poetry

Darija Žilić: The Slow Soul

Darija Žilić is a poet, literary critic, translator, moderator, and one of the editors of literary journal Tema, born in Zagreb in 1972. She graduated in comparative literature and history from the University of Zagreb. Her published works includes Breasts and Strawberries (poetry, 2005), To Write in Milk (Essays on Contemporary Poetry, 2008), Muse outside Ghetto: Essays on Contemporary Literature (Julije Benešić award for the best book by critics in Croatia in 2012), Nomads and hybrids: Essays on Contemporary Literature and Film (2010), Parallel Gardens: Interviews with Theorists, Writers and Activists (2010), Tropics: Critics about Contemporary Poetry (2011), Dance, Modesty, Dance (Kiklop award for the best poetry book in 2010 in Croatia), Omara (prose, 2012) and Tropics 2: critics about poetry, prose and society (2014.)



 

Dance, Modesty, Dance!

 

Dance, Modesty, dance,

the years of the pink concentration camp are behind you

long, lonely walks on the city's margins

and a thousand summers of books strewn across beds.

Take only a teacup to your sailboat

binoculars, and the aid that erases

every surfeit memory along the way.

Shadowed by the agave that grows on the boat

through long nights out in the open, listen to

the world's sounds die away.

You found the love of your life

and is there greater joy, than when in thought he descends

on you at any time of day, and no-one sees him!

 

 

After the Holidays

 

How I love the taste of broccoli and cauliflower soup

after the meaty meals of pagan

days now behind us.

Believers can smoke in the street again,

again kids can eat chocolate,

crooners whistle Dixie and everything’s

back “just like it was.”

What’s this denial everyone’s talking about?

What punishments do they ready for our bodies?

Just a lack of joy, emptyish lives,

hairless bobby-pins and small elations.

Your body is worthy of God’s gaze,

and the thoughts ambling through my head

have taken flight again and turn us

into mini-gherkins.

 

 

The Future is Bright!

 

I mean from today into tomorrow.

A to-buy note says: tunafish,

the screensaver holds a picture

of a flower in water.

The future is bright, said

the famous athlete, and then she added—

live in the now, and only think

after.

 

 

In the Rijeka Harbor

 

So, what were you thinking? That the sea, by itself, would heal?

That it would bewitch you? You didn't notice its smell was

devoured by Austro-Hungarian arches, that the sounds of Paraf

were long gone. The locals unbutton their shirts, as though

they want to rush into the sea, as though they've no place to hide.

The malls and boutiques are closed, what's left are the benches in the harbor.

Stretch out on one of them, take off that pullover

still stiff with snow. Imagine the agave blooming, you

running after the ball, offering chocolate to seniors. If you succeed,

it will rain Hvar oranges. See, already crates full of stowaways

arrive on the boats.

In the evening, on Susak, as you sing and read,

say everything on the sly. Mention the body and the man

to the guy with the beer, the funny lady artist, the long-haired

activist. What were you thinking? I wasn't thinking a thing.

 

 

Breath

 

Breathe and let the shades of frost and tubers

shatter and open up your inner gardens

And the heart, that had gathered bitterness for years,

let rest under the tender touch

of someone’s quiet hand.

 

 

The Beginning

 

Pointless heroes perch atop ruins,

point to havens,

in the former factory a performance of life,

in the old cinema lectures on the revolution,

in the classroom plenums, strikes in the streets.

The world always has its beginning:

the poorly visible

site of emotion shrugged off.

 

 

Ship of Fools

 

In a twilight shadows slip down the screen, while the many cozy

seats stay empty and untouched. No one wants to see the film

on silence and holocaust, on sick people floating on

a ship, painting blooms into blank pages and, abandoned, telling

one another of another day in the camps.

And the cities? They’re trunks full of lead. States don’t need

coddling, they’ve avenged their lands and left the sidewalks to

addled boys and patients.

Silent, after the projection, in confusion I walk the city

that turns into a ship of fools and vanishes in the river.

 

 

Who Are You?

 

Wherever I turn, you’re with me. Like the spirit

from Victorian novels dancing in the distance

that still seeks its other half.

While I brew my morning coffee, you embrace

and throw me on the just-made bed and then,

like you’re taking cues from Zeus and Leda, you

take me.

Even in the street, I’m ready for your assault.

All at once, on the tram, in a crowd

you touch my face with your tongue, but no one can see.

At midnight, after a brief sleep, I open the window

and again you arrive, bullish and dark, and swiftly

you’re on top. You press me down, grind and caress.

If someone had walked in just after your exit,

they’d see a great flame grow in the room’s center,

then vanish.

 

 

How Much Longer

 

I closed the door so no one sees

the feathers, fur, the skin I’m shedding.

To suffocate among the books of all ages,

to sleep on the couch that never opened,

and guard the flower, in bloom

despite it all.

How many errors in gray wardrobes, dresses

buttoning at the neck, and white blouses

for any occasion. How many oils and creams

that render the skin too young!

How much of the useless and the ancient,

how many stories of others’ lives, old flags,

tickets that peer out and beckon to world’s end.

The window is darkened by a curtain, there’s not much

time left, just one afternoon for the giant wave.

 

 

The Slow Soul

 

Literature is just a ghost and balm for the slow souls who

forgot to run fast to find a personal banker.

I was almost frightened when you undressed. To me the book

on holocaust is closer than a naked man’s body.

I should live on an island, where one tells a workday

from weekend just by three more bikes in the street.

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