Wednesday, June 2, 2010


The glimmer of gold

Nobody reads poetry anymore

so who the hell are you

I see bent over this book?

I first discovered this book ten years ago when it was published in its haunting version by Faber. A collection culled from twenty of the poet's books. Ristovic wrote, at times, as if from the Medieval Ages and made his bread & butter as a school teacher. Serbian, he passed away in 1994 so he never saw what good craft and spookiness the poet and translator Charles Simic put into his first time showing in the United States. I don't keep this book in my library. I keep it handy — for years in the bedroom, in a narrow book case between two windows I built, with its one small lamp.

Small lamp

Small lamp,

light up my face

from time to time.

Don't pretend

you don't see me.

I'm here

wherever that is,


doubled over

my worries.

from Skin and bones

The priest and the mourners

are climbing a hill,

the dead man lies smiling

in the coffin of yellow wood.

The red-faced priest reads

from a black prayer-book

while stealing peeks

at the young woman next to him.

His prayer has brought

tears to her eyes,

she imagines his hand

between her breasts.

Even the deceased

has propped himself on an elbow.

The spring rain

beats on his chest and face

as he listens closely

to what the priest is saying.

Finally, he shrugs his shoulders

and lies back down.


How antiquated a tree is! How old-timey,

its inclination to rustle in the evening

while I walk home from the library with books under my arms.

Its branches sway the way the wind wants them to

and its beauty lies in what a man or child

bears in his heart as he runs under it.

Perhaps only Plato expected to find wisdom

in such constant motion. First one, and then another

branch, fails to inscribe a circle,

merely arousing in us certain associations

at which we arrive by swapping our experience

of the real for our experience of the imaginary.

And how old-fashioned I am, who loves to dawdle

under a tree and seek in its appearance

some symbol of mortality and eternal life.


The mouse is golden

and so are the turtle and the spider,

and even the centipede,

and the pebble with which you try

to get rid of it

without leaving your bench,

from which one can view many other

things and golden beings.

Gingerbread Heart

Make me a long coat of heavy cloth, tailor,

the kind that won't fray,

and of a dark color,

so no one will notice the cigarette ashes.

Make the dark trousers of the same material,

to last as long as I want them to,

wearing them to visit many cities, villages,

and other out-of-the-way places.

Make me a dark vest, O tailor,

in which to sit at a banquet table

with a rich man's rose in the buttonhole,

surrounded by happy faces.

Make me a dark jacket, tailor, with wide, deep pockets

to clench my fists in, while watching the one

they're dragging from my table into the bushes,

which after a few moments begin to shake.

translated by Charles Simic