poetry

Marko Tomaš: Poems

Marko Tomaš (Ljubljana, 1978) was one of the founders and editors of the Kolaps literary magazine in Sarajevo. He has worked as a journalist and radio speaker and has published extensively all across the region. He is a poet of a rare sensuality and emotional refinement with a rarefied bohemian touch reminiscent somewhat of young Leonard Cohen. Publications: Hands Under Head (2002), Mama I'm Successful (2004), Life is a Joke (2005), Marko Tomaš and Other Poems (2007), Goodbye Fascists (2009), Midnight Conversations (with Mehmed Begić) (2012), Boulevard of the People's Revolution (2013), The Black Prayer Book (2015).



 

When I Return From War

 

Perhaps I should go to some war.

Become a real man in a manly situation.

I am no longer good at predicting the future.

I am curing alcoholism with a rather conservative method.

In other words -- I am gradually trying to quit.

How did the sea enter my verses? How did I grab the gun?

My face covered in moss, the smell of unknown soil.

I dream of agaves - our names carved into a single leaf. 

                                                           I miss you.

When I return from the war, I will kill you, I'll sit on the sofa,

light up a cigarette and let you bleed lying on the carpet.

Today I ate snails. How did we end up here? We have gone far,

                                                                       way too far.

I have tattooed your name on my forearm. You won't like it.

Perhaps I should try describing the sky? I think yesterday

                                                                       I killed a man.

When I return from war, I will kill all of those who seduced you

                                                                       while I was gone,

I will kill them before the eyes of their dearest the same way they

                                                                       killed me

When they slid between your thighs.

I have problems writing. Worms. Fire. Mutilation. However,

                                                                                              it's mostly worms.

I feel sorry for the tree we knocked down yesterday. Do you like me, kitty?

Today it's raining. Soon we're off to the woods. Nature

                                                                                              is beautiful. 

When I return from the war, I will make sculptures out of wire,

I will calmly mow my lawn, grow roses,

keeping your heart safe in a jewellery box.

I'm all sticky from the mud. We're listening to the radio. Some sad song

                                                                                              for the sad soldiers.

One of the murdered boys looked me straight in the eye. I was pissing blood.

                                                                                  They say I caught a bad cold.

When we reached the sea, the captain shot himself in the temple.

They are supplying us with rations of marijuana and brandy. Many of us

                                                                                  Are inconsolable.

We got hooked on death. I'm writing a poem for you, expect it

                                                                                  in the next letter.

On the bedside table my photo in uniform. 

 

 

Try This, Dear Wagner 

 

Now, awaiting my thirtieth birthday,

I can never get rid of the depression,

because I still don't understand baseball.

 

I wasn't born an insect.

I cannot forgive my mother for that.

There is no efficient poison spray

for my kind.

 

I don't listen to the radio anymore.

Everyday on the shortwave radio God is being

reborn as a voodoo doll

in the hands of a Nazi war criminal.

 

I can barely stand

the hysterical yoga practitioners.

They have found meaning. They live stress-free.

My ass!

 

Bing Crosby, the Christmas torture,

I cannot think of enough disparaging terms

for all the bullshit humanity falls for.

 

I should be listening to Wagner,

but I cannot find any Wagner on my computer.

 

A woman will take my last name.

Our kids will be prow angels. 

 

I will bring them handfuls of juicy and ripe oranges.

The house will smell of olive oil.

 

I would love to be perfect like the sea.

 

 

My People

 

My people are scattered in distant cities.

My people wake up in Saigon and Managua.

They drink in bars in Zagreb and on those parapets in Split. 

They get wasted on speed in Sarajevo nights.

They drive their kids to school on the streets of Vienna.

They hallucinate underneath the Berlin sky.

They hurry to work in Paris.

They play banjo in the bars of Edinburgh.

They practise yoga in Sombor.

They urinate in the entrances of buildings in Belgrade. 

They make love on Bosporus.

They tell juicy jokes in the gardens of Mostar.

They wash dishes in the Copenhagen restaurants.

They are looking for a sunny spot in Oslo.

Homeless orphans, much like those Dickens's boys and girls.

My people - I say.

 

 

Ghetto

 

It's still here, the mean bank of the river. 

That's where I grew up.

Raised by my grandma and my grandpa.

My whole childhood I listened to horrible stories.

That taught me respect.

Those stories and terror I used to feel

walking down the street.

Sometimes I would hear distant echoes

of some pointless desperate battle,

would sense the stench

that flame-throwers leave behind.

And only the smell of wet dough

in my grandma's kitchen

would bring me back to reality

that each time looked more and more yellow

like that Mitteleuropean sky.

In fact those young Israeli pilgrims

are really horrible. 

They stumble in drunken rage over that place with so much sadness.

The sadness I haven't been able to shake off my whole life.

My girlfriends, the stewardesses, all tell me

that the worst flights to work on

are those from Tel Aviv to Warsaw.

You hear no kaddish, just burping and drunken cussing.

Oh, those Israeli youth in the Zamenhof Street

always used to creep me out. 

Every time after they would depart,  

leaving behind the smell of alcohol,

heaps of paper waste and cigarette buts,

I would just like in my childhood

hear the distant echoes

of some pointless desperate battle.

 

 

A Little Man In a Little Town

 

Little men in little towns are obsessed

with their own stature. 

The same goes for me, I’m looking for a perfect

little spot for all these little words

in order to electrify my homeland.

But this search for the homeland will someday

be the death of me.

 

Tom Waits hates me

whenever I try to write

like American poets.

For this little history little words

that can bypass each other on a narrow road

should suffice. 

Not to mention that try as I might

I could never be able to get rid of the heavy Slavic accent.

 

In a little town everything is a little toned down.

For example, street-lights are never strong enough 

to light up this entire prosaic fresco, 

as they can barely embrace a young couple

having a fight, or that linden

to whose smell I have always been allergic

to the extent that it makes me really hate

this little town spring.

 

I would like – like other little men in big cities –

to really mind my own business, but I am too bloodthirsty,

plus the little parks in my little town have indeed turned

into little cemeteries and I never fail

to rub that fact into everyone’s nose, because

the glorious war merits of us little people

are just enormous.

Nobody wants us – little people – for his enemy!

 

Our condescension, our haughtiness, our haughty-naughty-haughtiness

will always defeat every decent word.

 

For we are little people,

we are arrogant people,

we are not-entirely-fulfilled-people.

 

Walking across this wasted land.

 

 

Morning in Mahallah1

 

It is morning – Tuesday!

The spring is fat

like a castrated tomcat.

Behind the high walls of the houses in mahallah

someone’s waking to a cough.

Paul Celan’s wandering look

gets stuck at the top

of a cypress.

Resting there

like a shot-down Sun

releasing a yellowish butter of light.

The houses, the fortresses

blown up from the inside

are resting in ruins. 

The way someone chews food

can easily turn into an unbearable experience.

One finds refuge in a dream

as if fleeing before the Barbarians.

One wakes up reluctantly getting into

the heavy armor of short-lived future

marked by the money

you have to set aside for utilities.

In fact, the night has the color of coffee.

Soon the former proletarians will begin they daily quarrels. 

 

 

The Boulevard of People's Revolution

 

Nothing there except for a big City Lights ad

a few automobiles and it's always raining

or at least it appears like that

on the Boulevard of People's Revolution

 

The street of truth, the street of lies, the desert's main street

with the remains of aunt Fatima's apartment

and two rows of barren trees

on the Boulevard of People's Revolution

 

There are no addresses here for mail to arrive

no random passers-by

Nothing except that drizzle that kills everything

on the Boulevard of People's Revolution

 

 

About a Certain Faraway War

 

I am older

than my older brother.

Someone I don't know

is leaving him flowers

writing a book

slumped over keyboard. 

I know he loved the sea

and had secret longings.

Under his ribs

he was fighting some war.

That's all I know

about him.

That's how much we can know

about each other anyhow.

Being so inaccessible.

Like two strangers in a passenger car.

Each with his own hope

between the intertwined fingers.

With hope unspoken.

My brother is far away.

Warsaw where I was born is so far away.

You your river and your dog are far away.

Your war is far away

and so alien to me.

Piotrkowska Street is on fire

and the walls are crumbling down on passers-by.

Why did you tell me all those things?

Every time I fall asleep

I walk into a nightmare.

Love is a serious crime.

You know it best.

 

 

 

                                                                            Translated by Damir Šodan

 

 


1 Mahallah (or mahalla, mahallya, or mohalla; from Arabic: محلة‎, Persian: محله ‎, Urdu: محله ‎) is an Arabic language country subdivision or neighbourhood term. Also the historically important Ottoman section of the city of Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina. 

 

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