Marko Tomaš

Marko Tomaš, born 1978 in Ljubljana, was one of the founders and editors of the Kolaps literary magazine in Sarajevo. He has worked as a journalist and radio speaker and has published extensively across the region. He is a poet of a rare sensuality and emotional refinement with a rarefied bohemian touch reminiscent somewhat of a young Leonard Cohen. His published works include, Hands Under Head (2002), Mama I’m Successful (2004), Life Is a Joke (2005), Marko Tomaš and Other Poems (2007), Goodbye Fascists (2009), Midnight Conversations (with Mehmed Begić) (2012), Boulevard of the People’s Revolution (2013), The Black Prayer Book (2015), The Paper Boat Race (2016), Thirty-Ninth of May (2018).





Selected Poems


When I Return From War 

Perhaps I should go to some war.
Become a real man in a manly situation.
I am no longer good at predicting the future.
I am curing alcoholism with a rather conservative method.
In other words — I am gradually trying to quit.
How did the sea enter my verses? How did I grab the gun? 
My face covered in moss, the smell of unknown soil. 
I dream of agaves – our names carved into a single leaf.  
                                                           I miss you. 
When I return from the war, I will kill you, I’ll sit on the sofa,
light up a cigarette and let you bleed lying on the carpet.
Today I ate snails. How did we end up here? We have gone far, 
                                                                       way too far. 
I have tattooed your name on my forearm. You won’t like it. 
Perhaps I should try describing the sky? I think yesterday 
                                                                       I killed a man. 
When I return from war, I will kill all of those who seduced you
                                                                       while I was gone,
I will kill them before the eyes of their dearest the same way they
                                                                       killed me
When they slid between your thighs.
I have problems writing. Worms. Fire. Mutilation. However, 
                                                                                              it’s mostly worms. 
I feel sorry for the tree we knocked down yesterday. Do you like me, kitty? 
Today it’s raining. Soon we’re off to the woods. Nature 
                                                                                              is beautiful.  
When I return from the war, I will make sculptures out of wire,
I will calmly mow my lawn, grow roses,
keeping your heart safe in a jewellery box.
I’m all sticky from the mud. We’re listening to the radio. Some sad song
                                                                                              for the sad soldiers. 
One of the murdered boys looked me straight in the eye. I was pissing blood. 
                                                                                  They say I caught a bad cold. 
When we reached the sea, the captain shot himself in the temple. 
They are supplying us with rations of marijuana and brandy. Many of us 
                                                                                  Are inconsolable. 
We got hooked on death. I’m writing a poem for you, expect it 
                                                                                  in the next letter. 
On the bedside table my photo in uniform. 

Try This, Dear Wagner 

Now, awaiting my thirtieth birthday,
I can never get rid of the depression,
because I still don’t understand baseball.
I wasn’t born an insect.
I cannot forgive my mother for that.
There is no efficient poison spray
for my kind.
I don’t listen to the radio anymore.
Everyday on the shortwave radio God is being
reborn as a voodoo doll
in the hands of a Nazi war criminal.
I can barely stand
the hysterical yoga practitioners.
They have found meaning. They live stress-free.
My ass!
Bing Crosby, the Christmas torture,
I cannot think of enough disparaging terms
for all the bullshit humanity falls for.
I should be listening to Wagner,
but I cannot find any Wagner on my computer.
A woman will take my last name.
Our kids will be prow angels. 
I will bring them handfuls of juicy and ripe oranges.
The house will smell of olive oil.
I would love to be perfect like the sea.

My People 

My people are scattered in distant cities.

My people wake up in Saigon and Managua.

They drink in bars in Zagreb and on those parapets in Split. 

They get wasted on speed in Sarajevo nights.

They drive their kids to school on the streets of Vienna.

They hallucinate underneath the Berlin sky.

They hurry to work in Paris.

They play banjo in the bars of Edinburgh.

They practise yoga in Sombor.

They urinate in the entrances of buildings in Belgrade. 

They make love on Bosporus.

They tell juicy jokes in the gardens of Mostar.

They wash dishes in the Copenhagen restaurants.

They are looking for a sunny spot in Oslo.

Homeless orphans, much like those Dickens’s boys and girls.

My people – I say.




It’s still here, the mean bank of the river. 

That’s where I grew up.

Raised by my grandma and my grandpa.

My whole childhood I listened to horrible stories.

That taught me respect.

Those stories and terror I used to feel

walking down the street.

Sometimes I would hear distant echoes

of some pointless desperate battle,

would sense the stench

that flame-throwers leave behind.

And only the smell of wet dough

in my grandma’s kitchen

would bring me back to reality

that each time looked more and more yellow

like that Mitteleuropean sky.

In fact those young Israeli pilgrims

are really horrible. 

They stumble in drunken rage over that place with so much sadness.

The sadness I haven’t been able to shake off my whole life.

My girlfriends, the stewardesses, all tell me

that the worst flights to work on

are those from Tel Aviv to Warsaw.

You hear no kaddish, just burping and drunken cussing.

Oh, those Israeli youth in the Zamenhof Street

always used to creep me out. 

Every time after they would depart,  

leaving behind the smell of alcohol,

heaps of paper waste and cigarette buts,

I would just like in my childhood

hear the distant echoes

of some pointless desperate battle.


A Little Man In a Little Town

Little men in little towns are obsessed

with their own stature. 

The same goes for me, I’m looking for a perfect

little spot for all these little words

in order to electrify my homeland.

But this search for the homeland will someday

be the death of me.

Tom Waits hates me

whenever I try to write

like American poets.

For this little history little words

that can bypass each other on a narrow road

should suffice. 

Not to mention that try as I might

I could never be able to get rid of the heavy Slavic accent.

In a little town everything is a little toned down.

For example, street-lights are never strong enough 

to light up this entire prosaic fresco, 

as they can barely embrace a young couple

having a fight, or that linden

to whose smell I have always been allergic

to the extent that it makes me really hate

this little town spring.

I would like – like other little men in big cities –

to really mind my own business, but I am too bloodthirsty,

plus the little parks in my little town have indeed turned

into little cemeteries and I never fail

to rub that fact into everyone’s nose, because

the glorious war merits of us little people

are just enormous.

Nobody wants us – little people – for his enemy!

Our condescension, our haughtiness, our haughty-naughty-haughtiness

will always defeat every decent word.

For we are little people,

we are arrogant people,

we are not-entirely-fulfilled-people.

Walking across this wasted land.



Morning in Mahallah1 

It is morning – Tuesday!
The spring is fat
like a castrated tomcat.
Behind the high walls of the houses in mahallah
someone’s waking to a cough.
Paul Celan’s wandering look
gets stuck at the top
of a cypress.
Resting there
like a shot-down Sun
releasing a yellowish butter of light.
The houses, the fortresses
blown up from the inside
are resting in ruins. 
The way someone chews food
can easily turn into an unbearable experience.
One finds refuge in a dream
as if fleeing before the Barbarians.
One wakes up reluctantly getting into
the heavy armor of short-lived future
marked by the money
you have to set aside for utilities.
In fact, the night has the color of coffee.
Soon the former proletarians will begin they daily quarrels. 
1 Mahallah (or mahalla, mahallya, or mohalla; from Arabic: محلة‎, Persian: محله ‎, Urdu: محله ‎) is an Arabic language country subdivision or neighbourhood term. Also the historically important Ottoman section of the city of Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina.



Translated by Damir Šodan