Five Poems by Marko Tomaš

Translated from the B/C/S by Rachael Daum.
This is part of our special feature on Crime and Punishment.



I want to be a terrorist
to shoot at the Slovenian president
from a window
on Preshernovaja Street
while Boris Kidrič
looks feverishly into a future
where he sees nothing
but me
and my infernal machinery
that I’ll use to topple democracy
and instate chaos
where all people will
become guerillas
and lovers
and the presidents of their own lives
that they’ll end with suicide
by order of their own conscience.




Someday it will be enough.
I’ll write a poem,
the words will spill all over your street
and you’ll slip
and fall straight into my arms my shackles
they’re learning to be gentle
by way of drunkenness,
once every thirty days,
I stretch out to the moon,
to our house we’ll never come back to.
I don’t need suitcases
for the tatters of my life
which I pull around like loot
showing everyone everywhere my courage brings me
so I can defeat
this great history of humankind
with one run-of-the-mill human heart
exiled into myself and strange cities
that swear they know you
so much longer than me,
but they’re lying, they don’t even know your name,
I just don’t dare to write it,
because I’m skeptical and scared
because the world has become a place
where there is nowhere to run.
Today anywhere
anyone ever
loved anyone
is occupied territory
encased in kilometers of barbed wire
which entangle beasts
and soldiers who just want to live.
It is honorable, my darling, to be a deserter.
Of course I am drunk.
Of course I want to marry you
on some beach far away from any witnesses
where only the moon can sign as witness,
where only the sea can sing
the song for the first dance,
a song without a homeland or home,
without a mother or father,
without dead soldiers,
without cloistral cities.
That’s the kind of poem
I’ll write someday.




I don’t know if I dreamt of her
or if she dreamt of me
or if I just
dreamt that I was alive
carrying eyes all over the world
eyes madder than a black storm
roofing a city
crumbling it into silence.

She was a gypsy
or I was a gypsy
or we just didn’t know
who we were or what we were
and didn’t know there was no time
for impossible love
under a sky that so often
is a heavy boot on our thin throats.

A hundred years I have loved you,
but I can’t read your palm, she said,
but I can change your fate
if we strip naked
and go out into the rain
and make music and a dance
that’ll drive death insane.
Everyone drinks so much here,
they love so little
and boys always
go out to play
wishing to change the world.
That’s why our cities are sad
and reek of the gunpowder
from your black heart.

Everything is just inedible weeds in history.
Unrequited love and fear of abandonment.
I’m your tombstone
and your prison cell.

Whatever the dreamer starts
no one else can finish dreaming.
Whatever havoc the madman wreaks
no one else can heal.

There is nothing else to do here
except think about death.




I renounce the independent state
and the murderer who established its constitution.
I renounce the law
which does not recognize the love between men.
They’re all just sounds amplifying and afflicting me with pain.
The leak from the neighbor’s bathroom
is a waterfall my tormenters have shoved my head under.
The steel wool that scrapes dishes
grates my nipples.
My whole body is one huge
sensitive ear exposed to the torment
of a dull winter night.
I’ll rip off the hand that slices bread with a serrated knife.
I’m plotting vengeance on those who chew too loudly
and slurp when they drink their tea,
on those who smack their lips when they breathe out their cigarette smoke.
I renounce every side people take.
I want to live in silence,
in a forested world,
in newly-struck harmony
among the dumb beasts
cast out like god
at the communist congress.
I want righteous punishment.
I suffer because the din rises like a Saudi skyscraper,
because I hear the spit how it swishes between jaws,
because I’m trying to get better,
to wash my face,
to wash it away in the new day.
I renounce myself who barreled into the unconscious.
I am an ugly and sick man.
That won’t upset the world order.
Give me glass and I will break it.
I renounce creationism and Darwinism.
I want to materialize for myself,
to be born again
in your navel,
erect as an electric tower,
athlete, hero
ready with sorrow to subdue the world.
Let your breasts and your cunt
be the one law
in this new dictatorship.




I built a monastery.
On a made-up mountain.
To be closer.
No one followed me.
Except the memories.
Old loves
brought silence
as a housewarming gift
that I could use to decorate the walls.
I acted like I was rich
I had good reasons.
If I don’t make it as a priest
I can always become a murderer
or something like that.
The main thing is that I can defend
my own choice.
I looked at the city through a spyglass.
Moving pictures.
I should have shot films.
Erotic films filled with blood.
I got the spyglass from my grandfather.
My grandfather had had binoculars too.
He wasn’t a sailor.
He was an anarchist and an alcoholic.
His whole life
he was an ex-con
from a concentration camp.
He loved to watch the birds,
and the birds acted
like they loved that my grandfather watched them.
I was a priest then.
Now I’m a chimpanzee
living in a monastery,
scratching its belly,
shamelessly wet
grinning into the web camera.
The future belongs to me.


Marko Tomaš was born in Ljubljana, Slovenia, in 1978, and was educated in present-day Bosnia and Serbia. He has published nine collections of poetry, and his works have been translated into Italian, German, French, and English. Tomaš currently lives and works in Mostar, Bosnia.

Rachael Daum is the Assistant Managing Director of the American Literary Translators Association. She received her BA in Creative Writing from the University of Rochester and MA in Slavic Studies from Indiana University; she also received Certificates in Literary Translation from both institutions. Her original work and translations have appeared in Two Lines, Queen Mob’s Teahouse, TRANSverse, and elsewhere. Rachael lives and works in Belgrade, Serbia, and translates from Serbian, Russian, and German. Find her on Twitter at @rclouisedaum.

Published on November 8, 2018.
Photo: Marko Tomaš by Milena Gosevski,


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