Four Poems by Anita Pajević

This is part of our special feature Facing the Anthropocene.
Translated from the Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian by Mirza Purić


speaking ill of depression

for breakfast I had
a small coniferous forest
and in it a squirrel
I pressed him on a serviette
stored him between two leaves of newspaper

mornings have since
been dreadful inedible mornings have
been pseudo-mornings since that morning

he prances up between the leaves when I leave
neighs and squeals
sheds his hoop-like tail as if to say something

the stiffness of his ears and his strong front teeth scares me
he’s twisted all my ankles
that’s how small live storks
got stuck in them
there used to be more of them and if I cried
they would cry for me

tonight I’ll soak seitan
with eyes shut I’ll dream of squirrel meat
as if twice washed dough



there, on the ground floor of our sitting room
in a pot squats a tree
made of life
mum hasn’t changed its soil
in 17 years
since dad gave it to her
and it’s never tipped over
from its own weight
not when we talked loudly, not when we bothered it, played ball toss, touched it with our feet,
not when it squeaked round the room in december swapping north for south
even then we didn’t give it minerals
from time to time we fed it water
mum (between us) believes
that dad lives in the tree
this upsets me
because in its pot I want to bury each
moth which shakes off its tiny life into our sink

moths die in drains
and I hear their deaths in
light bulbs and empty walls
it’s loud if you don’t talk to them
when you take them out on a chopping board to fly off into the wind

the tree of life brought me to
mum and dad
in the pot
beneath the soil they
pondered me
my tree now breathes through a straw topped with
a plastic flower
and there’s a bump on its neck

in each pot lives an
injured seal

if I summon patronus
won’t I unearth
the mother of all butterflies
the butterfly colossus
with a flap of his heavy wings he will spray the soil
all over the curtains
take a sip of the morning coffee
like he used to do with mum
and crumble with fear for having seen us all
and ask me about my funny e-mail address
and tell us he likes
the place he came from but still
we should pack up plenty of pebbles and shells because they’re running out up there
they have an excess of plants
the plants are mages and merlins over there
while pot and potash are the same linguistic gender
they all graze on marjoram
cloves walk the earth
they make the grand canyon out of warm plasticine

he left turned on felt-tips all over the room
till I blinked
supressed it all
into coincidence



on the burning stove I will
whip up the finest kinetic model of the
swim bladder
eagerly awaiting the sound of the identified breath and movement
from the international subaquatic station
with the paralysis of the pan pot
in the chocolate-flavoured wheat porridge tea
I will preserve packages of munchmallow and toothpaste
if you need me
I’ll be out checking the wind
there, it bent down into the nettles
fatty foxes are slurping elder juice
skirts of maidens are soaked in it
rainbringer roasts roe tongues on the smoke
of burning detergent
in the laundry basket a strange
androgynous figure is forming
like fine china
spreading your thighs into the smudgy world
you write down hydro-acoustic interference only
till you slurp yourself down, down into
the foyer with three hundred plastic lamps
wet bellows

factors of tenderness

I watered my windows this morning
and I daisy-chained all the extension cords into one
and I slept with my knee raised
I dreamt of fields of tiny grasshoppers
a flayed hide knocked me down on the road
dragged me to its lair and put some slipper socks on my feet and took me to the zoo
where they were rolling a bear sow round the cage like a marble
with her paws she was squeezing her deep blue eyes claiming compassion
and we were humans and she was a beast
and we outbeasted the beast
I shall hit the wind in my thoughts and with a pair of tweezers I shall
pull an adder out of the ground
no longer shall I wait for you to reveal yourself under all that pelt
to spill your identity before us in the vegetable garden
some voices, as you listen, are much softer coming from
web-like speakers
not every patience and not every human recuperates the same


Anita Pajević is a poet from Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina. She holds an MA in Croatian Language and Literature from the University of Mostar. Her debut collection Perlinov šum (“Perlin Noise”) has won prizes and was met with critical acclaim. Parts of Perlin Noise have appeared in several literary journals in the former Yugoslavia, and Asymptote blog ran early versions of some of the poems from the collection in English translation. She is working on her second book.

Mirza Purić is a literary translator working from German and B/C/S. He serves as a contributing editor with EuropeNow and in-house translator with Sarajevo Writers’ Workshop. From 2014 to 2017 he was an editor-at-large with Asymptote. He has several book-length translations into B/C/S under his belt and his shorter translations into English have appeared in Asymptote, H.O.W., EuropeNow and PEN America, among other places. He plays Bass VI and baritone guitar in a band.


Published on May 2, 2017.


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