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Ab Initio and Other Poems— Dejan Aleksić

Jun 6, 2023 | Poetry | 0 comments

TRANSLATED FROM THE SERBIAN BY MARIJA BERGAM PELLICANI

 

image

Image used for Representation

 

Ab initio

Many doors inside me

Squeak and slam in the wind

So old and senile

It doesn´t even remember the burglars

 

But sometimes, from afar,

It brings the sounds of their

Songs of triumph

 

It assembles echoes in empty halls

Like brash and savage children

Mumbling in despair: who are you

Who let you in

 


 

Agon

My verse is a young Aryan

In love with the rabbi’s daughter.

It believes in the ideology of supra-language,

But knows that the road is older than the wheel.

 

Some thoughts I hide from it.

It peers into my contracts with metaphors.

 

Once I drove through some fields

Watching the idle scarecrows.

The chosen people of birds

Looked as if it had defected into the promised land,

Leaving the old world behind.

 

The old world is a scarecrow laid

On a heap of kindling behind a village shack –

That’s what I thought.

 

There’s a hen, said my verse.

It’s settling to lay an egg

Into that straw head.

 


 

Once Seen

It had been raining all day

History was cooling on bronze heads

Doormen were squinting like mystics

Through the clouded windowpanes of the institutions

It wasn´t easy shaking the feeling

That time was asking for something in return

The street geometry was folding into

The meaninglessness of the observer´s hurry

The secret of knowledge descended among taxi drivers

The speech withdrawn into its half-deaf chapels

The branches – crossed in the gusts

As if a plant crusade were about to begin

For a moment the world was a keyhole

On the heavy door behind which someone is alone

 

I saw this one Thursday

Taking my old headache for a walk

And wished poetry were possible

 


 

Travelogue

How naïf of me

To bring out among people

A hoop of smoke and a fistful

Of bitter dust.

 

Children were eating a watermelon

At the feet of a totem,

A dog was licking its wound

Under a classical quotation.

 

Dampness on the walls

Of the academies and a woman

By a window open

Onto the world before speech.

 

Knowledge of honey and metaphysics,

And a theology based

On this proportion: one jewel

For one pocket darkness.

 

Evening chores

Neglected, so one could see

How love jumps over

Its own shadow and goes off,

 

Followed by bees,

Which remember the flowers

Sprouted from horse carcasses

In the field after a battle.

 


 

Stateless

You should go forth among the people

And see how your loneliness

Lives on the faces of others

 

The cultivated lady in front of a billboard

For the theatrical premiere

The old man who stopped to read the obituaries

 

The local simpleton sitting

Under the bust of The Liberator

Heckling girls

 

The mustachioed employee of Water Utilities

Half-visible in a manhole’s yawn

The postman – Sysiphus ‘ cousin

 

Sysiphus’ darkened face

In The History of Art bought

From a street vendor

 

The earnest thin-lipped clerk

Lucida intervalla in a boy’s gaze

And his young time of yearning

 

All those faces are home to your

By-now-demented loneliness

Resigned to a life in a foreign land

 

Ask of it to come back to you

And dip its tongue heavy with silence

Into your empty words

 


 

Behind

Through clouded windowpanes

The view of the world is no more

But the desire for clarity

Marking something down with your finger

Across the dampness on the pane

An easy thought or a line of poetry

 

Briefly peering

Through the letter keyholes

With the ardour of a spy and a saint

Just close enough to the words

For your own breath to take away

A bit of the world

 


Also, read Someone Else’s Cinderella by Sonja Veselinović, translated from the Serbian by Marija Bergam Pellicani, and published in The Antonym:

Someone Else’s Cinderella— Sonja Veselinović


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Dejan Aleksić

Dejan Aleksić

Dejan Aleksić is a distinguished Serbian poet, playwright, novelist and children’s author. He was born in Kraljevo, in 1972. He graduated at the Department for Serbian Literature and Language at the University of Novi Sad. Aleksić has published eleven poetry collections, a volume of plays, a novel and more than twenty children’s books. He is the recipient of major Serbian poetry prizes and, more recently, his debut novel Petlja (which translates as “loop,” “slip knot”, but also “grit”) was awarded the “Miloš Crnjanski” and the “Vladan Desnica” literary prizes. His poems have been translated into a dozen European languages, with separate collections appearing in Spanish, German, Polish, French, Lithuanian, Slovenian and Macedonian. As the author of works for children, Aleksić is included in the elementary school reading curriculum. He is the editor-in-chief of the renomated publishing outlet of the Stefan Prvovenčani Public Library in Kraljevo.

 

Marija Bergam Pellicani

Marija Bergam Pellicani

Marija Bergam Pellicani, Born in Montenegro (Yugoslavia at the time) in 1981, she studied English and Spanish at the Faculty of Modern Languages and Literatures  at the University of Bari (Italy), where she went on to obtain a PhD in “Translation Theory and Practice”. After working for three years as a post-doctoral researcher at the Department of English in Bari, she continued her studies at the University of Geneva. She currently works as a freelance literary translator between Serbo-Croatian, English and Italian, and as a teacher of Serbo-Croatian and English. She has published research articles and short essays about contemporary English-language poets and has translated several poetry collections from English into Serbian, including some of her favourite poets – Derek Walcott, Charles Simic, and Ted Hughes.

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