chips on the table

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Last Bet for the Night
Charles Simic
Wagered one more thought
Against the universe,
The one about this moment
I’m living through
Being all that’s true,
With my heart leaping
To place another red chip
On this dark night’s
Vast and unattended gaming table.

snow piled

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The Blizzard
Charles Simic
O to be inside a mailbox
On a snow-piled street corner
Snuggled against a letter
Sending love and hot kisses
To some lucky fellow out there.

Photo by Kirsty TG on Unsplash

faces of strangers

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Swept Away
Charles Simic
Melville had the sea and Poe his nightmares,
To thrill them and haunt them,
And you have the faces of strangers,
Glimpsed once and never again.

Like that woman whose eye you caught
On a crowded street in New York
Who spun around after she went by
As if she had just seen a ghost.

Leaving you with a memory of her hand
Rising to touch her flustered face
And muffle what might’ve been something
She was saying as she was swept away.

empty-ish

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Sorry, My Lord
Radmila Lazić
I’m penniless, my Lord.
Empty heart, empty pussy.
The pockets of my soul are turned inside out.
In my head something tinkles
As in a Red Cross box.
Slip something in my wallet, Lord.

I’m empty and broke.
My heart whistles like a teakettle.
Elsewhere, landscapes burst with beauty.
Here darkness presses on the eyelids.

I squandered everything, blew it away
As if there was no tomorrow.
Now it’s Your turn to give me something.
Feed me, heal me
Before You write it down in Your book.
Give me a butt, a lousy nickel.
Give this sinner a cock.

Give me this day.

I neither sow nor reap,
Nor do I weave.
I obeyed Thee, Lord,
Now You take care of me.
I laze in bed past noon,
Loaf around all day with nothing to do.
Nights I spend in bars or over my manuscripts,
Keep vigil, bleed.
In the morning I step on the cold floor of my heart.
Your son, Your darling,
I sniff between his legs
The way a bitch sniffs her litter.
You said: Do unto others
As you would have done unto you.
But that man gave me a kick,
Shook me like sand out of a sandal.
I suspect other heels dance now
On his heart’s stage
While mine lies hollow like a gutter
Beaten by lethal drops of rain.

Nothing comes easy to me anymore-
Narrow gate, narrow path.
Stop staring at me, Lord.
Gravity won’t hold me up.
I ‘m tipsy, I’ve lost my footing.
The street grows even more crooked.
My house is even more distant.
Give me Your hand, extend Your finger
Like a torch, not a whip.
Life wails like a mouth organ.
I’ve thoroughly lost my way.
I can’t tell from the birds,
Plants, trees, cardinal points,
Sweetwater fish from the deep-sea kind,
The source from the mouth of a river,
The dreams over which I wade
From the street where I swing my hips.

Many times I fell in love forever.
My heart was a hot stove.
Now the jug is broken.
Let there be sex unstained by love
Is my slogan now.

Every other desire I shook off
Like raindrops from a coat.
Have mercy, Lord.
I sing of a drowned soul
Which I can’t drag to the shore.
My hands hang like wild game.
Help me! Rescue me!
Give me-mouth-to-mouth!

I love strong drink, violent men,
And other such foolish things.
I confess to You, Lord,
Not a Single sin eluded me.
Like Your own body
My heart is a pincushion.

Sorry, Lord.
I’m neither Martha nor Magdalena.
I’m what You spat out, Your discharge.
Now weigh it all on Your scales.
Don’t tip them, don’t cheat on me.
Go and weigh them.
Blind my heart, take away my sight
To suffer and pay.
Lord, have mercy on me.

Original

Sorry, Gospode
-Radmila Lazić
Švorc sam, Gospode.
Prazno srce, prazna pica,
Izvrnuti džepovi moje duše.
U glavi tek ponešto zveči
Kao u konzervi prilog za Crveni krst.
Tutni nešto, Bogo, u moj buđelar.

Prazna sam i bez prebijene
Srce mi pišti ko čajnik.
Negde vidici pucaju od lepote,
Ovde sumrak pritisko kapke.

Sve sam protraćila, proćerdala.
Sve spiskala.
Sad Ti udeli, nahrani, isceli.
Pre nego što ubeležiš,
Daj pljugu, daj kintu,
Daj kitu, ovoj grešnici.

Daj mi danas.

Niti sijem, niti žanjem,
Niti predem,
Tebe poslušah, Bogo,
Sad Ti pobrini se za me.
Izležavam se do podne.
Danju unaokolo cunjam, gluvarim,
Noću nad rukopisima il po barovima
Dreždim, krvarim.
Ujutru stajem na hladan pod srca
Tvog sina, tvog čeda.
Njušim njegovo međunožje
Kao keruša svoje male.
Jer, Ti kaza:
Sve što hoćete da vama čine ljudi,
Činite i vi tako njima.
Al šutnu me taj čova,
Istrese me ko pesak iz sandale.

Više mi ništa ne ide od ruke —
Uska vrata, tesan put.
Ne bulji u mene, Bogo,
Ne drži me zemljina teža,
Nacvrcana sam, gubim korak,
Ulica mi je sve krivlja,
Kuća sve dalja,
Pruži ruku, pruži prst,
Ko luču, ne ko prut.

Život cvili kao usna harmonika,
Daleko sam zabasala.
Ne razlikujem više vrste ptica,
Biljaka, drveća, strane sveta,
Rečne od morskih riba,
Izvor od ušća.
Snove po kojima gacam
Od ulice kojom njišem kukovima.

Više puta voleh zauvek,
Moje srce beše vrela ringla,
Sad je vrč razbijen.
Seks neuprljan ljubavlju,
Moja je deviza.
Sve druge želje stresoh
Ko kišne kapi sa kaputa.
Gospodi pomiluj!
Pevam o duši utopljenoj,
Koju ne mogu na obalu izvući.
Kao obešena divljač vise moje ruke.
Pomozi! Izbavi!
Daj mi — usta na usta!

Voleh gorka pića, žestoke momke,
I koješta još,
Priznajem Ti, Bogo,
Ne mimoiđe me nijedan greh.
Kao Tvoje telo,
Moje srce je jastučić za igle.

Sorry, Gospode,
Nisam ja ni Marta ni Marija Magdalena.
Tvoj sam ispljuvak, tvoja slina.
Sad, sve stavi na kantar.
Ne priteži i ne zakidaj.
Odreži!
Obnevidi mi srce, liši me vida.
Patiti i platiti.
Gospodi pomiluj!

worthless and painful reserves

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Twilight Metaphysics
Radmila Lazić
It’s too late to teach my heart anything.
The alphabet of suffering
I already know by heart. I test it live.
Life knows more than the Sybil.

Time has stopped. What bliss is there in flowing?
Reality resembles a moth-eaten sweater —
This is poetry.
Life limps like a crippled girl
Who hopes to marry well
Even though her heart is scarred with memories.
Biography of fire and water.
These are the worthless and painful reserves
With which one starts on a long, uncertain journey
Over one’s own private homeland
On which every foot steps on in boots.

Older than Cain is every suffering,
Even this one which like a cousin from far away
Has come for a three-day visit
And stayed, made herself comfortable,
Took up all the room —
And says nothing about leaving!

The time of miracles is behind us.
Time of tower-building,
Heavenly and earthly gardens
From schoolbooks and poems.
The so-called Greek luck awaits us
Where we will never arrive.
Therefore, if you can,
Water the flowers and the heart
From the same pitcher.
Time doesn’t dry up,
Nor make steps quicker, as they say.
Time swallows its own images
As if they were its children.

Get it through your head, throwing a blanket
Over your face won’t help you.
Even if underneath it a dear body waits for you.
No use stuffing wax in your ears either.
The siren’s song will be a part of your scream.

Those born happy and less happy
Die before their own body dies.
They wear their faces like other people’s clothes
As in paintings of Hieronymus Bosch.

The one who wrote the sky, the earth and the sea,
And above all, snow and dreams,
The phases of the moon, the color of leaves, our faces,
Seems distant and cold like the North Pole.

Don’t call that nihilism or blasphemy.
With wrong syntax and bad diction
Was how the world was created —
So many apples of divisiveness
Have been tossed between us,
One of them will roll even at your feet,
Perhaps, just as you’ve brought in the harvest,
Added up the accounts,
Thrown your hands over your head
Chasing rings of smoke and reveries.

Dead-born will be your wishes.
Your every hope will be a widow.
And as for love, not enough
To spread on a slice of bread.

to sing and to die

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Ballade
Branko Miljković
Wisdom, innocently the sun rises.
I no longer have the right for simple words!
My heart grows dim, my eyes burn.
Sing wonderful old men while over our heads
The stars burst like metaphors.
What is lofty, vanishes; what is low, rots.
Bird, I’ll make you speak but give back
The flame you borrowed. Don’t blaspheme the ashes.
In a stranger’s heart we heard our heart beat.
To sing and to die is the same thing.

Sun is a word unable to throw light.
Conscience doesn’t know how to sing for it dreads
Its own raw emptiness. Thieves of visions,
Eagles, peck at me from within. I stand
Nailed to a rock that does not exist.
We’ve signed in lieu of stars the night’s
Deceit, so much darker. Remember
That fall into life was a proof of your embers.
When ink ripens into blood everyone will know,
To sing and to die is the same thing.

Wisdom, the stronger one will be the first to yield.
Only rogues know what poetry is.
Thieves of fire, not one of you in the least lovable,
Tied to the mast of a ship followed
Under water by a song more dangerous than reality,
The blackened-out sun in the ripe orchard will know
How to take the place of a kiss that soothes the ashes.
But, no one after us will have the strength
To endear himself to a nightingale
When to sing and to die is the same thing.

Life is deadly but it has a way of surmounting death.
A fatal illness will be named after me.
We’ve suffered so much. Now the domesticated hell
Sings. Let the heart not hesitate,
To sing and to die is the same thing.

Original

БАЛАДА
-Бранко Миљковић
Мудрости, неискусно свићу зоре,
На обичне речи више немам право!
Моје се срце гаси, очи горе.
Певајте, дивни старци, док над главом
Распрскавају се звезде као метафоре!
Што је високо ишчезне, што је ниско иструли.
Птицо, довешћу те до речи. Ал врати
Позајмљени пламен. Пепео не хули.
У туђем смо срцу своје срце чули.
Исто је певати и умирати.

Сунце је реч која не уме да сија.
Савест не уме да пева, јер се боји
Осетљиве празнине. Крадљивци визија,
Орлови, изнутра кљују ме. Ја стојим
Прикован за стену која не постоји.
Звездама смо потписали превару
Невидљиве ноћи, тим црње. Упамти
Тај пад у живот ко доказ твом жару.
Кад мастило сазре у крв, сви ће знати
Да исто је певати и умирати.

Мудрости, јачи ће први посустати!
Само ниткови знају шта је поезија,
Крадљивци ватре, нимало умиљати,
Везани за јарбол лађе коју прати
Подводна песма јавом опаснија.
Онесвешћено сунце у зрелом воћу ће знати
Да замени пољубац што пепео одмара.
Ал нико после нас неће имати
Снагу која се славујима удвара
Кад исто је певати и умирати.

Смртоносан је живот, ал смрти одолева.
Једна страшна болест по мени ће се звати.
Много смо патили. И, ево, сад пева
Припитомљени пакао. Нек срце не оклева.
Исто је певати и умирати.

Photo by Josh Felise on Unsplash

“cold sweetheart”

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There is nothing more annoying to me than not being able to find an original-language version of a poem. I could find some Serbian scholarly writing on this poem (ah the кристал-женка!) and Tadić’s work, but not the whole poem itself. Bah!

Icicle
Novica Tadić
The icicle is a crystal-woman
cold sweetheart
I know all about her
because she’s my sweetheart

We meet in the old park
secretly
under the trees

Her red-haired servants
the squirrels
come down for her

so they may eat
something too