Poetry, translation

Eleven Thousand Meters above the Great Plains and other poems

by Tomica Bajsić

Eleven Thousand Meters above the Great Plains

Excerpt from “Antarctic,” in Poems of Light and Shadow

On the airplane Miss Love sits next to the window so that she can watch
the clouds, white clouds, dense and soft like spun sugar
those foamy clouds that are good only for walking
in a sleeveless T-shirt. Late in the afternoon
(the hour when her hair receives that golden hue)
the sun tends to beat hard up there
at those heights.
There is a man sitting next to her
Suspiciously observing her hands
Full of scratches and bruises.

Miss Love sits on the plane with her knees pressed tightly against each other
clutching a macrobiotic dinner in her lap while the items
she purchased nestle under her legs. There is a teddy bear-shaped rucksack
on her back where she keeps her wedding dress and the urn
with the ashes of her late husband, the well known singer
whose name she forgot.

He’s been sitting there in that teddy-bear-shaped knapsack for quite some time now
Miss had burried a handful of his ashes
under the willow tree in her garden while she mixed the other two with clay
and made tiny saucers, and a handful of it was unfortunately
inadvertently blown away:

ending up in the ventilation system shaft.
As for the rest: Miss Love always carries it with herself on her journeys
keeping it close to her heart – like a talisman.


The Cunning Barber

I went for a haircut in Santa Teresa
To a barber to whom I’d not yet been
Before I sat in the chair
I said to him looking straight into his eyes:
I don’t want one of those modern hairstyles.
No way,
Said he in a hurt voice, I would never,
I cut hair in the good old way.

While he was cutting my hair it seemed fine —
I looked at myself in the mirror
And it seemed to me that I saw Simon
Turning a bend
Up in the rocky peaks,
Riding into death
(El Liberador)
Wrapped in a blanket, incited by fever.
He has dropped to forty five kilos
But still does not give up.
Behind him seven mules carrying the luggage
With seventy medals of honour,
Next to him ride colonel Wilson and a handful of loyal
Desperadoes, vagabonds and soldiers of fortune;
Above them the eternal snow of the Andes and yellow bells,
And down in the depths were fields in which
A man could drown.

But when I came out I saw that on
The barber shop’s front sign it said:
And really, looking at my reflection in the glass
I realised that the old mule had tricked me,
Which was most upsetting.


Tito Apocrypha

Tito gnaws a pig’s head in the attic
eyeing the street in fear that his parents might catch him
I don’t give a damn / he thinks / I’ll escape on my bicycle

Tito riding a tram in Vienna under cover
wearing his best grey suit thinking:
why should I be any worse than those students?

don’t marry her
marry me

Tito riding over Mt Romanija
followed by old Nazor stumbling through the snow
Vladimir Vladimir / thinks Tito benevolently

Tito waving at the rows of kids from his Mercedes
red bandannas are tied around their necks like nooses / the Sun
will once grow dark / ponders Tito philosophically

Tito is elegant even in death
here are the mourners listed alphabetically:

bears rhinos lions / chess players
cineastes / circus acrobats / clerks
corn seller at work station no 7
Cuban cigar industry / employees of the Institute for the History
of the Working Class Movement / the English Queen
Greenpeace activists / heads of the tenant’s councils
historic figures / hippies / honour students
Ilich Ramirez Sanchez a.k.a. “Carlos” / men with moustaches
officers from firemen’s clubs / opera singers
presidents of fishermen’s societies / pretty women
primary school teachers / punks / reserve policemen
retired warrant officers / Sai Baba
soccer players / tailors

Tito showed up again in a balloon above eastern Africa
pointing his binoculars at a herd of zebras
those devils with stripes / thinks Tito to himself / they are all the same

don’t marry her
marry me

Tito says NO to Stalin and Stalin
responds I don’t care anymore / who gives a fuck
do you know how to calculate?
I have twenty one thousand eight hundred and fifty six of them
ground into the leaves of the Katyn forest / I have three hundred thousand
secretly burried ones
I have ten million of those liquidated in liquidations
I have all of their IDs / the photographs of their children / the letters
filled with unwarranted optimism / their pencils / small change
I’ve got them all neatly placed on file

         from “The Consolation of Chaos” Anthology of contemporary Croatian poetry, 1995 – 2005; from “If We Crash into a Cloud, It Won’t Hurt,” Croatian Poetry 1989 – 2009., translated into English by Damir Šodan




TOMICA BAJSIĆ Born in1968. in Zagreb, Croatia. Poet, prose writer and translator. Studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb, Croatia. Editor for translated poetry in Poezija / Poetry quarterly magazine, Croatia, and founder of Druga priča /Another Story publishing. Worked also in restoration, drawing and design. Board member of Croatian PEN Centre. Translated into many languages. Author of four poetry books and two books of prose. Translator and editor of four international poetry anthologies. Twice awarded with highest national awards for poetry. Published in numerous anthologies and literary journals at home and abroad.


photo by Kristi Harms