Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Four (additional) Poems by Milorad Pejić
Hyperborea (Aula, Prague, 2011) / Hyperborea (Fondacija Mak Dizdar, Sarajevo, 2013)
Translated from the Bosnian/Croatian/Montenegrin/Serbian
by Omer Hadžiselimović

Thrice have I gone to Cologne to marvel at the Cathedral.
And every time in the anemic month of April when
the city parks, weary newborns, are recovering from
the wet winter and when stone dominates on both
sides of the Rhine. Nowhere are you so faceless
as by the Rhine, a businesslike river that makes no
distinction between corpses and torn-off trunks
that it keeps rolling northward.

The first year we examined the underground treasuries,
blood and sweat conserved in gold. Strict guides strove
in vain to conjure up the power of the all-powerful,
to bring to life greasy bishops’ staves in showcases.
Another time we climbed up among the bell towers
to feel the loftiness of the lofty, but the magic was
gone when we saw a dove’s nest in a dragon’s jaws
and a facade washer with a stereo hung
on a lightning-rod spike.

Thrice have I gone to Cologne to marvel at the Cathedral.
To ask and not be answered. And every time
in the panicky month of April, when ant people
dominate the squares. Don’t ask why and wherefore
such a glorious edifice! You won’t be answered
until you yourself, an anemic ant, stand in front of
those four-sided doors. Nowhere are you so puny
and insignificant as in front of Cologne Cathedral,
with the German God.

Here is where clouds start to reflect themselves
in the black holes on the slopes of Ahkka, and where
patches of snow dry on invisible clotheslines.
In the evening, tents mill around on reindeer pastures
like turtles. That sight will stay with you for days,
whenever you look back. As will the suspicion that
you are at the end of the world.

Everything here is in its right measure, but the terrifying
roar of the waterfall does not overwhelm the squeak
of a grouse. Vast is everything and inaccessible along
the path through Padjelanta, but the codes of strength
are in the rolling of tiny stones or in the helicopter attack
of a mosquito.

It ends nowhere. Wash your face therefore in a handful
of the cataract from which, little by little, an ocean will hatch.
If at night while you are sleeping on the rocks the scent
of ironed pillowcases comes into your dream, pack up your
vitamins and soups, go home – it’s late. From Padjelanta
you will not take anything else but the knowledge
that you live in the wrong way and in the wrong place.
* A national park in northern Sweden, with a 160-kilometer-long hiking trail. 

On the noose of the polar circle I’m using up last
Summer’s last days: the color of my tanned skin is
finally reverting to the color of snow. The body forgets.

But the camera lens remembers. For months not a drop
of rain on the Pakleni Islands*. The oldtimers sit among
beer bottles and stare at the open sea through a curtain
of rhododendrons. They no longer recall what they miss. 
But we, who are foreigners everywhere, have not lost hope.
We climb at mid-day up the town’s dorsal fin, on narrow
steps, like mercury in a thermometer, to the top of the
fortress. We then go down into its bowels, saved in the

The small dungeons are built in the shape of horizontal
cones, narrowed down to points of light in the rampart,
tiny windows through which the prisoners, as through
a peephole, peer into the world. They crave for a bunch
of mandarins on market stalls, for the cry of a seagull
between the two blues . . . Through the peephole of the
dungeon, as if under the microscope, the longing for
freedom grows manifold.
* Islands located off the southwest coast of the island of Hvar, Croatia, opposite the entrance to the Hvar (city) harbour.

When I arrived in Hyperborea, my reserve
homeland, I came as a man in his prime.
The long days of summer were drying strung
on the nail of a calendar like tobacco leaves,
smelling sweetly, but my thoughts were still
roaming far away, in the basements of Gradina
Hospital, where I’d left my father behind, alone
in his last night. I know that shells were falling
on the city all night, on the living and on the
chestnut allée, and that they stopped at dawn,
but to this day that night’s shrapnel seek me out:
the peeling underground shelter’s ceilings in which
no one is sitting by one of the deathbeds.

Before I arrived in my reserve homeland, I’d only
heard of it from a Greek myth. That it’s a lonely
island where no one dies a natural death, but when
the time comes and children grow older than their
parents they go out on their own and throw
themselves off a cliff so they won’t be a burden
to anybody. I’m fifty now and time and again dawn
finds me as hoary as a birch tree under frost. 
In a couple of years I’ll be older than my father,
who is no burden to anyone. Who knew a lot about

Copyright©2013 by Milorad Pejić
Milorad Pejić was born in Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovina, in 1960.  Since 1992 he has lived in Sweden.  His published books of poems include:
The Vase for the Lily Plant (Svjetlost, Sarajevo, 1985)
The Eyes of Keyholes (Bosanska riječ, Tuzla-Wupertal, 2001 and 2012)
Hyperborea (Aula, Prague, 2011)
Hyperborea (Fondacija Mak Dizdar, Sarajevo, 2013)