking online sites with images of young bodies in passion. Creating illusion is imperative! Creators of laughter, extractors of wise verses of great authors. Bodies flicker, disintegrate, and take no action. The body can be human, geometric, political…The body flies, falls, floats, clamps, wimps, limps, runs, jumps, plays…It is caressed, discouraged, pimpled, incompetent, twisted, dead, broken, chopped, static, statistic, pierced, engraved, colored, naked, baked, tortured, merry, cunny, hung, beaten, run over, burned, kissed, loved, praised, cast, born, embodied, mummified, nailed, tied, deluded, torn, in love, naked, stigmatized, exploited, neglected, nurtured, passionate, goluptious… Bodies move through the city. Bodies touch, meet, kill, torment, love, desire, kiss, hug. The body is armor, a shield, an advertisement. The body is flesh and skin. The body is meat. The body is food. The body is a temple. The body is not enough.

 

 

My body is yours.

S.

 

My love,

 

I’m happy! I got in touch with my high school friends who have been living here for a long time. Thanks to Valeria (I never told anything about her, because I haven’t hung out with her so far), I will paint a mural at the entrance of a high school. Imagine?!

I’m moving. Again. Hm, you know how much I hate packing, but now there aren’t many problems, I have two suitcases. I temporarily leave the easel, brushes and pains with Jorge. He said he will sell them at the first opportunity. I don’t believe it.

The world is strange. Who would have thought that I am here, that all this is happening?

“Traveling is a useful thing, it tickles the imagination. Everything else is just disappointment and fatigue. Our journey is completely fictional. That’s where its strength comes from“, Celine wrote on the first page of his book “Journey to the End of the Night“. You must have read it years before?

P.S.We dance na, na, na, na …

 

 

 

♥ you.

Yours S.

 

Mr. E,

 

Did I offend you in some way so you haven’t answered in months? Ever since I told you that James agreed to represent me and that the interview with the two gallerists went more than well, you withdraw. I haven’t stopped thinking about you for a moment, about us. I want you by my side. I love your lips when they touch my shoulder. I love every white hair that has streaked your hair and small wrinkles between your eyes because you are constantly frowning. I only know that you laugh best with your eyes. In your eyes, the warmth of the world is gathered for me. You love me. That’s what you said when you escorted me to the airport. Was that a test? You wanted me to stay? You know, I’m tired of testing? In my wrinkles, in my eyes, behind my ear, on my heels, in the wardrobe, it says that I am not from here. Where do I belong to? Where was I born? The town is no longer called what it says on my birth certificate. My graves have been excavated, demolished, plowed. Do not exist. My dead are disturbed. Our dead would aminate all this. We came from somewhere. You remain my beacon. Whom? Couldn’t we build a life here? You blame me for not letting them bream my spine. You blame me for throwing the truth in everyone’s face before I stepped on the plane and slammed all the doors. The door to what? Which door was open to me? I have more work experience as a waitress than as a painter. I reluctantly changed so many cities, collective accommodations, schools, and then I curled up on your lap, but even that constantly eluded me. You could never stand by me. Yes…a long-established reputation, and in fact..You are a coward!

 

 

 

My Ernyce,

 

 

Sorry about the last letter. I didn’t even read it before I sent it. I’m tired of adjusting. I never had anything of my own. Everything was torn out of my misery. All this is a charity and this city, people, continent. I don’t know where to go.

 

I love you.

S.

 

 

Hi Erny,

 

It has been six months since I wrote you the letter informing you that I will have my first solo exhibition at a small gallery in Brooklyn. People from the consulate and several associations responded to my emails, promised collaboration and help. I may be naïve, but I’ll give them another chance. Maybe displaced like this, on foreign territory, we can do much more.

The gallery space was filled with well-known languages. The cacophony of the Balkans covered everything. Jorge was there with several of his relatives. His wife is pregnant again. Aglaia giggled with her new boyfriend. I drank champagne and stared at my spread canvases. I didn’t sell a single painting. James says no to despair, these are the first steps. I currently live in an apartment above the laundry room where I work. If someone looks me on the map, I’m here between 84th and 85th street. On weekends, I am a switchman in a modest cinema that plays animated films. During the day, mothers come with their children, and in the evening adults in the costumes of their favorite heroes. Sometimes I hear them masturbate.

I’d like you to contact me, at least by postcard. Don’t dedicate poems to me. I would break down to read your new book and recognize a part of myself in it. For me, it is not over yet because I belong to the kind of nomads who are persecuted by burden, in every place, every city, they make worlds, breath because they often run out of breath. I’m swallowing air. I see your face in the fold of shirts I meet in the subway, in a trace of color that inadvertently slipped on the floor, in the scrambled eggs I eat in the morning, in the reflection in the mirror. It’s been two years since I put my head on your chest and listened to your body noises. Couldn’t it be a little easier over time or the Balcans coordinates burn forever?

 

Forever Yours S.

 

Translated by Marija Sarevska-Todorovska

Sašo Ognenovski

Sašo Ognenovski

Sašo Ognenovski (1964, North Macedonia) has published three books of poetry, two books of plays for children, two plays for adults, and a novel, for which he received the Književno Pero Award. He has worked as an actor and a professor, writes literary criticism, and is the editor of the Macedonian online literary magazine Elementi.

 

 


 

 

 

Sasho Ognenovski

The Tour

excerpt from the novel

 

 

CHAPTER IV – THE STOLEN BALALAIKA

 

Natalia Nikolaevich Volkova slapped her fleshy hand on the carved mahogany table and threatened to spread her dominant alto widely.

“That balalaika will be found. This is where I’m the thinnest, and that is what my punishment will be for the one who dared to do such an act. The suffering of my family was enough. I had a veil over my eyes and allowed that balalaika that was owned by my great-grandfather to be listed as a prop of the theatre. And now on top of that someone stole it. No, this will not go unpunished. Fyodor Sevastopolovich Krajnitsky, look me in the eye.” Fyodor swallowed and looked with great fear at the People’s Actress of Russia and the current first actress of the New Komsomol Theatre in St. Petersburg, who when she took the balalaika at the rehearsal of the trilogy The Coast of Utopia by Tom Stoppard, concluded that it was a completely different balalaika bought from a store, and the one from her glorious Romanov family disappeared somewhere. “When the English can write about the famous Bakunin, then the real Russians will have to keep at least those things that are important to their history. What is all this? Everything is twisted! The lines I utter sound like I’m about to take a hot dog out of a basket at any moment. Come on, please. Immediately call Matryona Alexandrova to explain this repertoire move. I, Fyodor Sevastopolovich, had patience and did not dismiss this shitty project from the theatre’s repertoire, but the American who smells of menthol and says “wonderful” after every rehearsal, when we have not moved a finger, will not bring us world fame. Let’s us think for a moment and realize where we are going.”

“Well, let us see, what do you suggest?” The play has already started, there’s nothing to do. Money was spent and…”, Fyodor swallowed, and Natalia straightened up and looked at him contemptuously.

“First let’s find the balalaika, and then we’ll talk. I have a plan, but here, I give in and it’s costing me respect and tradition. And open the window. It stinks of cheap tobacco,” she said, slamming the door, while Fyodor Sevastopolovich smelled around him to check how poisoned the area was when knocking on the door routinely Anyutka appeared, the secretary who informed him that the Macedonian Theatre was due to arrive in St. Petersburg tonight. Fyodor slapped himself on forehead and panicked immediately.

“Is everything ready? In fact, nothing’s ready. And when do they arrive?” he asked, raising his anger at his co-workers. “Weeeell… I think tonight … yes, tonight around midnight,” the secretary said uncertainly, and Fyodor just sat down on the wide director’s armchair, sweating profusely. “Can I get you some tea?”, added the not very smart, but beautiful secretary, to which Fyodor responded by throwing at her The Idiot by Dostoevsky, the writer whose name he bore, and the rather thick novel stood on his right side, ready for negotiations as the next project. Anyutka skilfully evaded Fyodor Mikhailovich’s difficult novel and disappeared through the door. Fyodor lowered his head to the desk and after a few minutes he yelled: “Seryozhaaaaaa, Nikoljkaaaaaa, Ivaaaaan!!!” In less than a minute, Seryozha Nikitin, Nikolay Namusov and Ivan Kratkiy, who was the tallest of them, appeared before him. “The Macedonian group is coming iiiin…” the calculation of the hours while staring at the wristwatch raised his anger and despair even more: “in ten hours. I want them to be well accommodated and the theatre prepared for their play tomorrow.”

“You mean the day after tomorrow,” Seryozha corrected him, smiling bitterly. “We were turned down from the Sevastopol Hotel because of the unpaid bills from last fall when the theatre group from Tanzania came, so I’ll have to go to the Viy Hotel. I know we don’t want to go there, but that’s the only option.” They didn’t want to go to the Viy Hotel because the manager of that hotel was Fyodor’s political opponent and they shared an affair he didn’t want to talk about, let alone use their services. “Okay, there is one variant left, and that is to put them in a hotel a little further away – Priamukhino, but they’ll have to use the metro, etc. “Done,” Fyodor replied shortly. “Let them take a little ride on the subway. Something else? “Ivan replied that he would inform all the media today and that the press conference would be held the day after the show, but that… “All that today, right? And what have we been doing so far?” All three looked at the ceiling, and Fyodor just waved his two hands, saying through his teeth: “I want everything to be perfect by ten o’clock tonight, otherwise don’t come back to work.” The three organizers, who pretended to have done everything they said, went out the door and immediately set to work. Fyodor covered his face with both hands and sighed desperately. Then he took out a bottle of vodka from the bottom drawer and poured himself a small, wide glass. He drank it bottoms up and snorted angrily.

It was ghostly quiet on the bus, where even the steward no longer wanted to talk. All that could be heard was the quiet squeaking of the engine and the occasional snoring of the drunken Pande. Nobody slept. The fact that in ten days two of those with assigned roles from the striking “Hamlet” were gone seemed terrifying and Borjan was already forging a strike in his mind to end this tour which he maliciously thought was useless, but given that it offered to visit countries he would never afford, he offered no resistance, although, frankly, no one paid the slightest attention to his opinion, the Bulldog the least of all. “Now,” thought Borjan Sterling, whom his opponents called Bed Bug in their secret gossip, “is the right time for a coup.” To put an end to this useless madness that might cost us our lives and finally get on the right track.” He stared around his constrained colleagues and counted those who would stand by him, terrified, wondering who might be the next to be eaten by the wolf.

It was getting dark slowly, and Lindita, who had fallen asleep with a few sleeping pills, was awakened by the vibration of the phone. It was Pampurov. She immediately answered the phone and listened, saying only: “Good. Bye” to which Bozho startled, followed by Vule doing the same. Bozho and Lindita looked at each other in silence and she gave him a hint that later they would speak, accompanied by a movement of the hand which meant that everything would be sorted out, to which he muttered under his nose: “Well, everything should’ve been fine so far, but someone’s picking out my people. Who knows what will come out of this.” Vule swallowed and turned around just to show Bozho that he was here and that he was on the alert. The steward, disinterested in the group, waited for his term to end with his last trip to Russia, after which they would continue their flight to Beijing. He sighed, meaning: “Never again with you” and continued playing games on the phone. The least interested was the driver who sang Serbian folk songs routinely doing his job “strictly professionally.”

The ghostly atmosphere on the bus was similar to that of the Adams Family – ominous but life-giving. Entering Russian territory, all the characters from Shakespeare’s most famous tragedy began to come to life, and with them their bearers: Toci and Boci would just pop their heads to see what was happening and return to their cheerful and mysterious world, Eeeej played with the fingers of both her hands somnabulically speaking incoherent sentences, which indicated that she still somehow managed to smuggle light opiates that allowed her to go into dimensions unfamiliar to others, which in turn somehow adapted to the constantly fermented state of Pande who slept as always with one eye a bit open to be constantly in tune with everything happening around. Borjan and Bojan had already swapped places due to the quiet clash between Bed Bug and Bojan over winking with the beautiful Seda Gjungor in Istanbul, while Lavinia treating the young and cute Bojan motherly and patronizingly to avoid the tense atmosphere after Dimko and Filka vanished, began to discover some of his qualities that inflamed something she didn’t even believe in, and his presence somehow pleased her very much. At first he comforted him about the lost knife, telling him that it would be found somewhere and that when they arrive they’ll look for it “together.” She wondered if the young Bojan Shtrkovski, whom she hadn’t noticed before in the theatre corridors, considering him a hopeful child, could awaken that erotic Gorgon in her that some ten years ago was burning in the public space in Macedonia, where affairs with politicians and businessmen were her addition to every morning coffee in luxury hotels and on yachts on Lake Ohrid. She took a deep breath and smiled at her feeling that she had to admit has long since fallen asleep inside and now… it was time to wake it up. With that statement, she drew her palm into Shtrkovski’s palm and squeezed it hard, to which he turned and sweated a little, awakening the erotic fantasies he had towards her as a student while watching her in the naked scenes in some theatrical performances. It looks like they were already on the same wavelength. Somehow, the actor who played Laertes was staring at him all the time. He was always absentminded, and as such he caught Pande’s eye with the slightest thought that he might be the “still water running deep.” Isn’t it so? He will explain that at the next meeting with Bozho, but alone when Vule won’t be among them. This time Gundur and Bowie got tired of playing cards, which meant that they too were gripped by tension and lay on the back seats by the table staring at the ceiling. “It’s a lot of money… for sure… I left Tokmak and Anjar to wander around the theatre, and I gave them a list of people to follow. No answer from them. Someone filled them up, since they’re fucking me like this. We gave so much and in so many places to make things be as they should be. And whose throat is not full?” Bozho thought convulsively, sweating to find the connection of the people who were disappearing and the underground currents that enthroned him in a place that was certainly a few sized bigger, but he had a lot of experience and the structures turned a blind eye on him. “There were two auctions where everything was fine, but…” He jumped up and looked at Laertes, who with half his face came out from behind the seat in front of him and was already staring ahead for hours. “He was there… I never asked him what he was doing there. He had no money for such things, and walked among the people. We managed to buy the props from the time of the Ottoman Empire, but…” She looked at him again, and the actor stepped back and leaned back in his seat, lowering it completely, waking Toci and Boci, who were fast asleep. “But what has this got to do with all this…” Bozho grunted and stretched unhappily.

Translated from Macedonian: Zorica Teofilova

 

 

SECRET

Somebody ate this morning too…

Dry utterances of tenderness

Are merging in the breath of

The new sun’s flick.

I don’t know where the sunshine had hidden.

The linden trees are whispering to each other

While the morning is crying, and the yellow

Circle

Is rising on its zenith, on his

Throne.

They are playing with the shine in

My eyes.

I will never find the sunshine.

Sasho Ognenovski, Macedonia

 

LIVID POST

It is a general feeling:

Everybody is crying, but do not know why.

Nobody is considering  about anything

All looks are livid, lachrymose…

Everyone is a livid post.

 

REMEMBERING

 

Olive tree by the lake,

house of stone on the cloud,

someone crying on the threshold,

someone eating bitter olives.

 

The sky turns red, torn by a spit of flame.

The house is burning, the cloud is gone.

Holes in our eyes,

empty space.

 

WATER

 

How was it before the fury came?

Quiet, with five letters,

limpid, cold, then warm,

fast water –

as flash of thought.

 

Now it is bitter,

overflowing its banks,

one day it will flood everything.

 

What should we do then?

Would the twilight,

which we look at every day,

give us to drink?

 

 

WHERE GRIEF BEGINS

At the place where grief is born

the heart spreads open a fan of the passions.

A fleeting glance

exchanged

and we,

messengers of our bodies, naked,

play together, tongue to tongue

and are glad.

(At least we appear to be.)

That place

is no place for tears,

where grief begins.

 

SAD POEM

Sad old woman with a black bundle

carrying something black –

net in the isinglass eye of a fish.

Love in the hide-and-seek soul,

Sad kiss, sad morning,

 

 

Marija Dejanović

Marija Dejanović

Marija Dejanović (1992, Bosnia and Herzegovina) has published poetry, essays and literary criticism in various magazines. For her books, she was awarded the Goran Poetry Prize, the Kvirin Award for young poets, and the Zdravko Pucak Award for best unpublished poetry manuscript by a young author. She has participated in interdisciplinary performances and was the deputy director of the Thessalian Poetry Festival in Greece.

 


 

 

 

On the way to the shop

Translated by Vesna Marić

 

In a country where few speak your language

everyone speaks louder than you

everyone is more visible, more protected

hidden by numerousness

on the way to the tea shop you feel much too noticeable

The movements of your knees reflect your lack of friends

 

Your gait is stiff, too strict

and although everyone is extremely kind

they don’t dig into your flesh out of the goodness of their hearts

they talk amongst themselves not to bother you

they say good day and goodbye

 

Still, you feel like a pair of metal compasses

whose sharp shiny needle point stabs the concrete

metre after metre

As you walk from the flat to the shop, from the shop to the flat

you leave behind a vanishing circle of your presence, a language

of mutual incomprehension;

 

when you’re buying tea from the friendly shopkeeper

it is you, rather than the dried leaves, that is on display

 

Returning from the shop you begin to resemble them

Aimless, you are an eye that envelops

and does not reveal

 

Out of love for yourself you don’t question how you feel

just like out of your love for animals

you eat herbs planted by another’s children

who will never be able to afford the food they grow

you buy cashew nuts in a plastic bag

whose production melts women’s identity off their fingertips

 

But those are some other women, somewhere far away

women whose sisters live in towns that topple onto their heads

legal slave women

 

You have chosen your own hard times

Bought your good times with them

 

The streets are full of small shops

Each shop has many woven baskets

each woven basket holds a small personal defeat

You walk blonde, blue-eyed

because your skin is sun tanned

it is lovely to see you in every street

 

If they speak to you in that language

you shrug under your hat

 

They could say that they love you or curse you

and you wouldn’t know the difference

 

this ignorance is your small personal victory

 

 

 

Aubergine

Translated by Vesna Marić

 

You know, this is where I’m from now

mother told me while watching the half of the garden

that was full of the aubergines she’d grown

with too much care, like children, on a small plot of land

she’d bought with hard-earned money

dug up laboriously left-to-right, upwards

as if knitting a vest

 

The other half still has soil that needs digging

and it seems that with each wielding of the spade

she increases the distance between the village of her childhood

and this yard in which we stand

as if each step forward is a new void

but that, also, each new void is a reason to move on

In each hole she plants a memory

of long buried faces

 

Over there no longer exists

Although you’d only gone to visit maybe twice in your life

and I have already been here a year longer

than I had spent in –

and she pauses before saying

that I was born in the times of ethnic cleansing

but that there had been nothing clean

 

in the hospital where I first appeared

  • miraculously alive –

while the splayed flesh of my mother was surrounded by dying

soldiers and civilians

 

  • her flesh – and that I was born in a bed

in which no woman should ever give birth

and no child ever meet the world

that such hospitalisation cannot be called a service

but a crime against humanity

 

She lightly raised her elbow

to wipe the sweat off her brow with the back of her hand

and to stop digging

 

We got into the car in silence

After several hours we saw the border police

 

She still doesn’t like them

 

Just like the last time I saw her

granny wears a worn-out gray dress

and a wide smile

 

She stands at the gate, squinting

 

She’s made potato pie for us

 

Although she has remembered nothing for years now

granny can still perfectly recall my mother’s face

 

You haven’t changed at all, daughter

She says, and reaching out her hand

strokes my cheek

 

 

Concrete

Translated by Hana Samaržija

 

My friends live in gaps between the wardrobe and the wall

that are impossible to reach

as I stretch my arms, a web of silence

enters my mouth; they are the shady silence of plaster

I tell her: choose a picture frame

and stick your scalp through its hollow body

push the supple roots of hair untouched by sun

sprinkled with flour

 

sneak out of his kitchen or jump through the window

from the tenth floor, you’ll land on the atoms of possibilities

like the ashen flowers in the district park

Your eyes: symbols for bursting, heavy breasts

sagging from your father’s eyes, from equine milk, and presents

that shed from your skin instead of your husband’s cruel lips

 

His words gather in your bellybutton

and crawl to your neck, like cypresses in the cemetery

and suddenly, instead of dust, it is you hanging from the chandelier

 

My friends are mine because they are no one’s

they only listen to themselves and touch only themselves

my friend is the table leg

whose splinter pierces your thumb while moving house

 

My friend: a small plastic ball

filled with brown fluid

 

My friend is a curly hair

in the drain of her throat

 

He tells her: together we drew boundaries

to clean furniture together

She tells him: it’s easy to fall apart, it’s hard

to pierce a pea with your fork

My friends are the first sorrows

whom I genuinely loved

They are the first to make decisions

and the only ones to carry them through

 

My friends are tall buildings

whose hands hold the foundations

 

My friends are an airplane

with concrete legs

 

 

The Amphora

Translated by Hana Samaržija

 

To bury yourself in ashes:

a blissful thought, after a century asleep

in an amphora

burdened by heavy delights

Heavy, because on hold

to burst like a chestnut with its stomach split open

and to begin dreaming

 

Dreaming about the birth of an olive

the bruised thighs of skies that crows

pluck from their nests with beaks

string by string

until there is nothing left

but dreams of skinniness and silence

ceramic backs

and doors

 

To appear in the sun’s apron

To float in a mossy carriage, to

stretch into a column emanating from the bowl

 

An ordinary wooden bowl is

the hard core of our greeting

and slack is its gait

 

To open your eyes

invite the army to invade the city

and lay your forehead in a valley

the flipside of an elbow

 

Aubade

translated by Hana Samaržija

 

Aubade is a buffalo

It unwraps its horns like a lotus

and water is dew, strewn with a faint

twist of the neck. This mist forms a thin

dense layer of fur that trails its spine

like a white deer trails traffic

when it is snowing

The white petals of a lotus

 

or

white blood cells, like pearl necklaces

which hang from roofs when it turns cold

Aubade rushes and races with its brief

darting haste

like the life of a white rabbit

and other white animals

 

Aubade: the only part of the scene that is brown

 

Everything else is white, wherever

the round rifle of the eye

beneath its thin frosty membrane

can perform the splits

Brown is only a tree with four roots

and two branches

 

I do not know why, but aubade

 

reminded me of the juggler

who waits for the traffic lights

to turn green. He then hurls

dusty tennis balls

ball by ball

like large, smooth walnuts

dum

If one were to drop on the road

it would roll beneath a car waiting for its mark

and ruin the day

This way, make no mistake

There is no mud on its hands

 

My love is

a hunter that aims

for the empty space between two horns

 

 

 

Iceland

translated by Hana Samaržija

 

I will move to Iceland

like a flock of birds

like two bales of wheat

treading under the sun

to exhaustion, their skin

yoked to vertigo

with soft ribbons

I say: it’s reliable

this doesn’t mean: safety

 

this does mean:

my body is bound

and I am floating

like an amoeba

as free as

a life belt

without a

drowning man

to rescue

 

This empty core

is Iceland:

my need

to be warm

and thrown into water

 

my desire

to see you

blown up by a bomb

from my stomach

 

my hands

hold binoculars

watching me from the shore

in an explosion

inviting me

to forget my name

*

Iceland.

The desire to become cold

To only have sterile thoughts

and mouth simple sentences

to mount a rock of wet salt

and eat plain oatmeal

 

to wear thick woolen socks

to forsake human touch

and, once a month, to visit

white foxes

 

I would like an eternal Winter

I would like my room’s yard

to become her empire

I would sprawl on her cushions

 

and have her tell me that, in her youth, she

would sit on the chest of young men

and stay with them

until they ran

out of breath

 

*

I am sending you a letter from Iceland:

here everything is white

like the clouds I captured

from the airplane window

when I came to see you

 

During the day, the sky seems

like the North pole

You cannot see the ground

During the night, the soil

looks like a web of stars

 

I omit the brown details

I lie it snows

In the end, I don’t send the letter

I don’t begin hating the world

I don’t curl into bed naked

and I don’t cry

 

 

*

Your core is tiny

flushed, soft, smooth tissue

beneath a pile of knives

 

On a white morning

 

I will draw them one by one

like nails from a tent

and stab them in the foreheads

of everyone who exposed you

Nikolay Boykov

Nikolay Boykov

Nikolay Boykov (1968, Bulgaria) studied Hungarian philology and has had a range of jobs, as a cook, truck loader, interpreter in a sewing factory, librarian, teacher of Hungarian, journalist, model at an art academy, book and newspaper deliverer, copywriter, bookseller, translator, guard, window cleaner, childcare worker, courier, franchise provider, PR and advertising assistant, helper to people with physical disabilities, editor, waiter, and bartender. He writes poetry as well as prose. At the invitation of Traduki, he participated at the 2018 Leipzig Book Fair. He also organised a festival and symposium about queer life and literature in Central and Eastern Europe at the Literarisches Colloquium Berlin.

 


 

 

 

 

Briefe an Petăr (Auszüge)

 

 

25. Januar

 

Heute, auf dem Heimweg von der „Matrix“, begann ich wieder, sieh mich nicht so an, Junge zu trällern, aber statt und jeder deiner Blicke ist ein Ruf ertappte ich mich dabei, wie ich jeder meiner Blicke sang, es war gegen kurz nach neun, die Spatzen unter meinem Fenster hatten bereits ausgezwitschert, ich hatte bereits nach der Post gesehen und würde zu Hause in dem Buch Der Affe auf dem Fahrrad von Ágnes Heller lesen (während des Lesens würde mir eine Träne über die Wange kullern, zur völlig falschen Zeit, unangebracht, aus dem Kontext gerissen, offenbar ganz und gar zusammenhanglos), aus diesem Buch würde ich mir auf Ungarisch einige Sätze wie die folgenden notieren: wie sowohl Lukács als auch Solschenizyn gesagt haben sollen, dem Hund einen hündischen Tod und dass der Mörder ein Mörder bleibt, selbst wenn er einen Mörder ermordet, darüber, dass der ehrliche und anständige Mensch gewinnt, selbst wenn er verliert, darüber, wie sie im Alter von achtzehn beschlossen habe, dass sie auf dieser Welt eine Berufung hat: die Nuss zu knacken, und die Nuss ist die Wahrheit, die Wahrheit über die Dinge, über die Menschen und das Sein, darüber, was in uns steckt, wie sie aber später begriffen habe, dass es keine Wahrheit gibt, und so gebe es auch nichts zu erkennen, sie habe verstanden, dass die Unmöglichkeit, die Nuss zu knacken, Teil des Nussknackens ist, letzteres habe ich irgendwie nicht verstanden, ich hatte mir bereits vorher einen Lindenblütentee gemacht und einen halben Becher Joghurt mit einer Scheibe Brot gefrühstückt, später würde ich Krautsalat zu Mittag essen, wieder mit Joghurt, ich hatte bereits und wieder Ani Ilkov gelesen: Gestern wurde ich nachdenklich und sagte mir: Ich werde / nichts aufschreiben – die Wörter sind leer. / Dann ging ich spazieren, kaufte mir etwas zum Abendessen / und begann alles von vorn / mit einem Brief, in dem ich mich nicht beklagen würde, und ich würde in der Markthalle und auf dem Frauenmarkt einkaufen gehen, wo ich mir Pfefferminz- und Kamillentee kaufen würde und einen aus Bergkräutern, ich würde auch versuchen, mir eine Stange Salami zu kaufen, und verlangen, dass man sie für mich aufschneidet, man würde ablehnen, ich würde mich ärgern, wir würden ein wenig streiten, Bürger würden sich empören, dass ich die Schlange aufhalte, ich würde verärgert weggehen, ohne mir Salami zu kaufen, aber mir würde einfallen, einer Freundin vorzuschlagen, eine Reihe von Beiträgen für einen Fernsehsender zu machen, sagen wir mit dem Titel kein Kommentar, wo wir filmen, wie ich verlange, dass man mir die Salami aufschneidet, man das aber ablehnt, ich würde sie später auf dem Heimweg, nachdem ich Äpfel, Orangen, Mandarinen, zwei Pampelmusen, Karotten, Kartoffeln, Zwiebeln, frische Petersilie, frischen Dill und zwei Paprikaschoten gekauft habe, treffen und ihr auf die Schnelle von meiner Idee erzählen, und wir würden vereinbaren, uns morgen zu sehen und alles ausführlich zu besprechen, ich hatte bereits die neuen Postkarten mit Rätseln für Trjavna gezeichnet, und auf dem Weg zur Post würde ich einen Buntstift kaufen, um das Geschenk für Kamen fertig zu verpacken: ein Buch mit Geschichten – Lügenmärchen, ein Heft, ein ganz gewöhnlicher Kugelschreiber, all das in einer durchsichtigen Kunststoffmappe, und ein Rasierset von Gillette (ein übriggebliebenes Weihnachtsgeschenk, das ich ohnehin nicht benutzen würde: ein Rasierer mit einigen Klingen, Schaum, Aftershave (?)), ich hatte bereits eines meiner Geburtstagsgeschenke im Eissalon in der Angel-Kănčev-Straße bekommen: eine wohlriechende runde Kerze, und ich würde einen Abstecher zur Buchhandlung Bibliopolis auf der Solunska-Straße machen, um abzusprechen, wann ich meine Postkarten für die Interessenten an meinen Postkarten zeichnen sollte, falls es solche gab natürlich, ich hatte bereits meinem Freund eine Antwort auf das geschrieben, was er mir geschrieben hatte, dass sehr schön sei, was ich ihm in meinem letzten Brief beschrieben hatte: wie wir uns einen Film angeschaut hatten, ob jetzt Die Einsamen oder Die Einfältigen, wie wir nebeneinander saßen und sich unsere Schultern von Zeit zu Zeit berührten, leicht und zart, und ich fühlte, wie er einatmete, und ich fühlte, wie er fühlte, dass ich einatmete, ich fühlte, wie sein Atem schneller wurde und meiner ihn einholte oder meiner vorauseilte und seiner ihn einholte, wie sie sich einholten und überholten, sich übersprangen und wir dann an der Stelle, wo unser Einatmen und Ausatmen eins hätten sein sollen, leicht und zart voneinander abrückten, und ich hatte ihm bereits mit einem ungarischen Schlager geantwortet: Die Liebe dauert eine Woche (wenn wir dieses Lied im Unterricht durchnehmen, gibt es ein Lehrbuch auf Ungarisch: Nicht nur Lieder, immer am Anfang, noch bevor klar wird, worum es geht, frage ich, das ist die erste Aufgabe der Lektion: was dauert eurer Meinung nach eine Woche?), ich hatte bereits zu einem anderen Freund gesagt: alles ist vorbei, auch diese Liebe ist vorbei, aber ich bin verliebt und das bedeutet auch kreativ, ich hatte bereits einen Brief geschrieben, mit dem ich bereits gegen jenes von mir Ausgesprochene verstieß, nämlich dass ich Dir nicht schreiben würde, und ich würde mir eine grüne Diskette aussuchen, um auf ihr diese Briefe von mir zu speichern (Briefe an Petăr), ich hatte bereits alle möglichen Sachen gemacht und würde andere machen, ich war auf dem Boulevard Neofit-Rilski nach Hause unterwegs, und dann, während ich und jeder meiner Blicke ist ein Ruf, ti-da-da-ti-da-ti-ta-ta-ti-da vor mich hin trällerte, sagte ich mir, da beschloss ich, damit anzufangen, Dir diese Briefe zu schreiben und nicht darauf zu warten, eine Antwort von Dir zu erhalten.

 

 

30. Januar

 

Nachdem wir gestern Wolken über dem Ganges gesehen hatten, stand irgendein Freund aus Deiner Kindheit zwischen uns, dessen Namen ich mir nicht gemerkt habe, der kurz vor seinem Abschluss in Jura stand, aber immer noch nicht wusste, was aus ihm werden sollte, wenn er einmal „groß“ wäre, wir hatten uns zufällig an der Bushaltestelle bei der Uni getroffen, ich war auf dem Weg ins Ungarische Kulturinstitut und hatte es eilig, hatte Dich gerade von der Šipka-Straße aus auf dem Handy angerufen, und wir hatten verabredet, uns in zwanzig Minuten vor dem Kulturinstitut zu treffen (inzwischen weiß ich, warum die Leute auf der Straße herumirren und in ihr Telefon brüllen: Wo bist du?), Du begannst zu schreien, ich kam zurück, dann verscheuchte ich für einen Moment den Freund aus Kindertagen, um Deine Erlaubnis einzuholen, diese Briefe zu veröffentlichen, dann saßen wir getrennt da, und ich holte gleich zu Beginn das rote Klemmbrett im halben A4-Format und den grünen Kugelschreiber hervor, den ich immer dabei habe, um die Adressen auf die Postkarten zu schreiben, die ich verschicke, nur ihn konnte ich in meinem Tornister erstasten, ich saß im dunklen, aber immerhin ausreichend hellen Saal und schrieb so, wie ich früher einmal in Brief nach Amerika im Euro-Bulgarischen Zentrum geschrieben und geschluchzt hatte: Der Ort ist trist, aber ich lasse mich nicht von ihm runterziehen … Habe ich ihm gesagt, dass ich … Inmitten so vieler Menschen … Doch Du wirst aufwachen und mir verzeihen, doch ich werde aufwachen und mir verzeihen, doch Du wirst aufwachen und Dir verzeihen, ich schrieb im Salon des Ungarischen Kulturinstituts, was auf dem Bildschirm zu hören war (wie immer, wenn sie auf Ungarisch Mutterflüche ausstießen, auf Bulgarisch nur – zum Teufel): Über das Existierende sprechen und über das Nichtexistente schweigen, ich hatte mir bereits in Christentum und Kultur Nr. 4/2000 das eine Motto von Wittgenstein notiert, das ich in den Händen eines Mädchens erblickte, sie zeigte ihren Freundinnen ihre Klausurarbeit: Ich bin meine Welt, und die Nummer des anderen, das mir zu lesen nicht gelang, 5.621, während ich jetzt diese Zeilen schreibe, finde ich es: Die Welt und das Leben sind Eins (jetzt verstehe ich jenen Satz, den Bojan Mančev auf der Ivan-Asen-Straße zu mir sagte, nämlich dass ich ein ziemlicher Wittgenstein-Typ sei); heute Morgen, als ich irgendwo gegen zehn vor zwei aufwachte, konnte ich mich nicht hinsetzen, um zu schreiben oder zu übersetzen, mein Computer war kaputtgegangen, also begann ich, darin zu lesen, das Christentum und die Kultur, begann zu unterstreichen, womit ich einverstanden war und womit nicht, auf seine Fragen zu antworten, meine eigenen Fragen zu stellen: warum die religiös Gläubigen das Wort Gläubige für sich beanspruchen und alle übrigen als Ungläubige bezeichnen, bedeutet die Tatsache, dass ich nicht an ihren Gott glaube, dass ich an nichts glaube, ist es wahr, dass ich zwischen Glaube und Unglaube wähle, vertauscht die Frage glaube ich, die man mir dort stellt, nicht die Kategorien, vielleicht lautet die Frage glaube ich an Gott und vielleicht genauer glaube ich an den christlichen Gott und vielleicht noch genauer – an diesen auf den ersten Seiten ins Auge gefassten christlichen Gott: der hyperwirkliche und hypermögliche soll es sein, der wundervolle, der Gott, dessen Jenseitigkeit und apostrophierende Verborgenheit augenscheinlich sind für Kalin Janakiev (ich persönlich glaube nicht an den Christengott und glaube nicht der bzw. an die Unaussprechlichkeit dieses Unglaubens wie Aleksandăr Kjosev, ich halte mein irdisches Dasein als Mensch für ein Leben unter anderen, für ein Leben mit den anderen, und aus dieser Perspektive bin ich der Meinung, dass es nicht gut ist, an diesen Gott zu glauben, weder für mich selbst noch für die anderen, ich meine, dass dieser Gott ein Gott der Erpressung und der Machtausübung durch das Opfer ist, durch das Zuschreiben von Schuld, durch eine durch nichts gezeigte, durch nichts bewiesene Liebe, ein Gott der doppelten Standards und der Unvollständigkeit, ein Gott der Verankerung der Ungleichstellung, denken wir nur an das Folgende: jemand erschafft meine eventuellen Vorfahren nach seinem Bild, als sein Ebenbild, wobei er ihnen das Recht vorenthält, Gut von Böse zu unterscheiden, danach bestraft er sie unwiderruflich und endgültig für die von ihnen begangene Sünde und nicht nur sie persönlich, sondern auch alle anderen, wie in der Kaserne: da hat einer angeblich einen Fehler gemacht und hopp alle runter in den Entengang, am Ende habe er, weil er mich liebt, seinen einzigen Sohn geopfert, um mich zu retten, und ich sei angeblich frei, aber ich bin nur frei, das zu wählen, was er für mich ausgewählt hat, ganz zu schweigen davon, dass im Falle, dass ich nach seinem Bild und als sein Ebenbild geschaffen worden bin, die Möglichkeit zu sündigen von nirgendwo anders kommen kann als von ihm, und weil er sich nicht selbst bestrafen kann oder will, bestraft er mich für etwas, an dem ich keinerlei konkrete Schuld trage, und dann rettet er mich auch noch wegen dieser völlig unkonkreten Schuld, indem er seinen geliebten Sohn opfert, denken wir uns Folgendes: wenn eines seiner Gebote lautet du sollst nicht töten, und da gibt es keine zwei Meinungen, das ist klar und deutlich ausgesprochen worden, wozu waren dann all diese Kriege und Kreuzzüge im Namen Christi gut, warum versuchen all jene, die sich als christliche Politiker ausweisen, nicht klar und deutlich, die Massenvernichtungswaffen abzuschaffen, wieso sollte ein doch so gläubiger christlicher Anführer einer Weltmacht im Augenblick andere aussenden, um zu töten, und ganz offensichtlich werden sie töten, obwohl es dort in einfachen und klaren Worten heißt: du sollst nicht töten.), ich las und antwortete also in den Marginalien auf die Fragen, zum Beispiel: 7. Wenn Sie als Ungläubiger der Überzeugung sind, dass Sie kein Bedürfnis nach einem Subjekt haben, das über der Welt und über dem Möglichen steht, könnten Sie dann versuchen zu sagen, womit Ihnen dieses Dasein hier und jetzt ausreicht, damit Sie kein solches Bedürfnis haben?: Ich kann, wenn ich ich selbst bin, wenn ich ganz bin, wenn ich authentisch bin, wenn ich morgens die mich anzwitschernden Spatzen höre, wenn ich manchmal, Schulter an Schulter mit einem geliebten Menschen, fühle, wie unser Atem sich verfolgt und verstrickt, sich überspringt und überholt, wenn ich das Lächeln des anderen sehe und sein Lachen höre, wenn ich Lammsuppe in der „Prärie“ esse, wenn ich morgens zusehe, wie es dämmert, wie die Wolken langsam und gelassen in irgendeine Richtung davonschweben und die Sonnenstrahlen ihren Schleier durchstoßen, wenn die Kinder in Trjavna … mir fehlen die richtigen Worte … wenn der Wind mein Gesicht gerbt, wenn ich mit Attila Jász geschwiegen habe und den Raum nicht mit Worten füllen musste, wenn ich irgendwann in Jahr 2000 Ofenkartoffeln in der Talschlucht bei den Plattenbauten von Mladost 2 gegessen habe, wenn ich selbst das schreiben kann, warum sollten mir diese Dinge nicht ausreichen, und warum sollten sie mich dazu bringen, an einen verborgenen Gott zu glauben (der seine Anwesenheit verweigert), und wenn dieser Gott jenseitig und verborgen ist, nicht sichtbar und nicht anwesend, ist dann nicht auch meine Verweigerung des seine Anwesenheit Verweigernden eine Gesetzmäßigkeit; ich kritzelte also die Zeitschrift mit meinen Fragen und meinen Antworten voll (kann etwas ein Dialog sein, wenn wir wissen, wohin wir uns entwickeln werden, ist der Dialog nicht der bekannte Ort, von dem aus wir uns auf den Weg machen, ohne zu wissen, wohin wir gehen, offen für die Veränderung und das Verstehen der anderen, offen für das Risiko, ein anderer zu sein, der Ort, wo unsere eigenen Wahrheiten auf die Probe gestellt werden und wo wir neue finden), ich las also und kritzelte auf die Blätter des Christentums und der Kultur, danach schlief ich, trank Kaffee, las Der Affe auf dem Fahrrad (Auch ich pflegte zu sagen, dass die Richtung und der Ort der Rettung die Revolution des alltäglichen (unerlässlichen) Lebens sind, wir sollten uns mit dem beschäftigen, was wir können, mit der vollständigen Veränderung unseres Lebens, wir müssen für uns selbst, in unserer eigenen Handlungssphäre das menschliche Leben erschaffen, hier und jetzt leben und mit und unter diesen Menschen wirken), später kam Kamen und reparierte meinen Computer, er war irgendwie verstaubt gewesen, und jetzt schreibe ich diese Zeilen auf ihm, draußen hat es begonnen, weiß zu schneien, und gestern kam ich allein nach Hause, beschleunigte meine Schritte auf der Straße des 6. September (Dein Freund aus Kindertagen und Du, ihr hattet es eilig, irgendwohin zu kommen), und ich schluchzte so, wie Krum Filipov im Marmorsalon des Russischen Kulturinstituts geschluchzt hatte bei der von Levčev organisierten Lesung, während er dieses Gedicht über seine Großeltern vortrug.

 

 

 

Aus dem letzten Brief, 2. August 11:24 Uhr – 11. August 21:36 Uhr

 

… ich ging in Richtung Zentrum, unterwegs schrieb ich E-Mails, kam zum „Parnas“, sie hatten die CD mit den Folksongs eingelegt, Mitternacht war schon vorbei, zwei junge Männer saßen an der Bar, der eine trank einen möglicherweise alkoholischen Cocktail mit Fruchtsaft, er hatte ein rundliches Gesicht, war kurzgeschoren, seine Bewegungen waren weich und zart, dauernd hatte er dem anderen etwas zu erklären, der sich im einen Augenblick mit den Fingern durchs Haar fuhr, um sich im nächsten umzusehen und dann einen Schluck von seiner Cola zu nehmen, wir saßen also an der Bar, Galja, Megi, ich und Toma, lauschten der Kompilation, ich holte mein rotes Klemmbrett zum Schreiben hervor, schrieb die Songtexte auf, Toma redete unablässig auf mich ein, ich konnte ihn nicht verstehen, ich schrieb So viele Wahrheiten habe ich begriffen, so viel Schmerz durchlitten, und wie einen Phoenix in der Asche vergrub ich die Liebe in mir, Toma hörte nicht auf, von Tranströmer zu erzählen, der gesagt habe, dass er in seinem Schatten getragen werde wie eine Geige in ihrem Geigenkasten, und wie hammermäßig das sei, ich betrachtete den jungen Mann mit dem runden Gesicht, ab und zu durchfuhr seine Hände ein zartes und weiches Zucken, meine Hände strichen weich und zart den Tresen glatt, manchmal legte er seine Hand auf die des anderen, sie sangen von Liebe, die nur mit dir süß wie Honig ist, von den drei Worten, von Bestrafung durch Betrug, von Armen, die andere umschlingen, von Lippen, die andere küssen, von offenen Wunden, wir ließen die CD laufen, ich wünschte mir das erste Lied: so viele Wahrheiten habe ich begriffen, so viel Schmerz durchlitten (heute, am fünfundzwanzigsten, werde ich gegen später wieder auf einen Sprung ins „Parnas“ gehen, ob ich jetzt meine Mails gecheckt habe oder nicht, ich werde die Fürst-Boris-Straße entlanggehen, die Bäume, die ihre Äste über mir ineinander verflochten haben, werden in Sonne baden, ich werde gehen, werde den Blick heben, werde mitverfolgen, wie das Grün der Blätter immer heller wird, immer sonniger, immer strahlender, ich werde gehen und werde die sonnenbeschienenen, die in den Wipfeln aufleuchtenden Blätter betrachten, so wie ich sie früher schon einmal an einem anderen Morgen betrachtet hatte, ich war auch damals auf dem Weg ins „Parnas“, ich schaute auch damals bei Toma vorbei, er schlief, also machte ich einen Abstecher nach Bistrica, in die „Matrix“, auf dem Rückweg rief beim Kino „Mir“ irgendeine Musik nach mir, jemand spielte Klavier, ich blieb am Eingang des Aquariums stehen, ein Spatz flog über der Straße von einem Hausdach zum anderen, danach war der Flügelschlag einer Taube zu hören, ein gebeugter alter Mann ging vorbei, hielt eine vornübergebeugte, schwächliche Enkelin an der Hand, ein Briefträger, der in seiner riesigen Tasche wühlte, dann war ich auf einmal irgendwie drinnen, bat mich inständig selbst, ein Weilchen zuzuhören, saß mit dem Rücken zum Klavier und zum Klavierspieler, zeichnete einen Vogel für den Klavierspieler, hörte, wie er etwas probierte, wie die Töne einander verfolgten und einholten, einander überholten, in der Musik lag Trauer und Mattigkeit, auch Melancholie und Sich-Verzehren, die Töne holten einander ein, zogen aneinander vorbei, vereinten sich, dann betrachte ich, sehe Flecken, sie schimmern feucht, vor dem Schaufenster – der Besen mit dem metallisch schimmernden Stiel, am Ende des Salons zwei Eimer Wasser, ein roter und ein weißer, mit Ausgüssen, einander zugewandt, die Töne schweben, haben das Herz gerufen, ich sehe mich um, die Augen füllen sich mit Tränen, ich schlucke, die Töne verfolgen einander, holen einander ein, überholen einander, vereinen sich, Menschen gehen draußen vor dem Aquarium vorbei, manche werfen einen Blick hinein, niemand bleibt stehen, zwei Tränen lösen sich, der Junge hört auf zu spielen, ich frage ihn, wessen Musik das ist, es ist meine, sagt er, dann läuft er verlegen auf und ab und stammelt, dass auch er arbeiten muss, ich drücke ihm die Zeichnung in die Hand – ein Vogel und der blühende Ast eines Baums, ich laufe auf und ab, gehe hinaus, im „Parnas“ schläft Toma noch, ich mache mich auf den Heimweg, ich werde die Fürst-Boris-Straße nehmen, unter den Bäumen, grün und gelb eingefärbt, ich werde etwas vor mich hin trällern, dann wird es mir einfallen, es ist Lija von Kondjo und Lija, die über die Wahrheiten und die Schmerzen singt, ich werde das Lied anstimmen, es aber nicht bis zum Schluss singen können, meine Stimme wird versagen, wird zittern, wird sich schon beim Wort Wahrheiten verschlucken, und bei Schmerz wird sie beinahe flüstern, ich werde einen Abstecher machen, um es noch einmal zu hören, es wird nicht gehen, macht nichts, ein andermal, werde ich sagen) (früher, ich werde mit Plamen Antov und György im Aquarium des Ungarischen Kulturinstituts sitzen bei der Präsentation der ungarischen Theaternummer der Zeitschrift Panorama, sie werden irgendetwas erzählen, ein übertrieben fröhliches Mädchen, das vor mir sitzt, offenbar zugekifft, wird mich fragen, bist du ’ne Schwuchtel, schon vom ersten Mal an, werde ich ihr antworten, ohne überhaupt darüber nachzudenken, ja, ich bin homosexuell, wir werden also im Ungarischen Kulturinstitut sitzen, ich werde für Antov ein blühendes Bäumchen zeichnen, ich erinnere mich nicht mehr, ob die Blüten weiß waren oder blau, und hinten auf dem Stückchen Pappe werde ich in etwa Folgendes skizzieren: wir saßen im Aquarium des Ungarischen Kulturinstituts, zwei Jungen in schwarzen Pullovern kamen vorbei, die Menschen draußen konnte ich nur von der Taille aufwärts sehen, sie waren ziemlich klein, jung, hübsch, mit modernen Frisuren, offenen Gesichtern und lebendigen Augen, der eine näherte sich der Scheibe, starrte hinein, der andere winkte lässig ab und legte lässig den Arm um ihn und zog ihn lässig an sich, und lässig jung, schön und echt gingen sie weiter), wir werden also im „Parnas“ sitzen, werden uns die Folkkompilation anhören, die anderen wünschten sich ebenfalls ihr Lied, ein Wunschkonzert, sie sangen: Wo bist du in dieser Stunde, wo bist du in diesem Augenblick, hör meine Stimme, hör meinen Ruf … Sieh mir in die Augen und sag mir, dass du mich liebst …, wie geht es Tante Klara, wird Toma fragen, es geht ihr gut, heute hatten wir ein festliches Mittagessen zur Feier des Tages (sie hatten mir Buletten und panierte Paprikaschoten geschickt, Mayonnaise mit Quark, ich bot ihr an, gemeinsam zu Mittag zu essen, sie schlug vor, eine Gurken-Joghurt-Suppe zu machen, wir machten eine, deckten den Tisch, Servietten mit orange schimmernden Rosen, darüber ein Teller mit blau schimmernden Rosen, alles auf einem Tischtuch mit bunten Blumen, wir setzten uns, aßen langsam und unterhielten uns, im Fernsehen hatte der Frühlings-Grand-Prix der Popmusik begonnen, also hatte ich auf die Schnelle mein Klemmbrett zum Schreiben geholt, ich hatte die Texte der Lieder, die früher einmal gewonnen hatten und zu Schlagern geworden waren, geschrieben, sie sangen die Liebe ist Leben, Wärme, kein Betteln um Kleingeld, sie sangen von unserem ins Wanken geratenen Frühling, über die Liebe bis zur Ampel an der Ecke, vom Fenster, das nachts erleuchtet ist, vom ehrlich gesagten: bei mir ist alles gut, vom wie geht’s dir: ich mache immer ein und dasselbe, sie sangen: ein Fenster leuchtet noch in himmlischem Licht, kehrt zurück, kehrt zurück und verzeiht euch auch das Unverzeihliche, dann sangen sie das Lied aus dem Film Adaptation: Bleib stehen, geh nicht fort, ich werde traurig sein ohne deine Hände, bleib stehen, geh nicht fort, heute werde ich dir ein schreckliches Geständnis machen, später hatte der Bluesgitarrist Vasko „The Patch“ einen Gastauftritt mit seinem Lied Nachtfalter, die um die Lampe kreisen, vor der Finsternis geflohen, sie haben keinen Platz in der „Matrix“, auch wenn sie vor nichts Angst haben, danach einer – solang du weinst, werde ich dich mit dir weinen, ich werde da sein, du brauchst mich nur zu rufen, und ich begann heimlich zu weinen, und heimlich wischte ich die Träne ab, die mir über die Wange kullerte), wir saßen also im „Parnas“, lauschten den Liedern, irgendwann brachen die beiden jungen Männer auf, die Mädchen riefen sich ein Taxi, angeblich nicht interessiert fragte ich sie nach dem jungen Mann an der Bar, das Taxi kam, und sie fuhren davon, wir blieben zu zweit übrig, ich und Toma, er, gequält von so vielen Schmerzen und Wahrheiten, ließ das portugiesische Akkordeon laufen, angeblich nennen sie es Bandonell, ich schnappte mir die Fernbedienung für den Fernseher, der Ton war ausgeschaltet, ich stolperte über den Film Die Bettlektüre von Peter Greenaway, gerade war die Japanerin dabei, mit Tinte auf ihrem Körper zu schreiben, dann wusch sie sich, wir sehen, wie die Rinnsale schwarzer Tinte herunterrinnen, sie schrieb behandelt auch mich wie eine Seite aus einem Buch, Toma schrieb etwas auf seinem Laptop, ich schaltete mit der Fernbedienung vor dem Hintergrund der portugiesischen Musik hin und her, die mir so vertraut war, und wagte es nicht, ihm von meinem heimlichen Geliebten zu erzählen: an einem heimlichen sonnigen Tag ging ich in seine heimliche Wohnung in seiner geheimen Straße, wir ließen portugiesische Musik laufen, zärtlich schwebte die portugiesische Musik durch die Luft, zärtlich liebkoste er mich, dann, an einem sonnigen Tag wie dem heutigen (auch während ich jetzt schreibe, beleuchtet die Sonne meine Finger, die über die Tastatur huschen), an einem strahlenden Tag tippte ich auf die Schnelle:

 

Mein heimlicher Geliebter

 

Mein heimlicher Geliebter

liebt mich heimlich

seine Augen verschlingen mich heimlich

seine Lippen verschlingen mich heimlich

seine Hände liebkosen mich heimlich

Mit meinem heimlichen Geliebten

gehe ich geheimnisvoll durch die Straßen

wie einander Unbekannte gehen wir durch den Park

wenn der bekannte Mond über scheint

Wir verstecken uns im Schatten der Bäume

küssen uns leidenschaftlich

streicheln uns leidenschaftlich

dann knirschen Kieselsteine unter uns

wir schreiten durch den Park, suchen Bänke und Schatten

ich ergreife seine Hand

sein Daumen liebkost mich zärtlich

hören wir ein fremdes Knirschen

tun wir wieder so, als wären wir einander unbekannt

als gingen wir in der Dunkelheit im Park

vom Mond beschienen einfach spazieren

 

Mein heimlicher Geliebter hat einen Namen

der eine Bedeutung hat

wie der Name Blagovest gute Nachricht bedeutet

wie der Name Dobromir gut für die Welt bedeutet

wie der Name Krasimir Schönheit für die Welt bedeutet

wie der Name Angel Engel bedeutet

ein Geheimnis ist der Name meines heimlichen Geliebten

ein Geheimnis ist sein Körper

ein Geheimnis ist seine Haarfarbe

ein Geheimnis ist seine Augenfarbe

ein Geheimnis sind seine besonderen Merkmale

ein Geheimnis ist seine Größe

ein Geheimnis ist sein Geruch

ein Geheimnis ist seine Wohnung in seiner geheimen Gasse

wo wir einander heimlich treffen

 

Mit meinem heimlichen Geliebten

spreche ich in einer Geheimsprache

(Sprache der Blumen nennen das die Ungarn)

 

Mein Geliebter hat alles

zwei Augen, die mich verschlingen

zwei Lippen, die mich verschlingen

zwei Hände, die mich liebkosen

zwei Hände, die meine Kleidung aufknöpfen

zwei Augen, die mir sagen küss mich

zwei Hände, die mir sagen ich will dich

zwei Lippen, die mir sagen du bist schön du hast einen herrlichen Körper

und er umschlingt mich

und presst seinen herrlichen heimlichen Körper an mich

und weich und zart umfängt er meine Lippen

und weich und zart küsst er meinen Hals

und weich und zart flattert seine Zunge in meinem Ohr

danach umkreist sie weich und zart meine Brustwarze

er beißt leicht hinein

es tut weh – sage ich

tut es weh – entgegnet er

während ich weich und zart seinen Hals küsse

meine Zunge weich und zart in seinem Ohr flattert

weich und zart seine Brustwarze umkreist

weich und zart liebkosen meine Hände ihn

leicht und zart liebkosen seine Hände mich weich und zart

weich und zart und leicht streifen sie mein Glied

weich und zart umfasst er es

ich streichle ihn ebenfalls

Hast du Lust auf die 69 – fragt er mich

und ich entgegne – Welche ist das

 

danach lieben wir uns wortlos

in der portugiesischen Musik

ich sage zu ihm – Sprich, sprich, sprich!

er legt den Finger auf die Lippen

und dreht die Kassette um

und wir lieben uns

 

Wenn ich von meinem heimlichen Geliebten aufbreche

aus seiner heimlichen Wohnung in der geheimen Straße

liebkost er mich zum letzten Mal

vor seiner geheimen Tür

und flüstert mir flatterhaft ins Ohr

sei vorsichtig

 

es hatte also geregnet, als ich mich in den Schlafwagen setzte, ich wickelte mich in die Decke der Bulgarischen Staatsbahnen ein und machte die ersten Skizzen, Dienstag 22. April: es ist schon zehn vor sieben, ich mache schnell einen Abstecher zum Herrenfrisiersalon auf der Zar-Asen-Straße gegenüber vom „Presto“, ein älterer, ergrauter Herr ist frei, ich frage: wie viel wird eine Glattrasur kosten (ich habe nur zwei Lewa) (so viel sind noch von den zehn Lewa übrig, die ich mir im letzten Moment geliehen habe, und ich habe sie für Folgendes ausgegeben: gebratene Leber mit Reis in der „Prärie“, Essen für unterwegs vom Laden: zwei Croissants, Kekse der Marke Ruen mit Vanille, Waffeln, Milch, Kaugummi, Joghurt), er sagt: ich soll mich hinsetzen, kein Problem, ich sage: ich sollte wissen, ob ich werde bezahlen können (draußen regnet es schon leicht, den ganzen Tag wird mir der Kopf unaufhörlich wehgetan haben), zuerst zeigt er mir vorsichtig, wie kurz er ihn trimmen wird, dann redet er auf mich ein, ob ich mich rasieren würde, er packt mich an der Nase, neigt meinen Kopf hierhin und dorthin, an Dichtern möge man lange Bärte, sagt er, Dichter?, wiederhole ich, Popen, Popen, die rasieren sich angeblich überhaupt nicht, er hält meinen Bart in der Hand und sagt: ich werde hier und dort ein wenig wegnehmen, die Schere schnappt rund um meine Koteletten und die Ohren auf und zu, danach rasiert er meinen Hals mit der Maschine, ich solle mir keine Sorgen machen, er werde kein Geld von mir verlangen, er werde mir etwas Gutes tun, denn das Gute komme zurück, die Natur zahle alles zurück, tu Gutes, und wie er meinen Kopf neigt, wie seine weichen Finger ihn leicht zurechtrücken, ist es so, als würde der Schmerz abfließen, ausfließen, danach bezahle ich meine zwei Lewa, der Regen hat aufgehört, der Schmerz – ist abgeflossen, ich gehe schnell nach Hause, mache mich auf den Weg zum Bahnhof, den Rucksack auf den Schultern, dann ins Abteil, eingewickelt in die Decke, schreibe ich in der weichen, mich umfangenden Wärme.

 

 

Aus dem Bulgarischen von Alexander Sitzmann

Refugee Stories

In 2019, several refugees, living in Ljubljana, Slovenia, have participated in a special part of the Reading Balkans – Borders vs. Frontiers project. The participants wrote short stories during a workshop, led by Andraž Rožman, the author of the narrative nonfiction novel Three Memories, and Asja Hrvatin, and presented them to the public at Vodnikova Domačija in Ljubljana. The participants were: Somaye Asadpour and Karla Kos, Viktoria Pospelova and Mohamed Abdul Al Munem. Somaya and Karla wrote a story about a meeting of two families with different cultural backgrounds. Mohamed Abdul Al Munem wrote about publishing in Aleppo, while Viktoria wrote a touching story about different states of mind.

The activities continued in 2021 with short video stories, in which Viktoria Pospelova, Noorullah Otiyakhel, Mohamad al Burai, and Mohamad Abdul Muneem talk about refugee routes, bureaucratic obstacles, and life in Slovenia.

 

Viktoria Pospelova

Noorullah Otiyakhel

Mohamad al Burai

Mohamad Abdul Muneem

Milica Vučković

Milica Vučković

Milica Vučković (1989, Serbia) is a writer and visual artist. Her work has been featured at more than ten group and solo exhibitions, her scenography used in several theatre productions. She has published a book of short stories and two novels, shortlisted for the Vital Award and the Biljana Jovanović Award. One of her short stories was awarded at the Biber festival.

Alex Văsieș

Alex Văsieș

Alex Văsieș (1993, Romania) is a poet and a translator, as well as a PhD candidate with a thesis on the maximalist novels from the second half of the twentieth century. For his debut poetry collection, he received the Young Poet of the Year Award. Recently, he has translated several novels (written by authors such as Chuck Palahniuk, Tom Hanks, Neil Gaiman or Graeme Macrae Burnet) and poetry by Alice Notley. In addition, he coordinates an American poetry translations column in the monthly Steaua Magazine, where he introduces some of the most important American voices of the present to the Romanian readers.

 


 

 

 

Why are you sad on the 2nd of May?

 

We’ve been traveling for who knows how many hours through a yellow, impossible fog and all you say is “If you love me you have to do something.”

 

You thought I’d want to fly over the lake, forgetting how much I hate airplanes, although I told you this even when Grimes gave birth.

I hate planes to the sky and back.

 

Your friend’s uncle is afraid to take off in the fog and invites us to his place out of shame.

He shows us scale models and serves us an aged wine under the vine.

 

You wouldn’t drink because nobody’s allowed to drive your car.

You’re so cute when you don’t get what you want, especially how the yellow t-shirt changes you: an angry little boy with narrow shoulders.

 

We’re toasting to me.

This is an Archangel, and she’s a Tiger Wasp.

His wife, from Piatra Neamț, bought it, and the memory makes him bite his lips in pain.

 

Here we are still together and we love each other; then why do you suddenly have a tear on your cheek?

You look at the sky, it’s from the vine.

 

It’s crying, the pilot tells us, his mind empty and inconsolable.

He says it a few more times, as if we don’t understand.

For three years now, left alone with the planes, he repeats things until the world abandons him.

 

You stop at the farm with solar panels and start crying for real.

The desires once inside your body are now moving around us.

 

Here you are still a teenager and you don’t think too much about the future, although you think with great care about the past.

I see the moon in the rearview mirrors, over houses with lights on.

 

Some shine, even though the family went out to look at the stars.

Tonight, the fog holds them together.

 

You fall in love with the parents of the one you love, with their house, with their animals, with their set of topics, without which they would die in a conversation.

And this holds you closer to him than love.

 

At night, I sleep very little and sleep away from you.

The sound of you peeing soothes me, almost putting me back to sleep.

I feel the sadness in my cunt, but love is more subtle than the body.

 

In the morning, I see you in the garden watering three rows of strawberries; you call them Anger, Abandonment and Dedication.

I give you money, lots of money, so you don’t use this kind of words anymore.

You tell a story, but only the bees bumping your cheek can hear it.

 

You always want people to think you’re happy, like when sparkling water tickles your throat and nose.

The leaves tremble under the sprinkler, thanking you for the care.

 

Do you remember how you cried at the farm with solar panels?

Horrible.

The easiest way out of the story is to be absorbed in its tragic formula, in the universal myths of animals.

 

If water moves left and right, white light decomposes into its spectrum.

And I don’t care how you behave in this world, I care about you, about the way the climate suits you or not.

 

Only when the electricity in the air makes you tremble, you realise it got cloudy.

You smile.

Seriously, so I watered in vain.

 

But the silence you speak in, the resignation that the sun will not rise today, that it warmed you exactly as much as you needed.

You don’t even say it to me, and that’s why I find it unforgettable.

It’s the moment when I like you the most and I feel my heart melting.

 

I am saddened by loneliness as a form of criticism,

I am saddened by your cherry red windbreaker on the basalt sky,

by dreams with many people, my attention span unable to contain you.

It saddens me that I could live all of this again and that I can’t want it anymore.

 

 

 

 

Puglia

 

We’re smoking weed in front of the library, among scooters.

Roberto is friends with Marco who is friends with Mauro who is friends with me.

 

I don’t even like weed; I no longer feel any sadness from it, just space.

But they left me alone with Roberto, who was drinking beer yesterday morning at 9:00, in the reading room.

 

It smells of garlic and Moschino.

Where is Mauro? Did he go for coffee?

It’s the end of autumn, but the light of spring tricks the seasons.

 

A hundred meters further, the carabinieri smoke and jump their machine guns on their shoulders.

With olive-green eyes, with olive-oiled chins.

 

It’s that moment after lunch when all the communication breaks.

The cold, dry air makes us feel good. We want to be better

and right now I like the passage of time because I like time.

 

Andrea takes me by car and we go to the Ukrainian girl, Karolina or Karola.

Her boyfriend owns a house in Polignano and we sit in the sun like green parrots.

 

It’s an invasion. They break the bark with their strong beaks, leaving the fruit shell on the branches.

Like us, they are crazy about almonds, but can be satisfied by any kind of fruit.

 

In November, orange leaves float on the pool water.

Those who know how to swim swim among them and falter.

 

I fall asleep under long, expressionist shadows.

 

So where’s the boyfriend? I get up from the lounger and still can’t see him anywhere.

I love girls who were born with the sadness gene.

I play games with them on the PlayStation, and I go down. Down. Down. Down.

 

Daniele played water polo, but did not want to be an Olympic medalist.

Everyone is trying to be seen, but there in the water I wanted no one to see me.

 

I cried like never before.

Then I broke away and retired.

At 16, I said this was the end of my sports career.

 

Depression is very difficult… Do you want cocaine?

Imagine that you are the sun that fills the sky and everything around you melts.

I want to think a little before answering you.

 

Claudia is moving – a heat wave in December.

 

The explosion of the ultraviolet lamp terrifies me.

 

She knows what she’s doing.

She opens her mouth, speaks in a low voice, but remains motionless, close to her pronunciation.

It’s the only way she knows how to talk about it. She is aware of her lips moving and she likes it, she likes how her lips move, just like a dog left without water.

 

It hurts to look at her.

She kept a story in her chest, but the sea of ​​forgiveness in which a complicated being swims blurs her, silences her.

 

Soon there will be no more movies, no radio drama, no clever cars, no clever people.

What nonsense, who makes you talk like that?

Nobody, but I heard you crying and I couldn’t stand aside.

 

In the first scenes I had a shaved face; but here I wear a beard and I try to speak Italian.

 

And what about all those people who live in the dark and don’t even realize it?

It is no longer a novel or a story, a hermetically sealed villaggio in the center of a fire, in the wall of the house across the street.

 

It is evening in the month of our adoration.

It was only about you, from day one.

 

When I hear someone who knows how to speak, I free myself from my senses; like when I was at the drive-in and a guy suddenly appeared whispering in my ear.

And his voice sounded asleep, from afar, from a wet car.

 

A gesture without consequence, a little star on the sand.

They’re not aphrodisiacs, they’re a good night’s sleep, i.e. awesome.

 

What I forgot to draw from her or his answer: the ocean.

Nothing about the darkness. Almost nothing about the darkness. Not a word about the darkness. About darkness itself.

 

You are silent and calm, more like a constellation.

 

My mind is filled with things I can’t come to terms with.

And the cheetah still scratches the planet. Someone is singing St. Augustine in the blue bedroom.

 

Where do you eat the best focaccia barese in the world?

On this beautiful stadium, where Răducioiu once smiled and no one plays anymore.

 

Nothing is really great when you receive it at once. On the boy’s face and around his ankle.

And they all just look at the sky, at the twins’ rainbow.

 

The government will give them the bad news.

Port workers got used to them.

Soon, this place will be the same as before.

 

A painful party.

Andrea holds Clara in his arms, I would give anything to be one of them.

 

The terrace only holds their eyes.

 

From the sea, the smell of frittura mista.

I could move here, dedicate myself to the climate, to the octopuses.

 

I’m as good as the things I replace.

 

But the stars are gone, the air is cold and hard as mud.

The air is dangerous. Nobody wears warm clothes.

 

 

 

 

Our fathers

 

After working together for a few days, the men realize they are the same.

First they look around, their desires pierce the walls like drills,

then they choose two young women infiltrated by the sun and follow them full of hope,

until the street forces them to turn back, losing another chance

to regain their lives, to lie jaded and relaxed on private beaches

as the girls laugh at the bonus after boner pun, as the night latches the sea.

And waves, waves of warm oblivion, over the fingers clenched in remorse.

 

One of them remembers: his son was stuttering nervously trying to explain

that you can no longer use the viper metaphor when speaking about unknown women,

in 2020, at a crossroad, or to drool thoroughly, disgustingly after them,

and that it all comes from a deep, unshakable hatred for the woman who dumped him at 40.

Well, how do you tell me what I can and can’t do, lad, when I work my ass off

for you to drive the car you drive and not sleep like the poor under the bare sky?

Everything, every vibration from the youth of others burns his skin, and most of all their cruelty.

 

Before falling asleep, the other one imagines how his sons would fuck the girls on his account

opened in the nineties at the Bank of Sex and Silent Charisma.

First the little one, heir to the broad, hairy chest, often pierced with pain.

Then the big one, with an unbearably thin voice of pleasure, about which

years in a row he heard his neighbors whispering that his son was full of tricks and fads.

Now he says: Dad, I think you have some problems that should be solved,

but I can’t help you, because I’ve escaped the web of desires.

 

In reality, one really likes to let himself be hypnotized by the concrete mixer machine.

Five parts of sand to one of cement, water and a handful of fiberglass

floating like a fine powder in the centripetal darkness.

Then he leaves the full wheelbarrow at the door and at the end of the day, stepping into the room

he feels the fever running down his legs and his eyes fill with tears,

as if he saw the crooked walls for the first time, the ceiling lowered by 50 mm.

He read the future in stone, and how much he’ll have to endure, how many women far from him.

 

He looks away to calculate what is left for them to spend together

before being absorbed back into their families, under a sky like an empty esplanade.

One of them with an extra thousand euros and his overalls smelling of wild mint,

the other one dumped, with a summer house to return to every weekend.

And he remembers that they were eating in silence on the oilcloth with roses in bloom

and the radio was muttering discreetly about Nicoliță’s return to Steaua,

when the other man touched his neck with his hand, stretched out to a fruit fly.

 

The first impulse was to cling to his fingers, bring them close to his face and press,

because they were cold and clenched like a tendril trembling from a night of regress.

Only beyond the plasterboard, beyond the reinforced, insulated walls, from the air cushion

that didn’t let the heat escape, the men of the house were still looking at him with burning eyes,

as he had seen them years ago, manly and transparent, in a dream he had never left.

And all he did was look at the crescent moon above the pond and wait for the desire to dissolve.

In the dirty water, the vipers bite and fight – that’s all he felt night after night after night.

 

 

 

 

 

To me, their eyes lost their brightness

 

There are three bumblebees and the girls are chasing them with willows in their hands.

Evelyn and Daria run their fingers through their honey-blonde, wavy hair.

Roxana, younger and brunette, wears a white T-shirt with minions

and struggles to break nuts with a brick as big as her rickety chest.

Where did she find it and what kind of engine swirls inside her when she picks it up?

The sisters, although they quarrel a little in Hungarian, matched their pink T-shirts.

Be-Benidorm 23 and the TikTok logo reflecting the silver sunset.

They hit the willows through the air, advancing towards the end of the asphalt road,

from where you can fly over the rocks directly in the Someș,

walls of dark water to swallow all the noise.

Through the lowered car window, Roxana’s voice asks us:

Do you believe I can kill them with the power of my mind?

If you don’t believe me, girls, we won’t meet again tomorrow. I mean, I’m not coming anymore.

Next to the olive gate covered with a carpet like a dry rose,

a man smokes and calls their names one by one. Roxana, Eve, Daria.

Daria peeks into my car right before entering the yard,

thinking I don’t see her, that she’s invisible, just like moments before.

But we look into each other’s eyes and realize that something is taken away from me,

something yellow, maybe a bike leaned on the fence in contrast,

a flicker on the rusty metal. After it warmed me up without knowing it.

And maybe I don’t even want to be happy, but to rely on sadness,

when the autumn wind chaotically pushes sounds towards me.

When I was their age, bumblebees used to appear right after the May eclipse,

and maybe you don’t believe me, girls, but they only lived with us for a few days, in the evening.

 

 

 

Translated by Cătălina Stanislav

 

Adelina Tërshani

Adelina Tërshani

Adelina Tërshani (Kosovo, 1997) is a poet, an actor, a slam poetry performer and a feminist activist, fighting agains patriarchical structures, working for Kosovo’s Women’s Network. Adelina Tërshani is known for her critical and feminist spirit in her writings, cutting down constructs and social morality. Criticism about patriarchal mentality is the general theme of her writings. Additionally, Adelina Tërshani is also involved in acting. She has played major roles in several productions by the group Lipjans Youth Theater.

 


 

 

 

The old house that expels you

A house is not just a block of concrete

That house where you have counted every brick

Isn’t yours even when you reach the tenth

The house where you have counted every brick

is not yours just because you know how many steps lead to the second floor

The house where you have already counted every brick

and where you marked the date of your first periods with blood,

Does not remember that you also counted its roof tiles

The house, where you have counted every brick

Is not necessarily your house

because the master of the house

ensures you are emotionally and materially separate

The house where you have counted every brick

Does not remember that your first steps were in its foundations

The house where you have counted every brick

Does not remember an old lamp spattering

your best clothes for the first day of school

The house where you have counted every brick

Does not remember even the sound of the slaps you received inside its walls

because it has grown familiar

with every generation of women raised in that house

being subjugated

unwilling to put their name to that house

“All the women before you,” it says, “counted my bricks before they went to slowly prepare supper for the husband who had just beaten them. Not one of them wanted to make these bricks their own.”

Thus, the house “surrendered,”

although its bricks hold everyone’s stories, the great-grandmother, grandmother, mother, sister

Oh, the house where you have counted every brick

has decided to demolish itself

so as not to see itself any longer the property of men who do not know its value

The house or home

It is fighting with whatever is at hand

and you, what are you waiting for woman?

 

What to say to the little sister who is being chased by a car with tinted windows?

Oh, with what hope she addresses me

starts telling me that she is going to school, but does not want to go

Adelina, a car with tinted windows is following me from school to the station.

What should I do?

Twice I joined some strangers to walk with them to the bus station

because you know that I usually walk alone

and perhaps the person following me knows too.

What should I do, Adelina?

My heart pounds

when I see the car matching my pace.

I’m so scared, Adelina!

Now it’s getting darker earlier

And I’m even more scared of the dark

what if I end up in that car and no one can see me from outside

because of the tinted windows.

I just want to go to school, Adelina.

I’ve heard the girls at school also talk about a car with tinted windows

Maybe I’m not the only one it follows.

Should we all get together and call the police, Adelina?

What could he want?

Why should I get inside the mind of a man whose face I do not know?

Is it really a solution to call the police, Adelina?

Will they delay before coming?

And if he realizes that I’ve called them

next time who knows what he’ll do.

I just want to go to school without being scared, Adelina!

And I’m scared that next time

My sister will call me by name, since she has experienced

all scenarios possible in my head

And I’m scared that next time

my little sister

will not call.

Adelina.

 

Counter argument

One cannot say “kill me” to a creature that asks no permission to kill

they cannot speak from the grave if you have not begged for permission to be their voice

one cannot describe each bullet, iron bar, or knife that has taken the lives of women

and justify it!

One cannot say “kill me” to a creature that asks no permission to kill

Nothing will stop them, not spitting in their face

Nor curses

Or loud screams

If you do not describe the pipe that split Sabile’s skull

and again “kill me” they say

because one cannot say “kill me” to a creature that asks no permission to kill

she will not join your call

she listens, as her husband prepares her for hospital

Oh, one cannot say “kill me” to a creature that asks no permission to kill

those who have endured “just another slap” will never respond to your call

as there is no call to surrender

one cannot say “kill me” to a creature that asks no permission to kill

the woman in pain who listens, expects to hear how to survive

not to surrender

because one cannot say “kill me” to a creature that asks no permission to kill.

To be in their shoes

You never expected either to be advised to give up

it would have sounded pathetic to me

even in the midst of great pain

You’ve heard me say, “kill me”,

I should say that to my husband who wants to kill me

But one cannot say “kill me” to a creature that asks no permission to kill.

Patriarchal trauma

– How many children are there in the family?

– Four.

– Girls or boys?

– Girls.

– May the lord bless you with a brother.

– How many children are there in the family?

– Four.

– Girls or boys?

– Girls.

– May the lord bless you with a brother.

– How many children are there in the family?

– Four.

– Girls or boys?

– Girls.

– May the lord bless you with a brother.

– How many children are there in the family?

– Four.

– Girls or boys?

– Girls.

– May the lord bless you with a brother.

– How many children are there in the family?

– Four.

– Girls or boys?

– Girls.

– May the lord bless you with a brother.

– How many children are there in the family?

– Four.

– Girls or boys?

– Girls.

– May the lord bless you with a brother.

– How many children are there in the family?

– Four.

– Girls or boys?

– Girls.

– May the lord bless you with a brother.

– How many children are there in the family?

– Four.

– Girls or boys?

– Girls.

– May the lord bless you with a brother.

– How many children are there in the family?

– Four.

– Girls or boys?

– Girls.

– God willing, your mother will bless you with a brother.

– How many children are there in the family?

– Four.

– Girls or boys?

– Girls.

– God willing your mother will give you a brother.

– God willing your mother will give you a brother.

– God willing your mother will give you a brother.

– God willing your mother will give you a brother.

– A brother.

– A brother.

– A brother.

– Brother.

– Brother.

– Brother.

– Brother.….

– All those aunts, uncles, cousins, uncles, mother’s uncles, father’s uncles, uncles of uncles of uncles, and those unknown women on the bus, and my parents,  they were not forced to want this brother.

– How can they make you feel like “nothing” just because you have no brother.

– As if your brain has been rinsed clear

Whether you are man or woman.

– How can they slice things apart with a knife?

– It brings back past traumas those balloons when they burst

“It’s a boyyyyy”

– And the father, when he sees blue,

his eyes sparkle

and the woman rejoices too

as they will no longer bother her

They rejoice too in the father’s home where they take him

and for the wretched at home who can’t do it

they’re manhandled by the imam and the doctor

they never check the man’s health

because his magic juice cannot be questioned

– I weep for that woman’s problems

because those of you in power, easily make your own luck

how to make her realize

that she is not on this earth just to procreate

how to explain

that it’s not worth worrying about, even for a second

having children

– Come on you!

why are you so sure the boy will grow up to be a man or woman?!

perhaps the boy may wish to marry a man?

one more man to join the household

For sure shots would be fired then!

But not because you are celebrating!

But because all your plans had collapsed before you

Because your inheritance,

cannot be given to a woman!

Patriarchal Logic

To avoid the chairs that might leave me dead in the middle of class

Just like Rita, I remain in silence, instead of saying that I like girls, and not boys

So that I don’t lose the opportunity to get a job at the store, I even added a photo of me on my CV.

“Applications without photos will not even be consider by our staff” – was the answer I got when I wanted to do the opposite.

So, are my looks important, or what I can do?!

“Before I give you the job, I have to see what you can do best” he says, while looking all over my body as though I were a picture to be looked at for entertainment.

Acting like he did not specify the type of work in the job announcement.

Oh yes, I know very well how to do the thing that is going through your mind,

but the thing is that you are not my type.

To make sure that he won’t waste 12 months of work from maternity leave,

he gives me a pregnancy test instead of the job contract.

He doesn’t know that now, both parents are entitled to parental leave, the difference is that men don’t have to go through the test.

Now, is the length of my pregnancy important, or how much job experience I have?I

“My wife doesn’t work, she is a housewife”- he says, forgetting that when he gets home his dinner is served,

his bed made,

his children safe,

his house clean,

his clothes washed…

unpaid work done by women

but he’s not to blame:

Patriarchal Logic!

“Women should take care of children, they are the moms”

what about you being their Dad,

are you still afraid that you’ll lose your manhood if you take care of your own child?!

It’s not his fault:

Patriarchal Logic

“She gave it to her boss”

Before you see whether my knees are red,

you must know:

you can’t read the number of the books I’ve read or the name of the best university from which I graduated, and if you still think that is the way women succeed

I’m sorry, but you’ll get your knees dirty needlessly

it’s not your fault either:

Patriarchal Logic

Weak logic!

That kept you primitive!

Otherwise you would stop seeing me as a “deity”

because “deities” are supposed to be infallible

I fail

I work

I scream

I claim my inheritance

I speak without your permission

Because I am a HUMAN BEING

————–

I hate them giggling

I hate them giggling

when they approach you

and giggle with each other after you leave

 

I hate them giggling

when they sexually harass you

and giggle with each other after you leave

 

I hate them giggling

when they tell you, you’re pretty

and giggle with each other about how that is not the truth

 

I hate them giggling

when they ask the waiter to join them

just because she is a girl

and giggle with each other after she leaves

 

I hate them giggling

because it reminds me of bullying

they have a pattern

 

they all do it the same way

I hate them giggling

 

 

Translated by Alexandra Channer