Bridge to Global Literature

Let’s all remember that more and more poetry gets lost without earnest attempts at translation.Read poetry here to get a glimpse of the rhythms and resonances of languages you don’t know.

Someone Else’s Cinderella— Sonja Veselinović

Apr 22, 2023 | Poetry | 0 comments

 

 

TRANSLATED FROM THE SERBIAN BY MARIJA BERGAM PELLICANI

 

Someone Else's Cinderella

 

SOMEONE ELSE’S CINDERELLA

For grandma Stana

 

It’s decent weather,

totes and antediluvian leather bags are schlepping

their old ladies with bluish reflections in their curled hair,

behind whom I always slow down,

I observe them walk, as they swing their hands and

unkissed napes,

a thought flares up in my throat:

I’ll suddenly walk around her, startle her a little,

and smile— like— it’s me!

 

But it’s not her, of course.

She up and left

her workplace here on earth 

off to collect the fat paycheck that 

down here she never asked of anyone, for anything.

It is a thought that nevertheless allows

me to pick up my pace.

 

The way she hauled her brothers and sisters

from rock to mud,

and now, without complaining about the culture shock 

or the begrudging neighbours,

she fell off her perch,

grown thin with the thoughts devouring her insides 

like in that adage 

she fell back on when the need arose:

“What do you need a guy for – to chew on your bones?”

 

I glance sideways into the face under the hairdo,

someone else’s Cinderella.

Still, why not say something:

I remember our last 

meaningful conversation,

you showed me the treetops against the window

and the strange shapes inside them,

don’t worry, they have stayed here between us,

I regularly chase away your ghosts, 

your dementors. 


 

ORIENTATION

Probably there still stands that residential block where you went

with your boyfriend of old on one of those tense walks

during which he would dissect your memories of others,

or maybe it was just a simple, lovers’ walk,

when with your hand you lightly brush the playground jungle gym,

poking the ground with your sneaker, while you wait for him to tie his shoe

or buy some water or something to that effect.

Though, at the time, people didn’t really buy water and they would somehow

survive the average walk without a plastic bottle

and come back home yearning for something.

You, perhaps, yearning for solitude. For unembargoed flashbacks. 

 

None of your people live there, no reason to unlock the picture,

there is nothing in it but the surface, the apparition

of something that didn’t really have to happen

in order for you to stand where you are.

And yet, compared to other, repeated, successive pathways, 

the same conversational and other contents,

you remember this unrepeated one: between the yellow-grey buildings,

along the overpass across the tracks,

you remember it, so to speak, because you cannot entirely rely on the fact

that your mental picture hasn’t been glued over the authentic one,

like a futile spice of mystery, novelty, initiative.

Google street view doesn’t show anything similar, and why should it? 

This too should suffice.

 

That hasn’t stopped you before from writing the story

of another former boyfriend, about how the local kids

broke his nose so he bled in the bus on the long way home,

precisely into that space, slippery, blurred on the margins,  

selectively obscure, but evidently quite exciting.

In a place like that Branko would have made a flower sprout.1


The reference is to the celebrated neo-symbolist Serbian poet Branko Miljković (1934-1961). In his poems the flower recurrently figures as a symbol of creativity and hope.


 

THE BAIT

There is no word for that state of turned up interior.

Perhaps, best of all: 

like a fish still on the hook,

stretched over your filthy, child’s palm,

only its tail sticking out a little.

Its scales easily rub off against your fingernails as it tingles with insanity,

caught for the first time.

And you, madly focused on that eye

dissolving you through the unseemly lenses of air, and that mouth, 

a wound you won’t instantly and scrupulously deliver from the sting.

Now that twitch,

that impetuous attempt to peel off from your palm,

although they are so cruelly compatible,

two, three times, hopeless,

but with the moral imperative you’re reading into it,

that’s what I’m talking about.

The flickering, the twitch from the diaphragm, like a forgotten hook,

out of nowhere, then the questioning, 

anywhere at all: at the bus station,

above the sink, in front of the sun-blinded window.

It’s been a long time since you stopped feeling the hook

and you slide the worm onto it indifferently,

grown up women don’t do that.

Something else, cold and dumb, glistens white on their palms,

before they put it back, always jauntily, under the glittery surface.

But the fingertips tingle for a while,

as if alive.

 

These poems have been previously published on www.versopolis.com and are reproduced here with the author’s consent.

 


Also, read Morning Tea and Other Poems by Sabahattin Kudret Aksal, translated from the Turkish by Neil P. Doherty, and published in The Antonym:

Morning Tea and Other Poems— Sabahattin Kudret Aksal


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Sonja Veselinović

Sonja Veselinović

Sonja Veselinović (Novi Sad, 1981) works as an associate professor at the Department of Comparative Literature of the University of Novi Sad (Serbia), where she teaches modern and contemporary literature and theory. In addition to her internationally recognized research activities and publications, she also works as a translator from French and English. Her literary career started in 2008 with the lyrical prose work Poema preko (Poem Across). In 2009 , she received a Borislav Pekić grant for the novel in progress and Isidora Sekulić Award (2014) for the lyrical novel Krosfejd (Crossfade, published in 2013). In 2020 her poetry collection Proklizavanje (Slipping) came out, winning her the Biljana Jovanović Prize. Her prose and poetry have been published in several anthologies of contemporary Serbian poetry and prose (Restart, Novosadska ženska proza, Indeks 21, Nevidljiva zebra: novosadska ženska poezija, Atari generacija). A number of her works have been translated into Hungarian, German and English, as well as Macedonian. Sonja Veselinović has been a member of the editorial team of the magazine Polja since 2007.

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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