Alen Brlek, born 1988 in Zagreb, won the ‘Na vrh jezika’ Award for the best unpublished poetry collection Metakmorfoze in 2013. His second book, Pratišina, was published in Serbia in 2017. He participates in the Zaron Project where he explores spaces and atmospheres of poetry and music with the poet Darko Šeparović and the musician Emil Andreis. His poems have been published in a number of magazines and translated into various languages.
We don’t build lighthouses, we’ve got phones –
the firebug’s urge compressed into signal.
I don’t like the bell in any form because on the other end
someone’s eyes always lose focus. Waiting is a journey
I’m teaching myself to be close to the water every time it dives,
reach out with my palms facing away from the sky because
I don’t trust the laws of the market.
I’m teaching myself to enter as if for the last time,
plant a pillow, exit as if I’d never entered at all.
To put Neptune to sleep. Cut into the night in all the right places.
Not to scratch my back every time it itches, not to forget
the details. To put more
trust in the depth of the dive.
We should find a place, an open intention
which doesn’t deprive. Like dams
built by beavers. We should
lift the belly skywards, invite god
to lay his head down and try to sleep.
We should give up on the right angles
and other things that cannot be touched,
forever split the heart in two with our thumbs like an apple,
give the pieces to children.
We should decant, as if a flock of birds into the crown of a tree,
humans into humans.
Today is Sunday, I breathe eerily softly
like a stag with an arrow stuck in his neck. This is the place
of a thousand bloodhounds rushing into my arms.
In the morning I read the silence of sleepy birds, the sound of
dishes which is always to do with the space between two buildings
the same distance stretches from the balcony.
At noon I look in the mirror and repeat – it’s all a dream
all a dream.
Later I read deeply into what’s been said, I await symbols
and symbioses, and some other Ss. Like sky, like
At night I read about people fleeing famine and war
about the sea and the death of poetry, I cry and all things lean towards the blue.
Today is Sunday, in all things I discern you
in all things I wait for you.
Suddenly, everything we do is a prayer,
all that is between us
an altar and swimming reflex. Tart
earth conquers us,
supplies the body with softness for a breadly tomorrow.
Tomorrow, your metals will forget the war,
tomorrow, my tongues will learn the art of wound cleansing.
Tomorrow, our lips will be botany and fish.
DESCRIBING THE EXTRAORDINARY
Light was hollow this morning.
On the kitchen table, motionlessly,
an onion levitated, and I wanted to say
I missed the ring of your voice.
Alongside water, thoughts boiled into
sugar isn’t awake, fast,
one should fast.
DESCRIBING THE MUNDANE
For days I’ve been trying to describe parquet. Parquet is
unvanquishable, it agrees only to scratching
and it’s always potentially full of water.
Parquet is an indescribably harrowing version of the East,
a cherriless space. A journey of palms and
feet into the pain of a lonely man.
I shall not agree to dying above parquet level,
just as I don’t agree to trams, lifts,
clocks and hate.
Parquet is an indescribably permanent absence of oxygen
I shall carry you, o, roots,
even after a thousand ploughings,
God is here, drupacious,
right behind the eyes.
These days the sky crumbles into dust
and everything ends up in the kitchen somehow.
The cold opens up softly like a cotton flower,
the hot hens I tell no one about shiver
they don’t go out, don’t sing.
Sometimes, silence carves the city into my bones
and my smile, using the dream and distance
technique it builds you a home.
Only sometimes it becomes the water from the North’s edge.
The white enters behind the eyes
tries to remember which way you tilt the plate
when there’s just a little soup in it,
what storks in love sound like
and at what temperature roof tiles are fired.
HYPOTHESIS OF LONGING
Out of the atomic mushrooms in my chest flocks of
yellow vowels of her take flight,
with the horizon inscribed into their third eye.
Let whoever translates this poem write thus:
silence is thickest from eight to quarter past.
We are all hybrids of ancient dust and light
and we only differ in the way we dive.
all things turn white.
From my window I watched,
through the scope, the aerials on the city’s rooftops,
shore them of tips.
Your hot hair inscribed the big bang
into my skin, we pulled the knife
between each other’s feet
and prayed. Love is an abattoir
we march towards, tireless and calm.
Days are patient, safe and cold.
The heart is wet cotton. I get up, cotton
courses through my body as I approach the radiator
expecting a change. When nothing happens,
I return with my palms warm and I cover my back,
that soft universe which
contains innumerable definitions of freedom
(we’re free from waking till the first cup of coffee,
we’re free when we reduce everything to chemistry and biology,
when we ask about the freedom of others
when we stand in front of the mirror and we don’t choose pronouns
we’re free when we don’t think about freedom)
but, with us, everything is equally innocent and deadly.
Translated by Mirza Purić