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books, she was awarded the Goran Poetry Prize, the Kvirin Award for young poets, and the Zdravko Pucak Award for best unpublished poetry manuscript by a young author.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





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




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



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



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


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





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



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