Monument

Vedran Husić 

             

The path to the monument, our teachers say

is as important as the monument itself.

Why have we come

                               to Tjentišta

                               to Kolašin

                               to Niš?

Why were we roused all those dawns to pass

through these, death’s hinterlands?

                                                       Climb that hill, children

                                                       listen to the stone.

A marbled procession of men guides us

to the monument of fists—how lifelike

their heavy feet hang, how their heads tilt

like broken wings.

                             We pass quietly along. The path

to the monument is lined with trees—poplars

we cry—and on the hill the stone speaks:

for every one of us, a hundred of you.

History and oblivion dwell in the stone of all monuments.

The victims of fascism remain always hungry.

The heroes of our nation always well fed.

Memorial in our tongue means

                                                 bide your time.

At the foot of each monument

the children’s eyes leap to heaven;

on every hill the stone echoes the earth:

for every one of us, a hundred of you.

We learn history in the spring fields

                                                         of Mitrovica

                                                         of Jasenovac

                                                         of Kragujevac

where schoolchildren of the past bled

where a white monument rose among all that’s green

where, resurrected in stone, the schoolchildren of the past sing

 

                                                                                                     for every one of us.

Fractal

Vedran Husić 

 

The fire in the oven removes mind from body:

this warm heart beating under a skin of winter.

I sit by the window, the heat a gentle blade.

 

I close my eyes and ponder the metonymy

of rain: its plop on the pale leaves of a live oak.

But it’s only the melting snow: a metaphor.

I ponder alchemy: a slab of sleet shatters

to the ground to rise again as smoke. I open

my eyes: an icicle hangs from a broken twig:

I think of an artificial limb or the tongue-

eating louse, but it is neither a prosthetic

nor a parasite, just as I’m neither the snow,

windblown, nor the faithful snowdrift.

                                                          I’m the window:

cutaneous, taut with a new fragility.

Digress

Vedran Husić

Memory is a kind of digression, a smell

that wanders—and I wonder, O, my lonely child,

of memory’s overbearing, unrequited

loves. With an outsider’s awareness I would stalk

the border of their play: so I walk the borders

of my past, so I turn and I digress, I prowl

the outskirts. And now I remember how I was

never really there among the broken spider

webs hanging from the stone sill, or in the corner

of the yard waiting behind my frank abstraction

for the noon bell to sound.

                                          I was a fugitive

prince read to by his refugee father; in bed

I sailed blue waters toward vague castles on far

blue horizons; in the mornings with my mother

fixing my sleeves in the mirror I wandered deep

deserts toward lone towers burning in the bronze

distance. And now I'm not here until a wayward

noise startles me into recognition: the field,

the children, and the incomprehensible self

reflected in the windowpane, ragged shouts, bloom

of sudden awareness at the smell of dry grass.

Adam Tying a Shoe

Vedran Husić

What was evoked was postponed in the instant

of its evocation near the lilacs in the dooryard

in the April garden with Adam half-kneeling

and the sheets blooming and a butterfly dipping

between the evocation and the postponement.

What was evoked in the act of bending was

the realization; in the delay of the act, the fear.

What remained was the tree in the sun’s oily gloss,

the shadow of its fruit and leaf upon the grass.

What remained was a backward glance at the gate.

What was evoked was not reconciled in thought

or conquered by time, only postponed. Rising out

from under the shadow over the lilacs in the dooryard

and the lilacs by the gate, what was evoked was neither

experience nor meaning but a postponement of both.

What was evoked near the lilacs in the dooryard

in the undercurrent of rot in the April garden

with the sheets blooming and a butterfly dipping

and Adam half-kneeling in the patient shade

was postponed in the instant of its evocation.

First Pastoral

Vedran Husić

The first day you led me to an apple

orchard. Among the apple trees, below

a serpent smelling of sawdust, we kissed.

Nothing was too old then, not me, not you,

not your dress, with its frayed hem, not the slow

burning afternoons or your shadowed calves.

Back then sparrows tussled for our breadcrumbs

but swallows were still hesitant to come,

each spring graced by vulnerability.

On the fourth day you took me to a well

to show me the deep glisten of water

in the dark: you dropped a pebble, waited.

When you sat astride me all I could see

were the whites of your eyes. Your pleasure came

not like a tremor but like a lament.

Their tails batted the flies from their glowing

flanks, otherwise they didn’t move. You said

it’s like they aren’t here, they’re so damn still.

On the seventh day we rested like gods

who had created life out of nothing

greater than desire and acquiescence.

Allegory of the Cave

Vedran Husić

Flames cast shadows against the cave wall.

Sleek-leaved ivy climbs the damp limestone.

Black-cloaked oaths

                                 ring the ritual fire.

Three men lean hearthward with pallbearers’ grace.

*

The muted rustle of a deer hoof

winds your neck in the night

to catch the tallow stare

between boughs of evergreens.

*

Sworn to secrecy the woods are ashiver with a whispered word.

But what matters is not the word but the shadow of the word.

Or the shadow of a flame-like leaf or leaf-like flame

reflected against the cave roof.

                                                 Or not the shadow but the idea

of leaf and flame. No, not the idea, but the hollow swell

of one voice echoing another in a cave,

that, but also the fire’s warmth at your back.

*

The men are real for they drink wine

spiced with pinpricks of their own blood

from a rusty aureate chalice.

Precision is the heart of ritual.

Without precision, no grace; without grace

ritual disintegrates into a gathering of men

in a desolate wood

round a parable of fire.

*

The revolver is real.

You can touch it

to prove it. The sound is a little louder

than the pop of wood in a fire,

flattening out against the mouth’s black throat.

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