Autumn-winter 2004


  Autumn-winter 2004

  Hamdija DemiroviŠ; Translated by Charles Simic


Not three -- but thirty years almost
He strove to elevate and "resuscitate."
Everything flew so slowly, slowly...
Drop by drop, given that the milk

Had dried up in the teat. Our Mother
(Didn't you know?) was a witch.
The oldest one, she named Pater
Without thinking, poor widow.

He understood finally that in savage land
It doesn't pay to "give peace a chance,"
So that lilies in their bloom
He couldn't tell apart from the acorns.

His birthplace became Troy.
His true Penelope was not Flaubert
But grave mounds without end.
Seas he didn't cross, the dead he didn't bury.

So now, what curl and numbers
Can he sing shipwrecked on the rocks?
While victims sob, press seashells to his ears,
So as not to hear, not to see?


No, the age did not demand
An image of its "accelerated grimace."
As for something of "modern grace" --
Not a chance.

Of the "revery of the inward gaze,"
No hint. Only mass movements
Where band music is the rule
And the classics are in paraphrase.

The age demanded absolutely nothing.
Neither "alabaster" nor "prose kinema,"
Nor "sculpture" of plays in rhyme.
Savagery suited them just fine.


If only by some luck Sappho's
"Pianola" had replaced "barbitos."
Accordion and flute here held sway
And good taste was disdained.

Neither "Christ," "Dionysus" nor "Phallus,"
Just plain old godless slaughter.
Where Ariel loses his pride,
There's no point to sacrifice.

Yes, "all flows" chez Heraclitus...
Here nothing budges.
Time makes stalactites.
Les fleurs du mal is all that grows.


Some, in any case, fought.
Some, perhaps, believing.
But never pro domo.
Never dulce et decorum.

All quick to arm
Out of a fear not to appear weak,
For the love of slaughter -- the real kind,
Not for the sake of any "learning,"
Neither before nor after.


Myriads died, truly,
But certainly not the "best"
While the toothless old bitch
The "botched civilization,"

The way it is will outlive
All our nonsense and trifle.

"For the heap of broken statues,"
"For a few thousand battered books,"
Nobody ever died buddy boy:

You sent someone to kingdom come
For two handfuls of gold teeth,
For a pitcher of beer and slivovitz.


As he passed l'an trentiesme de son age,
The age demanded slight, whispery prose:
Hounds, gardens (lies were the fashion);
The age demanded and got its pose.

Now as the third decade wanes,
He feels unable to fulfill the call;
The lyric masquerade bores him;
He'd rather find his lair somewhere.