from Kids for War

Dijala Hasanbegović


mine is the name given to me
my name is my own naming
my name has been stuck in
my hair, above my ear,
and I took it off, I stopped
responding to it long ago

I am a flicker
a gauze of thought
a place where thought belongs to no one
I carry sounds in my ear
I carry words in my teeth
and nothing do I hear
and never do I speak

on my chest, where
bonelets form a ‘V’
bursts a small sky of clouds
a sky as soft as cotton wool

my two eyes are two tiny
dots of silver
squinting at the sky with myopic persistence

the moisture in my chest is slick and persistent
as a steamroller
I have a cramp of the mind inflammation of concepts
a sprained consciousness and I want to robe
myself in some other names
that mean nothing: are there names like that?

my remorses have closed their jaws and
fallen asleep satiated I am a happy man
as happy as only one without a self can be
dreams don’t fit in my sleep I have
wrenched my centre for dreams my desires

are ossified I suffer from an excess of persistent time
from a persistent excess of time
from healing of temporal wrists
from a fracture of hours.

I only want to fall asleep before I remember
a single October, November, December,
a single Wednesday, Thursday, Friday,
a single summer, autumn, winter
fall asleep before I start to remember
before I adopt mnemotechnies
before I rhyme my life, so that
angelic choirs remember it.

Fairytale About Us

The kids were sitting on the couch in front
of the turned off TV: N., B., I. and me.
He was talking as he rolled a cigarette
with one hand, for the other had come to grief
on a job no one does anymore
with one hand he rolled perfect cigarettes
and lined them up
lined them up one by the other thin white and stiff
as if in rigor mortis.
He rolled them using scissors their plastic bits
their tips
he was Edward Scissorhands and he rolled
the best cigarettes
in the world
during the war.
Years before we came here, he said
many years before we
the plain on which we now peck dust
the plain on which we now twirl into dust
the plain was the habitat of birds.

The kids (N., B., I. and me) at once looked
at the thick necklace on the seventh-floor balcony
thick necklace of pigeons crippled of fingers
which burst into the sky as if the world were upside down
and inside out the beads of the necklace burst
into the sky when from a semi-distance
a shot resounded and swished past tangling
the thin yet strong thread of air on which they were strung.
The greenery was green and dark and a beard it was
out of which grew a world on a divine chest, he said
making a second row of cigarettes below the first one
the greenery was a world of wings wet and shiny –
birds, birds, birds!

After a sleepless night
we kids, our eyes lit with
semi-sleep, our eyes dull and absent, lick juice powder
off our sticky palms for water is saved for afternoon
and in our heads wings flap and chirps chirp
ending every blast-shaken night
in a dawn full of absence that we would later
learn meant death.
That I would later learn
was mine and yours and theirs.
Ruddy dawn flaps its quails nightingales storks
pigeons tits ravens jackdaws swallows
sparrows robins nightingales
birds, birds, birds!
The most sonorous dawn since the dawn of time, he says,
holds up his hand and in it a freshly rolled cigarette,
a shrieking dawn a squeaking dawn a feathery dance to the sky
above the wet and florid and rotten and cold

We watch the grimaces of clouds (between the birds)
the grimaces of clouds (above the earthwide noise)
until the magical rattle of wind starts to rattle
in the dancing bosom of the sky
till the ceremonial roar starts to chirp and flap
till the shrieks start to slice the air
in strokes steady and swift
till the birds move all of life to the sky,
and the powder sizzles on our tongues like a wet fire cracker
and we’re unaware that the dawn we’re looking at
is just a night sneaking out of itself, nude,
caught red-handed. Later I’d learn that dawn is merely death

And mum he went. Mum went the man with one hand
who rolled the best cigarettes that we
(N., B., I. and me) had ever seen
with one hand for the other had come to grief
on a job no one does anymore and we watched him
calmly pick up the stiff bonelets of cigarettes thin
of cigarettes short,
cold as fingers of babes, the cigarettes.
Someday we won’t let them return
someday they won’t let us return
someday nobody will return.
We’ll be sneaking in among ourselves like intruders
to peck dust and asphalt powder
to peck the eyes of the birds stuck between concrete blocks –
the eyes of birds fed on gunpowder and fire
birds that slammed into our yellow panes in panic
our cut-up panes our streaked windows our
gazes glassed with plastic sheets,
blurred and reticular,
like those of insects.

Today, long after,
I return for the remains of my
dust which I left among the blocks of asphalt
and tall tower blocks where our eyes were held captive
where we ripped open with our thin baby fingers
and baby teeth the bags of juice powder
which was to be dissolved only after noon
which sizzles on the tongue, whose sound and flavour
would always remain the backdrop
of all our sleepless nights.
Today I return to see the birds,
for I’m the only one left
B. is left too but she wouldn’t come with me
and the fingers of the other kids stayed in the
cigarette case of the one-handed man who used to work
a job that no longer exists. Today, years after the pogrom
I return for the remains and I look and I see
that we’ve won.
We enter each other’s lives.
Blindly slam into windows.
Crush bread and cakes with our beaks.
We and the birds.
Fighting for habitat.


The sky is leaning it is leaning overhead and I say, look

agape in horror in a grimace in a mass of infinity in a rude in a clumsy grimace
in amazement agape is the toothless mouth of the sky that is what I

say (and you say nothing)

our shoulders grown together casting a shadow a single dusty shadow on the pavement
and we quiver on the pavement quiver so that

our noises barely count as part of life as I walk past as you walk past (I say)

bodies of men and bodies of arms become one in silence in silence
the body of steel returns not to ashes sows no seed bears no fruit (I think)

that’s the only eternity we decomposable expendable boys will ever know (is what you
                    finally said)

so where

to whom to return with eyes crippled in a day in an hour in a Measure of eyes
eyes which merely gaze at life eyes which gaze at life (is what you said to me)

which lives us somewhere (life) – useless as a medal –

persistent as dawn

(you said)

My First Single

Dark fell thick and greasy on the table cloth
on which your moustache snores
thin, sparse and brownish, like your verse:
your book is on the table giving off
the stale cognac of your soft
yet movingly unexciting soul. We watched
your verse so boring drip on the laminate flooring
pour all over the secretariat of secretary general
for general secretarial affairs of the
generally established writer’s association.

We watched in silence, for you needed to rest for your
quest for fatty depravity in a small-town inn
wherein you’ll read poetry tomorrow with your Japanese colleague,
it’ll be an international outpouring of lard. You attend events,
while we whose lives are uneventful eventually clean your fat from our flooring.
Fairy liquid, for hands that do dishes, hands of washers who wash
giant trays that drip with your liver all the time, your liver, Mr Poet,
remembers your creative prime as your brain never will.
I don’t blame you for feeling ashamed I don’t blame you for being inflamed I don’t
blame you for poisoning yourself but must you stare at my hair as if it were
the home of an elf who could rip out your tongue and your song? Still, I don’t blame you!

Portly director ample of nose kidnapped a tray of canapés on the terrace
of the Podgorica theatre and he squeezed it and it screamed, it squeaked under his fingers
as he was freeing his other hand to squeeze the hand of an ideologically unfit 
critic and maffle out all his pique in a sudden, dramatic, magical burst
of crumbs which fell on her fringes like artificial snow
vainly prepared for the Olympics. Your nose is as red as a cherry tomato
and your eyes no longer fit on your face, but still you chew and your digestive tract
is at the ready in moments of cultural awkwardness in moments when you
crumble your fists and swear by every last morsel to ruin all semblance of life
in the foes of your pale, gelatinous, wobbly directing devoid of suspense. 

Mister Film Director, your film is cute!
At least five hundred of us (and you have to live among us!) think your film is cute
and slick and short, neither an attack nor a cutting of slack, mister Film Director,
your film is a proper praline full of quality liqueur!

How loury your James Deanesque countenance, we may even say appearance, or shall we
say presence! Thus to spread the tidings glad the blond-haired, long-haired poet
who’s not been young for 20 years now whispers into your manly ear the sorrows
he’s suffered at the hands of the critic when his dreadful, puerile songs he wrote
for no one in particular were staged by someone insane. The Kurt Cobain of our poetry
                    had to
get on with his life turning his many heads away from the critic every time they met
in the street which had to be swept to clear the golden dust of his grief and temperament,
there he is now yelling in Parliament – society is unjust!

Professor, people at a rock show are not a flock of sheep, people
at the stadium at a rock show are the people we wanted to be when we listened to your
needlessly endless lectures, and no, the people on the square
in the Vatican greeting the Pope are not individuals but Catholics, and like rock fans they
like things LIVE AND RAW! Throw up the horns, professor, or is the rebel in you
who’s dying of sorrow for having missed 1968 asleep now?

Comrade Writer, I’ll be sitting here, free, smiling, as bitter as St. John’s wort,
waiting for you to mortally bore your editor, your curator, your procurator, 
your famed debt collector – that thing printed on paper which smells of the West
whose cover is not plagiarism but an artist’s rendering (if you please!), put your mind
                     at ease, 
that thing is not a novel.

Mr Grey-haired Editor, get in touch when you make it in life! Call me maybe! When
                     someone manages to read you without deteriorating, disintegrating, without
                     self-immolating give me a call we will both be unhappy and small: you will still be
                     the one who wanted to see instead of me some manly some cocky some stocky
                     lad who’s not afraid to turn his writing
into a circus parade to spit and hit below the belt to cuss and kick up a fuss to be
funky to be punky to be a folksy humorous hero the kind you’ve never been yourself.

I ate two museums tonight, wolfed them down like an epic giant and I digested them
like vintage cheese long stored in the cellar to gather mould. 
As you cry for your museums people rot away and the living magic of life which you
so brazenly call art is turning into your digestive fumes. 

I’m not writing you a hundred more poems, Mister Editor.
I’m dismissing your reading list, Professor. 

This is not a poem.
This is not a country.
I’m not here.
You’re not real.

translated from the Bosnian by Mirza Purić