Ahmed Burić

Ahmed Burić, born 1967 in Sarajevo, graduated in Journalism at the Sarajevo Faculty of Political Science. He is one of the most influential reporters, columnists and intellectuals in South-Eastern Europe. He writes columns with humorous and insightful comments about Sarajevo and the World, published on the of Radio Sarajevo portal. He has published over 4000 articles about cultural and political topics relating to Bosnia and Herzegovina and the rest of South-Eastern Europe. His work has been translated into English, French, Czech and Slovene.Burić is also a poet and has published four poetry collections, Bog tranzicije (The God of Transition, 2004), Posljednje suze nafte i krvi (The Final Tears of Crude Oil and Blood, 2010), Maternji jezik (Mother Tongue, 2013) and Vrata raja (The Gates of Paradise, collected poems in Slovene, 2015). In 2017 he published his first novel Tebi šega što se zovem Donald?.

Photo: www.media.ba/





Selected Poetry




Brought to the walls of the Eastern Empire of evil rulers and the good
but hungry and naïve,
like Janosik,
to finally tear it down, you are leaving now.
You are leaving now
for the place where you preached the eternity lived,
you are leaving your audience, the show goes on,
all cameras are on the squares,
and all roads lead to Rome.
At Christmas, everyone will sing again,
Rejoice, O people,
and you will be like a dream. The one that has gone.
And we don’t know who will answer,
for the 80s Gdansk,
for the poverty after the Wall,
for the tea shortage in Georgia,
for the blank gaze
of the unemployed.
in Detroit or Dushanbe, all the same.
for the shameless world.
You are leaving now and I already
await a new world,
the same or worse than this one,
and one of the successors,
some clerk,
a protector of the brand of the Cross and
the institution of confessors.
You are leaving now and that is the only difference between us,
you and Coca-Cola will live forever,
they will read about you in
3D encyclopaedias. Merry singers will devote 
farewell songs to you, mein gott, even Karel Gott may sing for you.
You are leaving now and I can’t help thinking
that your duty was only partially done,
I was 11 then, from the living room echoed
the voices of the elders, someone said, perhaps my Father, 
he was happy the Pope was finally 
a Slav. I mourn you today, but did you stop
the slaughter of my Slavs – you did not.
I had an illusion you could have after all,
you, the Polish poet who did not despise his Polish roots.
A woman who was crying in front of St. Anton’s Church 
said her Muslim name and 
said you were a father to all. 
Well done for Africa and Jerusalem to you and all, and
for the church in Krakow and the friendship with the old poet,
we are all alike at this age,
so take surahs prayed for you,
but to me, I repeat, and to my people you were no father at all.
Mind is to sword what poetry is to banks,
no enemy worthy of respect,
I know it won’t be the same,
what is to follow, my dear,
could bring even more contempt.
Brought to the walls of the Eastern Empire of evil rulers and the good,
but hungry and naïve,
like Janosik,
to finally tear it down, you are leaving now.
You are leaving now,
for the place where you preached the eternity lived.


There were several rounds of beer in front of us, our youth behind us.

And a match on TV: just like in a TV ad.

“Ulf Kirsten” – the commentator said, totally 

unaware what those two words with a nine on his back 

could stir in us.

“Ulf Kirsten” – you repeated and we remembered watching Dynamo Dresden 

on the coast so many years ago, mourning the city and drunkenly cursing 

the allies for flattening it. Yet, we were happy that 

this fervent centre-forward defended their colours, the colours of the vanishing country, just as ours was vanishing, too.

“Ulf Kirsten” – I repeated and we laughed. When he ran on to the pitch in a white jersey

with an eagle on his chest, instead of a blue one with a sickle 

and a hammer and a DDR sign, nothing was the same any more.

Neither we nor Europe. He alone, robust and strong-legged, always reminded us that it

was possible to survive. And score.

We drank beer and he played on. The result was 0:0, in life, too; the defence 

opened up, the ball crept into the penalty box from the right, and he simply put his foot out.

He raised his arms, and stood with his legs and arms wide apart,

in shape of a red star.

A great monument to revolution.

“Ulf Kirsten” – was written on TV, and we jumped in front of the screen,

kissed him and promised to bid him farewell from the pitch 

in his last match. The red and black jersey he celebrated in 

evoked memories of Vardar and Sloboda, of Čelik, of football 

that was once played for people to clear up their lungs shouting names, 

swearing at the referee. 

For Ulf Kirsten, the red star man. 




Last night I dreamt I found

my mother tongue

I spoke about something important with my mother

about my future, and 

I laughed, and then bitterly cried 

I woke up happy

some harmony echoed in my head

vineyard, vineyard, vineyard

ninth, tenth, bronze, Bosnia

and deep inside, with my mother’s help,

I found my mother tongue

but I found not much about myself.

She told me: you could have lived,

continued to love music and theatre,

continued the family name, gotten married,

so I could have some grandchildren 

in my late days, but no,

you kept on dreaming.

And I dreamt how I once

kissed at Tromostovje

and perhaps then missed the grandchildren boat 

while holding on to her tongue,

which is not my mother tongue, but it was the

sweetest thing I had ever tasted.

The places I left at the crack of dawn

were meant to become well-lit, magic cities

with wide streets, but they had no such luck,

and neither did I with

my mother tongue,

we didn’t find each other, we just

occasionally meet in dreams. 

Or in a French kiss.

I, merely a talker,

and he, a monster under beam lights,

but with little,

too little light

which gives any hope.

In my mother tongue. 




Tonight, in a theatre cafe,

after a play from Bonn 

we had a pleasant chat over wine

and found faults with everyone. 

We all get on well

as long as we talk food or the others

our words cling to napkins and

dance around the table, hanging out is so nice.

They ask “why don’t you write art critique”

you were so good at it once,

“No” I replay, mouthful,

why spoil fantasy for the audience?

Step by step, joke by joke,

the mild night pulled out its last caprice

and before sleep, there seemed to have arrived 

some news of stable peace. 

Landscapes pass by, the evening act is on

the wise proclaim banalities an “artefact”,

yet it hurts inside, I know, this peace is the devil’s act,

nothing more than the upstarts’ banquet. 




For Milorad Popović

Years pass by

and there is less and less hope for me

to ever see Buenos Aires.

To take a deep breath

of fresh air.

We are Europe,

we fight against plastic packaging,

and for the human rights,

and for the aquarium fish 


we who enjoy living among

the artificial algae,

while through a pipe placed behind glass-walled sovereignty,

we are given oxygen.

There is less and less hope for me to sing and tango

and go crazy at La Bombonniera,

and, like a Polish prince, W. Gombrowitz,

not give a damn about what they think of me

back in my homeland.

To forge ahead fake plans

about my homeland,

plans that will fall apart as soon as

the plane touches its soil,

I, a former emigrant,

the herald of freedom.

They pretended to welcome me back 

only to start strangling me 

with bare hands.

Years pass by and there is less and less

hope for me to see Buenos Aires,

to have my homeland of

fresh air. 




Almost two decades have passed,

while we have not written anything good or honest

about the breakup of Yugoslavia.

There, on the sea bed, are remnants of destroyed vacation homes

whose owners, mostly Serbs, will probably never return to the cove.

From the surrounding hills, the cove was bombed,

on their behalf, by Montenegro army reservists, 

their descendants’ success is evident

 in positive reports for institutions for European integration.

Stories weaved at the table hold a thousand and one nights,

the ghosts of heroes of roads and lies float by,

this tension only matters to us,

Thanksgiving is celebrated, those dates when, contrary to the Geneva Convention,

kilometres of territory were “won”, kilometres whose fate had been decided long before,

just like the fate of the grilled fish.

Carnivals, celebrations in the country of peasants on the hilly Balkans,

Nowhere to be found so many algae,

Nowhere to be found so many squeaking beds and safe sex on the beaches,

Nowhere to be found so many young people untrained to be waiters.

And could love, after all, be what it takes 

to persuade you that this life was not in vain,

that it was not wasted.

The walls of solitude are broken by

children’s laughter,

like a run of cards, the ace of spades, 

jack of hearts, queen of diamonds,

and show me a child who has not imagined

their house completely filled with water, 

and themselves swimming between chandeliers, canopies,

pianos and brocade curtains.

This country has thus sunk.

And children?

The children believe they have learned to swim

in the pool of new rules of solvency,

in the ads of enhanced taste and smell,

which is all 

with so little imagination,

much, much less than a dream

of a country under water.




There is no need whatsoever to go across the ocean, to where He may have arrived from. 

Or, at least, not until He goes somewhere else. To yet another bar where we will also go 

to have one more pint before the waitress kindly warns us: it’s closing time. Like Maljević’s cross that has only kept its shape, my life stands.

Unstoppably, like a train through a field, the God of transition has dashed through it.

I ate His body today –

in a sausage pastry which an Albanian guy makes for a pence in a bakery near

the bridge, I saw Him in the papers this morning, I saw Him in the mirror tonight

for the last time before I decided not to see His face ever again. 

As I said, there is no need whatsoever to go across the ocean, to where He may have arrived from.

Or, at least, not until He goes somewhere else.




“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? Matthew 5:13-14

“Don’t put so much salt

it’s not good for your blood pressure.”

My mother says while

one drop of sweat falls into the plate

making the meal saltier.

My aunt takes a painting off the wall

and gives it to me saying:

“Look, I may check out soon, and the painter is also biting the dust,

so the painting may be worth something.” She gives me five books as well:

one, I throw away immediately, the others are

Death in Venice, a bibliophile edition,

Poetry by Crnjanski, Buñuel’s biography

and Miodrag Stanisavljević’s diary 

published in Novi Pazar in which 

he mocks chauvinists.

It doesn’t matter to anyone anymore,

our paintings will not be seen by anyone,

nor our books read,

we are a fallen society

we have fallen while

admiring beauty and fooling

ourselves that, for our fall,

we are not to blame. 

In a salt-free society

we live our epoch,

it is still found only in tears,

in sweat. 




What is good for your poetry
is not good for you.
It’s been nineteen years since the signing of
the Dayton accord.
Life after the war
is boring
and goes too fast.
Or have you finally accepted
what they taught us 
in the 4th grade:
“that the period between the two Wars“
is the darkest period
in the history of our peoples?


Too much time was wasted on the stations,

glory grows only in the sun

and darkness is the sanctuary of illusions,

in a buffet, it looks like a cop is

protecting a woman,

everyone speaks as if they had something important to say,

as if all this had already been recorded,

there, the sun may also be a unit of time.




I didn’t know what really mattered in life,

I am not making excuses here, before the towers of a new Babylon,

that imagine the sky to give absolution

for oil-stained money made by slaughtering brothers and infants.

I didn’t know what really mattered in life – birth, circumcision, baptism, marriage and death.

I didn’t know what really mattered in life: I preferred talking football

and retelling anecdotes about musicians whose talent I would never match.

It was more important to set out to save the world than to choose the right side.

I didn’t know what really mattered in life, it was more important to be loyal to my friends than to my homeland.

I cared more about hearing or telling a good story than publishing a book.

I didn’t know what really mattered in life: I loved, mostly in vain – is it not what real love is all about? – I didn’t take part in the creation of national programmes, or TV programs, or computer programmes, for that matter.

I didn’t know what really mattered in life.

I am the last of the Gutenberg dynasty.

The one reaches for a book rather than clicking a link, and who, in dreams, sees letters mixing with images collapsing like realism.

I didn’t know what really mattered in life.

I am the one who meddles in everything but is sure of nothing.

And the one who knows that having one thing means losing another, often at the same time, most often for good.

I didn’t know what really mattered in life.

I am standing in the desert, sand slipping through my fingers, wind blowing through my face and eyes.

I will remain here for a while, and then, like a phantasm of an oasis, like a mirage, disappear into nothingness.

I didn’t know what really mattered in life. I am Ahmed, the son of desert that

was created after my world dried up.

I didn’t know what really mattered in life.

All I know is that all the poems are Snowman’s tears.




We are travelling to Prijedor

through the Sana river valley

all rivers flow towards the place they are due but

the Sana only flows straight to you

this was an ad then 

when we thought that 

Keraterm was a ceramics factory

only two years later

it became a concentration camp

with four rooms

where prisoners were beaten 

to death 

Fikret, Fahrudin, 

Ilijaz, Uzeir, and one Jovo 

whose wife was a Muslim

for all rivers flow towards the place they are due but

the Sana only flows straight to you

while we are reading  poetry to

retired language teachers and 

some two guys with cameras

whose presence would be understood later

I feel nails piercing my neck

for all rivers flow towards the place they are due but

the Sana only flows straight to you

there is a stout man with longish grey hair and

neat beard around his mouth

I cannot say it didn’t cross my mind

what he did during the war

but he seems civilised

for all rivers flow towards the place they are due but

the Sana only flows straight to you

he also read a poem

and then we went to the town called the Sana Bridge

the bridge made of dreams and we spoke for a long time

about how people from riversides are different

from the mountain folk

people from Krajina and I

for all rivers flow towards the place they are due but

the Sana only flows straight to  you

I saw the Commercial Bank sign

that’s where my father 

when we thought

that Keraterm was a ceramics factory

set up a computing centre

people from Krajina and he

it was all way ahead of their times

at weekends he would return home delighted

and I started dreaming again

for all rivers flow towards the place they are due but

the Sana only flows straight to you

we stayed in a hotel

where in 1995 Željko Ražnjatović Arkan 

had his headquarters

screams pierced through the walls

which an inappropriately loud prayer from the mosque

tried to out loud at dawn

you asked why everyone acts 

as if nothing had happened we spoke of our

poetic achievements 

and headed back to Sarajevo

to tell the Writers` Society 

how everything went very well

how we earned our daily allowance

when we returned to the Society

a photo of the grey gentleman from Prijedor

who read his poem was already waiting

and bitterness

why they said you poets did not

go to bow to the murdered victims

to Fikret, Fahudin, Ilijaz, Uzeir

and perhaps to one Jovo

whose wife was a Muslim

this guy was the commander of the concentration camp

shame on you

for all rivers flow towards the place they are due but

the Sana only flows straight to you

he was invited to the event by 

a fellow poet who was 

the camp prisoner himself 

and he said

do not preach me about it

I am a Muslim and I know what happened

I understand goodness and forgiveness and 

who should be invited and who should not

ashamed and anxious I went home

I found no wisdom in what had happened today

for all rivers flow towards the place they are due but

the Sana only flows straight to you




May I tell you that I love you?

Will any trace ever remain,

no longer is the old play on

like, you’re an angel and I the devil’s gain.

But inside me, everything is the same,

I fear the beginning, because 

I fear not the end

I know that an escape is just 

a false delay and for a long time

I have prayed to no god, old or new,

but still, sometimes I ask myself:

“May I tell you that I love you?”

And what are you going to say to me,

in the end it does not matter either,

for this Nothing in which I build

a perfect you,

to me, in fact, is everything,

it would actually be

a victory over an android,

and not the love of two people,

of which at least one wonders:

“Do androids dream of electric sheep?”

all those moments in time, like tears in the rain,

I had a musical delirium:

Bach’s blindness, the deafness of Ludwig Van,

I pondered Brahms’ great suffering,

I carried mad paintings of William

Blake, screamed the Munk’s cry,

closed the dark chamber of Robert Cappa,

rode with Lawrence of Arabia,

secretly loved Marlene Dietrich on return to


broke the jeep Patton’s Cadillac crushed in, and yes,

I told Kennedy:

“Come on, what kind of a Berliner are you,”

 so I was a little sorry afterwards,

I stole Mona Lisa, tore down the Berlin Wall,

racked Yugoslavia,

attacked the Gulf and defended Kabul,

there, I did all this,

but I still have not found the courage

to express a clear view,

and still sometimes I ask myself 

May I tell you that I love you?




Dear Aleida, forgive me that I rarely write and do not be afraid.

Everywhere around, indeed, are Zenteno’s people,

but we will try to break through, next to their shadows.

It would be good to reach the Americans,

all these dogs were trained in their camp.

There’s something damn cold in Terán.

My life is in his hands, but who am I to judge, I was like that myself

in Santiago.

I hope, darling, you have forgiven me.

I forgave the Compañero.

Raúl, you know, was always with us,

F. is the leader, but Raúl is capable of anything.

Even of that fake letter.

No, Raúl was not married to the Revolution,

and he followed him.

The Russians finally left me,

I’m slim again Aleida

and you will like me when you see me.

It would be nice to take a walk now,

La Habana was our only home, after all.

When they killed Artur and Antonio,

I remembered that you had once said:

“Ernesto, you have three people in the world.”

I have only you now.

I love you.


El Cigala



Translated by Azra Radaslić