Two Poems by Selma Asotić

This is part of our feature on Poets and Power: Language of Resilience from Central and Eastern Europe

Translated from the Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian by Mirza Purić

Daemons Begone

When we wet the bed
for three nights in a row
they put a shroud
over our heads
and brought the lead

to our eyes
to our bosoms
to our knees

three times with molten lead
they flushed the fear out of us.

Then a scream
blossomed in the tar,
and we saw
blades of early grass in soldiers’ mouths,
scorched fields
bloodyish colours beneath the skies
and the flight before the swift-footed peace thieves,
suicides who heralded eclipsed springs
with snowdrop gestures.

Night terrors come from the hills,
the sorceress said.
Therefore we gazed
long
into dark forests,
weaved up the fears
into amulets of words,
to return them to the midnightmen.

But we didn’t know
that down below
winds perish in the vale
which wings don’t cross

and that our fears,
like our dreams,
after all,
have got no wings.

We still go
mum and shiver
as blind dawn breaks,

listening to the song of good angels
that never visit
our home.


 

History

Don’t worry
when on an orphaned
November morning a drunken
rabble-rouser
rolls down your street
rousing decent people from sleep.
Pay no mind
to the wailing of the sirens
and the warnings of asteroids,

when it happens,
you won’t even know it’s begun.

And you won’t be there
when the hunger of empty
squares awakens
and birds take refuge
before the eclipse.

For history happens to
the unsuspecting. It will sneak up
on you as you walk into your
flat, it’ll tiptoe into the lift
hoisted between the fifth and the sixth
floors, join the silent
choir
of wax figures to which you
bid farewells and wish nice days.
And you won’t recognise its face, for
you remember nothing from your life.
And you won’t wonder
what alien presence has snuck
into your collar, for you have never asked.

History happens to the weary.
One drowsy morning,
as you wriggle in your
bed, wind will blow down your street,
sweeping the flags, and a hoarse voice
under your window
will burst into Lili Marlene.

Only then will you realise
it has begun.

 

 

Selma Asotić lives in Sarajevo, where she’s trying to write poetry. In between writing poems she works as a translator and an EFL teacher. She edits the magazine for feminist theory and art BONA (bonamag.ba), and is a member of the Sarajevo Writers’ Workshop, a collective of independent poets and writers (sarajevoww.com). She is a fan of English football.

Mirza Purić translates literature from German, Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian, and plays angry minimalist music in Gudron. He serves as an editor-at-large with Asymptote and does a lot of pro bono work for writers and poets who operate outside of the mainstream. In 2015, a piece he translated was nominated for a Pushcart prize.  

 

Photo: Selma Asotić, Private
Photo: Mirza Purić, Private

Published on March 1, 2017.
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