poetry

Arsen Dedić: Poetry

Arsen Dedić was born in Šibenik in 1938. In his hometown he graduated from gymnasium and music school. For a while he studied at the Faculty of Law, but his love of music was stronger so he dropped law studies and turned to the Zagreb Music Academy, graduating from it in February of 1964. As a flautist he played in various ensembles and orchestras and founded the Flute Quartet. He was a member of several music groups such as Zagrebački vokalni kvartet, Prima, Melos et al. His primary orientation has always been toward music, but by uniting musical and poetic inclinations he naturally achieved a distinctive singer-songwriter expression, his most remarkable characteristic. His verses have been published in Polet, Prisutnosti, Književne novine, Književnik, and his first award was from the Split magazine Vidik. His first book – Brod u boci – was published in 1971 and sold in more than 60,000 copies. Zabranjena knjiga is his seventeenth book of poetry.



 Back home

 

Back home is only open in July and August.

Back home is as big as I want.

Back home cannot sentence me to several years of affection –

suspended.

The sun of foreign skies has given some excellent results.

Back home is naive.

Almost anybody can sneak his way in.

Back home has poor musical taste.

Back home is ruled by the worst of lyricists.

Back home has the floor space of a second house.

Love for back home is unrequited.

Back home on the road.

Use back home against back home.

 

 

Small town cinemas

 

In small town cinemas

time seems on stand by

Therein yesterday’s heroes

are still rated high

 

Those wretched theatres

certainly won’t ever play

the works of Bergman, Antonioni

or the films of the New Wave

 

In small town cinemas

bad features are the latest trend

Only on those patched-up screens

justice still prevails in the end

 

 

Intolerance

 (prose in poetry)

 

In the greatest of his films – and perhaps one of the greatest

movies of all times – entitled “Intolerance”, Griffith goes all the way

back to Babylon, only to return to this day.

The whole of history is a history of intolerance –

racial, religious, national, sexual, cultural...

Death to variety! Long live uniformity!

Or as our folk would say: as soon as they met they cut each other down!

Krle`a says that humanity‘s passage to the future

has been lit up by burning faggots.

Prophets, visionaries and astronomers burned.

Women, paintings, houses and books all swallowed up in flames.

Goodness gracious! Think about all that burning light!

Pyromaniacs never seem to give up.

Always finding something new for kindling.

It seems that man could endure without love or goodness,

without tenderness or bread, but without intolerance – oh no!

It keeps him alive. It keeps groups and mobs in place.

But stubborn peace builders continue to be born nevertheless

hoping they will find something to save.

Even in these messy regions one finds them – the sanctified ones.

But if one could only know the origins of this infamous intolerance

of ours?

 

 

Final song XIII

 

It’s all behind us now: the snow and heat

I was Judas and I was Christ

But a man can also be like Candide

and remain after all pure as light

 

The mystery’s finally been solved

now that Death is pulling at our bell

I should have from the outset tilled

my garden – minded my cattle well.

 

How many mountains how many seas

it takes to come to a humble opinion:

the real wisdom lies nearby Solin

in growing cabbage and planting onion.

 

(Candide)

 

 

* * *

 

Two dead children playing

in a nicely manicured park.

They’re sticking fingers

into each others’ crossed out chasms.

Making macabre love.

 

Two dead children playing

among the beautifully trimmed greenery.

They’re swimming

in my infant fountain

while goldfish nibble

at their remains

to the tune of love’s marching band:

Dichter und Bauer.

 

Can’t you see

we’ve been ready for such an ending

from the very beginning?

 

 

* * *

 

All the things I have learned while being ill.

First of all:

the illness itself.

What else have I learned while being ill?

It is easier being ill

in one’s own language and on one’s own turf.

Illness makes you lonesome.

Relatives lie.

Friends run out of new sentences.

Illness beats skiing.

Illness deserves credit

for many a glorious death.

I’ve learned to read and write things

I would have never learned in good health.

It is easier to hearten someone

than to lie ill.

Those who have been seriously ill

possess deeper knowledge.

Illness should be left to the young.

Some wounds are beatified, some heal by themselves,

says illness clad in folk costume.

Illness has advanced.

Illness hatches in a weak heart.

My illness has brought cheer

to many.

I have been ill for too short a time.

Death is the anteroom of sickness.

 

 

* * *

 

The Church of St Anthony

sinks deep like a sail.

In a fog choking

on its own breath.

We are disgraced by death.

Here the withered wreaths of the unknown

are drowned.

Anyone who’s ready for a crag

will not come back the same way.

The man fooled himself

minding a drunk

guardian angel.

Please unfasten your kiss

from my neck.

 

Two shadows roll in dearth –

two paintings by Morandi.

Fog kisses us.

Am I...

We are bathing in a glass

of cold milk.

Have I come all the way to Padua

just to die?

 

 

Padua

 

Amidst winter

and on summer days

these people are like saints.

 

Padua

 

In the midst of winter

and in summertime

every door is as if holy.

 

Padua

 

Under the shadow of a drenched cathedral.

each one of us is so small.

 

Padua

 

I’d like more heat.

I lack light and warmth.

 

Padua

 

For all there is but one bet:

the taste of play, the taste of death.

 

Padua

 

Let’s end this toil

either in body

or in soul.

 

 

Nurses

 

we have no nursing sisters of our own

our mothers burn on stakes

my sister was dumped

in a common grave pit in [ibenik

nameless

our daughters persecute each other

teaching their kids

who don’t recognise us

how to speak in mysterious tongues

you dear sisters dear nurses

you are handling the worst of our limbs

while false concubines

carve failed love’s pillars

on our bitter foundations

while you cup your warm palms

on battlefields to gather

the unconsecrated blood

of our armies

so never mind the doctors

let me kiss your hands

frost-bitten and bluish

like two frozen mackerels

 

 

* * *

 

Sealess landscapes

with no one really to call their own.

They steer their fate

according to the wind alone.

Sealess landscapes

cannot see

because they are blindfolded

with a black strap.

Their inhabitants

are prisoners.

They eat prison bread.

Their inhabitants

are convicts

but somewhere there is a crack

and the heavenly light

that children are so afraid of

is already seeping in

and everything is unfolding

like a long lost book.

While the sea is beating

against the doors and the windows

so hard it seems

everything is going to

break open

at once.

 

Translated by Damir Šodan

 

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