‘Warmth shifts moods’: 2 soothing Serbian poems on loss and longing for the chilly days ahead

‘Warmth shifts moods’: 2 soothing Serbian poems on loss and longing for the chilly days ahead
Mount Tara in Serbia. Image: Nemanja .O. via Unsplash

With the arrival of winter chill, our lives become smaller. Over the colder months, our homes and the objects surrounding us play an even greater role in our daily lockdown routines. With this in mind, we’ve selected two Serbian poems that reflect on and help navigate this change and find comfort in the present moment.

19 October 2020


The Beginning of Cartography

Written by Marija Knežević and translated by Sibelan Forrester



To be a thing

without use value.

To be a thing that gains value over time

though no one knows why.

To let yourself be called

a decorative item.

To hear that you’re superfluous.

To hear they can’t make it without you.

To breathe inside yourself.

To change owners.

To be unpossessed.

To be an object of admiration.

To change locations,

to avoid migration.

To be satisfied.

To be a ship.

Face turned to the seafloor to be

on both sides of the deep.

To leave a trace

not for eternity.

To sail in.

To sail out

the same way.

To be loved in harbors.

To be a ship.

To love

the better part of life in the open sea

to dream of harbors.

To avoid waiting. To move

always by the same path

from harbor back towards it.

Entranced by the nets on deck.

To transform cargo into stories.

To be a ship.

To bear yourself without effort.

To be kin. To anyone.

To men, women, algae,

tigers leaping at a deer,

lotuses settled in their own tears,

islands, caves who have at least one

chamber unexplored

to be related.

To love you

and never to learn it.

To be always suddenly

new joy and unexpected pain.

To avoid existence.

A drop

on your skin

that’s already a memory of touch.

The drop’s already another drop.

To be actually never.

To be now.

Singularity in passage.



Marija Knežević is an award-winning poet, editor, writer and translator based in Belgrade. Born in 1963, she studied Comparative Literature as a BA at the University of Belgrade and as an MA at Michigan State University. She has authored eight collections of poetry and 11 novels. This poem is part of her new bilingual anthology, Breathing Technique, published by Zephyr Press. You can get your copy here.


[I lost even the thing]

Written by Danica Vukićević and translated by Biljana D. Obradović



I lost even the thing

I didn’t have

The cord for the horoscope wheel

Tickets for fast trains

And decorations for a small forest fir

Oh, if I could measure

Where would a Chinese inventory fit

With nice Japanese things

And those ringing apparitions

Fog in the evening, and early in the morning in winter

The sun looks on with a cow’s white eyelashes

As I lie turned to stone in

A blue bed

And I see nothing but the essence

Of nothing; warmth shifts moods

A little work, a little movement, a table set for

A special occasion, wine,

A dotted line as in

A Pointillist painting, as in the houses I have not

Painted.

Danica Vukićević is a poet, editor and writer based in Belgrade. Born in 1959 in Valjevu, Vukićević studied Comparative Literature at Belgrade University. She has authored six volumes of poetry and two books of short stories. The poem above is part of the anthology Cat Painters: An Anthology of Contemporary Serbian Poetry, published by Dialogos. Get your copy here.

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