Sarah’s Laughter

And then,
it was so beautiful. She had a new,
brusque laugh that broke into crystals,
an unexpected, young laugh,
exempt from bitterness.
Not the one she served
to the lone, late passer-by,
the Angel of the Incongruous Promise,
not that old mockingbird chirp.
As though it had always been playing
somewhere, through the years of despair,
and came back from some corner of the city,
some olive grove, to vibrate now
on every leaf and run clear as blood
in Isaac’s veins.
Her laugh like a flag in the sun.
Her son — all seasons of doubt
and renouncement at an end.

Hagar, in the shadow, paused
like the one note of silence.
She knew Sarah’s winter-face,
the barren one, Hagar held
the past in her lap.
She remembered her howling
the night she begged her to warm
Abraham’s bed. Eyes and mouth
red. Now these tears
were forever immured
in Ishmael’s laughter.
So on the day Isaac was weaned,
when draperies color of cream
and crimson blossoms hung
all around the house,
Sarah turned to Abraham and said :
“Get rid of that sound Ishmael
makes, God hears.”
and Hagar became the ache in the empty,
and Ishmael the sharp,
displaced memory.

A grey silent sacrifice
on a grey silent altar.

And then
it was so cruel, God had a new
brusque laugh that broke into
pale dusty mirrors.
“Listen to whatever Sarah tells you”
he said. And it was like
listening to the sound of falling rocks
or letting the rain after
all these dry years
carry back the voices
of the faithless.

Two Postcards from The Sea

1

There are days still so full of light on the shore, in the sand, in the forest  paths leading to the ocean, and the water is cold but never quiet. Swimming here feels like training for a fight, a fight that is always lost, the waves are incredibly strong, the current stronger, and the exhaustion complete. I lie down on the sand, trembling but not from the cold, trembling like muscles and flesh tremble under one’s hand, under the weight of memory, and the sun, and the loud breath of the air, everything around me seems to tell what I’m sensing. I’m having a cigarette, fire in my mouth, fire in my belly.  There are only two things I can’t defeat, the ocean. And memory .

2

While America plays its horrible show, with fat politicians trying to make believe something will change this time, when nothing will, the ocean, here, changes from pearl grey to green, then to blue in a few hours. Each day washes the small lusts and deceitful pettiness of the world away. I emerge almost new, bitten to the bone by the sun, or washed pure by the salty sharpness of the rain. Yesterday the sky was riveted to the water as by an invisible anchor, payne’s grey, one of the finest blue colors, and not a soul showed on the beach for a long time. I lay there in the crashing noise of the waves with the feeling that no matter what the ideas or conduct of others, there is a unique beauty to life, given in openness, in wind and light. I almost forgot about the dirty daily fight. I buried its dead weight in the cold sand.

Later seagulls began to squawk in the distance. Two dogs appeared, big black dogs, one running full speed towards the birds, the other imperturbable, a branch keeping his jaws opened, walking ahead of a man. So the man smiled, passing by, saying hello, and the dog stopped, convinced his trophee should be buried at my feet. I got up as fast as I coud in a sudden storm of wet sand and overflowing joy – the dog jumped as a puppy in the snow – my eyes fixed on the other one, mad about birds, splendid in his stride. “He’s a real beauty”, I said. The man replied saying his name was Thor. I said “No, not this one, not the materialist, the other one, running over there, the idealist.” His name was Malakov, he couldn’t call him back. Good. I didn’t want him to.

Today nothing remained. The sun was high and almost burning my skin after a swim. The deep blue grey disappeared. There was only the lactescent foam, the shattering pale green of the waves, the trembling silver of the light. I felt my bones turn to clear emeralds. The ocean separating the world from everything that is not oceanic — vast, undefeated, transfiguring, proved this world imaginary. I closed my eyes and found the face of the person I love. Then I fell asleep.

The Exhibition

Chagall’s lovers fell down upon the fence.
When a child, they were the only ongoing song,
not much music was left inside me to dance to,
my youth had gone to die in the silence of war.

Though my mother’s body shook the ground,
collapsing, nobody blinked a lid. It seemed
love rushed inside her like a hundred
hunted birds — violence within violence within —

A matryoshka doll in a crimson shawl.

I left for Bosnia full of that useless knowledge
when the whole of Europe was burning Red
when there was no time to grieve for a dove
and only wingless lovers repeated its flight.

I was barely twenty — I saw so many men
Most loved sex but hated women
On rooftops, they lay down with a gun.

Years later, when the war was over
I came to your city of tramways blue
But it didn’t matter if I had forgiven you
You left me alone with the little Jew.

Goats, violins, fishes whirled in the air
Canvas the size of giant doors calling
me in, mauves, purples, I had seen
as far as I could recall. And the lovers
— the lovers.

Clarity. Clarity. No escape, no restraint
from shouting their joy on top of the city,
well, you fixed other rules — with them
I fell dead to the earth. The violin droped.
— And what was my childhood to you ?

To the Ghost of Josip Račić

You died in Paris, unremembered,
and I’m still alive.
Yet I don’t have a soul,
at last, that’s what they say,
your people — the lover,
mother, and the clean
conscience tying them together.
All I have left is a transparent body
inside of which transparent doves
hurl themselves on a transparent ladder.
A body is enough to fuck, the lover proves,
regardless its tumult of birds.
That is a strange thing, being
smashed like this, unprepared,
the brain constantly in the heart.
Your own skin appears like
a dress you can no longer wear.
You become, how shall I put it ?
— Removed. Nothing is yours
except the air, maybe, and dust.
Dear Josip, since the bullet hit your head,
spilling the purples, the golds,
and the thousands blossoms within,
is your fusion with this world
over or, has it intensified ?
I wonder, because of your presence.
In this city, you are the only one
following me with a kind eye.
I’m a phantom in your hometown,
as I’ve always been, except now
I’m calmer — unbound.
I used to scream in cars,
on those abandoned roads
that the constellations contradict.
I used to hope so hard sometimes
I couldn’t bear it anymore.
I suppose you saw me, and
by seeing I mean, your blue eyes
becoming larger and larger,
bluer, like the flames in my chest.
My fault, I think, was not to be
a slav. Yes, that’s right.
Not one of yours. One
whose suffering is none
— to Easteners.
As I walked in Zagreb, without illusion,
hard and clear as crystal, you seemed
haloed by fire, loved here like a candle
that burned in a forgotten corner,
loved because it burnt down,
loved for its burning down,
and it happened
and lasted for ever —
you loved me
for that same reason.
You’re like the only one man
left in a thousand.
And that man holds
a gun to his temple
in what is a perfect
infinite noon.

A Dream

When the war ended, a dream
hovered over my bed, made of plumes
of blood and splintered weapons, of
words and wounds that turned us
into an impossible thing to repair,
but also sighs saying we could float,
lightly. A dream of being with you,
no longer feeling as an orphan,
no longer fleeing — not right away
but someday, when you had stripped
enough figs from their twigs and laid
them under muslin in the sun,
when I had a regular job and a house
white as sea salt, when no false note,
no cheats nor rot spoiled our music,
when our love in the child’s eyes
read like a nation’s pride, a dream
clearer than what was going to happen,
deeper within flesh and faith
that only an unreliable heaven
had confirmed —
thus wiped like breath
on the glass of reality.

A Tear

A single tear
A simple one
A tear of blood
A precise note
A subtle witness of the fire
leading you to dust
A limpid stone
A tear well steeped in your marrow
gone out of you
that stands at the outer limit of your being
like a sacred song
and which
for everyone else
is nothing.

Take me Dancing

Take me dancing, the earth is frozen
yet it is spring I have in my mind.
I feel a strange joy, a loud clock
ready to burst out of my chest.
It’s been so many years a slower
sap courses through my lungs,
thicker than ice. I think of the lake,
of the city, of the silent days
inclosed in one opaline season,
they break from me, correct
one another  — all may live.
Take me dancing, I’ve waited
long enough, for the bed here
to get warm, for the dress to unfurl,
for the coins in the can to fade out,
and for a love that helps to live and die.
Sing me a song about flying, about
being high  — I will forget all the rest.
The snow in the air is white and whirling,
take me dancing untill my thighs burn
and the lake is on fire. It is the strangest
winter, the strangest cold —
even the stars pulsing upon the ice
seem to be made of flesh and blood.

3 A.M

Awake at night,
I heard the sky once.
Stars were cracking
in their cold jar of ink.
I held my breath,
while the earth
broke my heart —
There was no sound
under that one.

I knelt in a light dress
before the missing hand
the weight, borne,
I knelt for the father,
the lover, gone,
I knelt like a child
before a mathematical
problem — Nothing came.

And I still don’t know
what I miss the most
— an answer
to Cassiopeia’s frost,
or a hand that tends.