Two Poems by Miodrag Stanisavljević

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


Tiny Tyrant’s Letter of Thanks to his People 

My beautiful triune people, you’re fairest
in the morning when you gush forth
from your colon-colonies
and your public transport vans
– thank you.

My prettiful people,
you fill me with tenderness
as you queue
on a rainful morning
for a triangle of milk, a rhombus of flour, a circle of shortening.

You who dine upon clown stew,
idiot cabbage, lunatic potatoes,
seasoned with crystals of azure,
freeze not, you will not perish from hunger –
flies, I notice, don’t die before December.
A thousand thanks.

You have made my old dream come true.
I’ve always fancied myself a chubby khan,
a conqueror of puny nations of the steppe.
I would’ve stayed an office woodpecker for all eternity,
but you’ve sent me into history on the wings of flies.
If no one else, lizards,
sunbathing on the ruins of cities,
will sing my praises.

N. The Deserter’s Letter to His Son

To Filip David

We, o scion of heaven, noble descendant of Sava
(as poets and blackfrocks call you),
are ordinary brawlers and looters.
Creepbugs teeming from War’s dank.
Therefore mostly scum by creation.
This morn our invasionaries set out westwards.
We bade them a yellowish gaze-aslant farewell,
like Avar pupils.
Only the dogs (for some reason they hate metal)
barked at our artillery convoy.
They taught you religiously to say “this land of ours”
(not “our land”).
Other nations are patriotic, too, no question,
but in that regard we are proper pigs.
Nazion, Nazion, we grunt as one.
They say we’re the helm on War’s loggerhead,
unstoppable shock troopers.
But all we do is blow under the tails of mortar shells,
turn cities into caves.
Our victories are sickening.
A picture of War’s arse is what we are.
Our Leader, the spittle dripping out of War’s trump,
the conqueror of puny neighbouring nations,
our Leader, with his lizardly gaze and his livid lips,
is a common carcase caresser, the gyre of the rabble’s silverpiece,
the slops in the riff-raff’s trough, the intellectuals’ (yes,
we have some of that ilk) yogurt drink.
Come eve, the takers of lives,
lowlifes with divine powers,
walk down the capital’s promenade,
with clumsy bud-crushing steps.
The brood of marginal features inhabits the fringeland.
So it was written, it seems,
o scion of heaven, noble descendant of Sava.


Miodrag Stanisavljević (1941-2005) was a Serbian poet, playwright, journal editor, columnist and public intellectual. He is the author of over twenty volumes of poetry, drama, essays, criticism, non-fiction, etc, as well as a number of radio programmes, TV and theatre productions. An uncompromising critic of Serbian nationalism and Slobodan Milošević’s regime, he died in 2005 away from the public eye, in an intellectual exile of sorts.

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: Miodrag Stanisavljević, Private
Photo: Mirza Purić, Private


Published on March 1, 2017.


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