by Branko Čegec
i hope i’ll know how to resist, i told myself
early in the morning, still sleepy in my uncomfortable bed.
then i got up, jumped under the shower and started to wash
all kinds of dirt for the whole hour, hour and a half, maybe two.
then i went to meet you, light as a feather and perfumed:
behind us were nights without sleep and weeks of abstinence,
nightmarish cobwebs, sights in the mist: all those
unpleasant stories from our individual lives,
little dramas and happy musicals anchored in between
written in the strict form of text messages:
160 characters with spaces, with which you have to say everything
and not close off any of the possibilities
that once, conversing passionately, we managed to open.
now i stood in front of your door, wordless but sweet smelling,
completely unaware of the idea and the goal, toward which i headed,
confidently, boldly, as if it was my first time.
yves sent me a text message:
for three days now some italian girl’s been watching me under water.
i watch her too, down there we’re naked and alone. on the surface
we don’t know each other.
i replied in our everyday slang:
be cool! stay well! after that, according to the next message,
he went under again, because “down there it’s calm and unbelievably beautiful.”
i understood his cry on that other, distant shore.
then i dived into marguerite yourcenar’s oriental stories:
made a trip to china, then kotor, dubrovnik, then i surfaced again
melancholically, even though that’s not in vogue anymore.
i saw several italian, four czech and seven plump hungarian girls.
i saw a sunshade twisting in the rhythm of the body,
i saw a pair of blue, tireless and bottomless eyes too:
i wanted to fight the desire for diving, but i couldn’t
look away, i couldn’t put my sunglasses on,
in general: i couldn’t move from my place in the sand,
in which, calmly and silently, i sank and sank.
ivana says into my receiver: write that i’ve bought a car:
small silver citröen ax. it’s night, i’m speeding
from the airport back into town. mak went to vrsar,
humidity is at around eighty percent, the clouds are getting darker, the leaves
are shivering in the breeze that rose unexpectedly as if
wanting to allow us at least elementary breathing.
ivana is still taking lessons at the paklenica driving school and has a crazy
instructor who drives nuns all over brezovica and samobor,
once he drove them all the way to sarajevo. he has a habit of swearing piously
in his car with the rosary hanging from the rear-view mirror and
drinks only coca-cola at room temperature.
the citröen is ten years old, bought from our friend,
with a relatively rotten right fender and a screwed-up clutch:
that’s what you can tell at first sight. it’s still not raining,
the humidity’s not letting up, neither is the pressure of 1054 hectopascals
i’m checking my e-mail and write no replies because my headache
won’t let me write one meaningful sentence. ivana’s message from
yesterday, which I read only today, begs for understanding:
hey, have you told mak and mi}o that I’ve bought a car,
citröen ax, silver, diesel, it’s so sweet and small.
The landscapes of sexuality and mud
not even a dog could be found on the street:
planes bombarded suburbia, gardens were full of
creeping twitch and dandelion, the remnants of pedagogy,
from which you exited in a skirt that reached your ankles, with freshly waxed calves,
and uttered many sentences about oranges and vladivostok,
about grouper in wine and dust from lake balaton,
about bold push-ups and plateaus of pacific,
or some other ocean, cauliflower, sympathetic sisters and karlovacko beer.
god, what a mess! i repeated always the same sentence to myself, looking
at your knees and funny teeth in baroque arrangement.
rough and gentle at the same time, like in artist’s, philanthropist’s youth,
i descended the ravine of your body, with survival instinct.
man, there’s nothing in the streets.
humidity in the mouth, a raw texas planted in the shotgun’s barrel,
happiness, a sleepy shepherd’s voice over a symbolic paddock.
The Dobrovo inn
first a black and yellow verlauf with numbers appeared on our wrists.
then we drank jug wine and listened to a gipsy band.
their music was roma, their lyrics slovenian.
the stands offered wine and white zaseka on brown bread.
some guy stole our glass without any consideration and disappeared in the crowd.
a lady in a strict waitress’s attire cut us off with contempt:
that’s your problem!
we kept on singing irresistible dalmatian songs: mi}o, roman, kemo and i.
and our styrian friend mitja, who used every intermezzo to sound his refrain:
one pours me a drink, the other offers me food…
the first one’s a waitress, the second a cook…
and now a bosnian one! kemo cried and to everyone’s surprise
his linden’s blooming, everything’s just like last year…
ploughed through the night.
we slept for a couple of hours in a house for tourists and then went out hunting for breakfast.
when after sweeping the terrain, we finally saw an open gostilna,
the waitress in blue borosana sandals shrieked coldly:
nothing before 11! get in line!
it was 9:30 in the shadow of a plump chestnut tree.
four construction workers organized an ad hoc symposium on a difference between schpritzer
without wine and water and soda, of course, because the gostilna was still closed.
then the lady showed some mercy, because of our good conduct and two tired refrains
and soon we rolled our prosciutto and roughly sliced cheese, carrot leaf,
stuffed olive and one wrinkled chili pepper as garnish.
gas! said roman.
gas! said mi}o.
gas, fuck it! said kemo.
gas, really gas, fuck! i added with my nose stuffed from allergy.
sweetish smell cut through the superiorly clean slovenian air.
excuse us, ma’am, we smell gas! our four voices sang.
the woman almost choked from laughter.
have no fear, fellas, we’re just fumigating wasps in the pantry.
at 11:07 the workers in overalls got their goulash and polenta.
three schpritzers and a gemischt.
kemo had a shot of brandy.
mi}o mineral water.
the landscape was tuscan.
the air drilled our lungs.
the monotonous rhythm of a ball of wool unwounded a perfect day.
Translated by Tomislav Kuzmanović
Branko Čegec, poet, essayist and critic, born on June 22, 1957, in Kraljev Vrh. He earned a degree in Yugoslav Studies and Comparative Literature from the Faculty of Philosophy, University of Zagreb. He was a literature section editor at magazines Polet and Pitanja. From 1985 to 1989 he was the editor in chief of Quorum magazine, from 1989 to 1990 he was the editor in chief of the culture magazine Oko, and from 1990 to 1993 he was an editor for the publishing house Mladost. Čegec founded his own publishing house Meandar in 1992. In 1998 he initiated the foundation of Croatian Independent Publishers Society, economic interest association of small and medium-size presses. In 1999 he was elected president of the Board of Goranovo proljeće, the most important poetry event in Croatia. In 2002 he founded Centar za knjigu (Croatian Book Center) and in 2003 he started the book magazine Tema.
-Eros-Europa-Arafat / Eros-Europe-Arafat, poetry (1980),
-Zapadno-istočni spol / West-Eastern Sex, poetry (1983),
-Presvlačenje avangarde / Re-dressing the Avant-garde, essays and critiques (1983),
-Melankolični ljetopis / A Melancholic Chronicle, poetry (1988),
-Ekrani praznine / Screens of Emptiness, poetry (1992, 2003),
-Fantom slobode / The Phantom of Freedom, essays, critiques and articles (1994),
-Strast razlike, tamni zvuk praznine; Hrvatsko pjesništvo osamdesetih i devedesetih / Passion of Difference, Dark Sound of Emptiness, Croatian poetry of the 1980s and 1990s, co-authored with Miroslav Mićanović (1995),
-Nitko ne govori hrvatski, Personne ne parle croate / No one speaks Croatian, bilingual Croatian-French edition, together with Miroslav Mićanović and Ivica Prtenjača, selected and translated by V. Mikšić and B. Radić (2002),
–Sintaksa mesečine / Moonlight Syntax, selected poetry, trandlated by J. Hudolin, Ljubljana, (2004),
-Tamno mjesto / A Dark Place, poetry (2005),
-Tri krokodila / Three crocodiles, with Miroslav Mićanović and Senko Karuza (2005),
-Nurkanje na zdiv – Ronjenje na dah – Breat-Hold Diving,selected poems, translated by I. Isakovski, M. Suško and B. Gregorić, Skopje (2010),
-Zapisi iz pustog jezika / Writings from the Waste Language, prose poetry (2011),
-Pokret otpora / Resistance Movement, articles (2011),
-Pun mjesec u Istanbulu / Full Moon in Istanbul, poetry (2012),
-Lune pleine à Istanbul, poetry, translated by M. Kramer and V. Mikšić, Saint-Julien-Molin-Molette (2012)
–Shopping terapia, selected poetry, translated by K. Chmel, Bratislava (2012).
photo by Angela M Campbell