January by Zerina Zahirović


Translated from the B/C/S by Mirza Purić.


The three frozen fingers on her hand
were like knives in my kneecaps.
That January sprawled,
as white as the sheet
onto which all those whose bodies I was
had dropped.
All those to whom I was
a finger on a hand,
the iris of an eye, a wrist, a bonelet,
a stirrup, a dimplet, an eyebrow,
an upper-lip pimplet
– all sank into bedding as if in milk.
The January bent my spine into a crescent,
bent it like an elm
with hope rubbed into its shoots,
the veins of its leaves, their swollen stems,
with hope in its trunk, in its crown
beaming with hope. In my sleep,
austere and vengeful, I was being grabbed
by hooky
that broke off shards of my teeth.

The three frozen fingers

of her hand –
were my three deaths in a row: the January
wouldn’t thaw until April,
it kicked and screamed
like a spoilt child,
it pecked at me as if at
the carcase of a run-over worm.
February pecked away;
in each
and every
rising, rough-cast, austere dream,
shards of my tooth were broken off
by pencil-like hands.

The three frozen fingers of

her hand –
the first, the second, the third,
the third, the second, the first,
the father, the son and the ghost –
the three hooks in my cottonwool skull,
the January and I were in a tug-of-war,
all February we tugged at each other’s hair,
mornings were mockingbirds, I opened their cages,
stitched up their wings, they wouldn’t go.

In each pointy,
toothy dream,
in some hooky hands,
my teeth were crumbling.

The three frozen fingers of her hand.

Three numb nerve endings, three beginnings,
three rivermouths, three riverbeds, three rivers,
three cradles, three whole hands, three fleshy fortunes,
three deaths, three births and her

ripe livid plumskin –
glass and in it my reflection,
a husk in which
my blood
played at ebb and tide.

She hid it
in a glove – a great white horse
with slumping legs.
I furtively sense her with my vertebrae bent
into a hoop in the dark,
the cliff down which tumble the psalms; each late-night
noise heralded a well-known,
well-hated guest – in my dream,
in some hooky hands,
my teeth crumbled into grains
of salt on a string.

That January,

a butcher and a bore,
snatched the severed bits of the body
of her mother, who, each January,
on her death anniversary,
in each enemy, each bore and butcher,
in the fingers on my hand, irises of my eyes, my wrists,
my bonelets, my eyebrows, my dimplet,
my upper-lip pimplet, in each February,
each day, hour, minute,
in each death-birth,
each father-son-ghost,
in the three frozen fingers of her left hand and my
waxing crescent spinal column,
comes back to me like
a clot of stifled scream.

That January,

throughout February,
till the knife struck the heart of April,
I wanted to have
strings of
hooks, gills, wings,
countless warm fingers and a handful
of incisors
which in my waking hours,
and my waking hours only,
without breaking,
or betraying,
if they must,
would sneak out whole,
on their own

Photographic response by Vanja Čerimagić

Zerina Zahirović holds an MA degree in English Language and Literature from the University of Sarajevo and in Democracy and Human Rights from the University of Sarajevo and University of Bologna. She is currently finishing her MA studies in Comparative Literature (Univ. of Sarajevo). Her academic work has been published in a post-conference journal at the Faculty of Arts, University of Ljubljana, the journal Baština, and as part of the ERMA Selected Master Theses for the Academic Year 2016-2017. Her poetry, fiction and critical reviews have appeared in the Narrative Witness exchange collection through the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program (US), as part of the Pravo Ljudski Film Festival, and in H.O.W. Journal (online), Oslobođenje, Asymptote (blog), Strane, and other magazines.

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.

Vanja Čerimagić is a freelance photographer based in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Since 2011, his work has focused towards the activities of development organizations in Bosnia and Herzegovina. He collaborates with various NGOs and works regularly for the European Union (EU), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and, most recently, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Along with his work as a documentary photographer, he is passionately devoted to concert photography.


Published on June 6, 2017.



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