• “Breath of Brief Syllables” by Ivana Bodrožic

    From Her Collection, In a Sentimental Mood

    Do that in language
    Look long into the sky punctured by the tips of poplars

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    Give up on words
    Retreat into self and remain so in silence
    vibrate inside

    Despise all versions,
    stay indifferent to variants
    do not decline, do not quarrel,
    pack your mouth with sand

    You don’t need it
    Everything ends, anyway, in silence

    The voice is simple, the verb imbalances,
    usually it leads to violence,
    the subject hopes it matters
    and the period at the end seems naive

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    There is more, there is always more
    and there will be more when I’m gone
    Say it right, speak distinctly
    speak in our language, take a stand

    I walk through the cemetery with Mother,
    plot no. IV, row III
    her words split me in half
    they always split me in half
    —with me worked two women,
    the last name of one was Mijatović, and the other Mijaaaatović
    (and she leans on that “a” to the breaking point)
    after a pause she adds,
    —that’s not the same

    Though none of them would know to ascertain
    the position of the accent
    the length, rising or falling,
    or even whether this is a four-accent system
    more than 900 of them fit in the pit

    A totally minute mark above the letters
    stands like that between life and death

    Skip it, it’s not dignified
    be quiet

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    –Translated by Ellen Elias-Bursać


    In a Sentimental Mood

    Excerpted from In a Sentimental Mood by Ivana Bodrožic. Translated by Ellen Elias-Bursać and published with permission from Sandorf Passage. Copyright © 2021 by Ivana Bodrožic.

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    Ivana Bodrožić
    Ivana Bodrožić
    Ivana Bodrožić lives in Zagreb, Croatia. In 2005, she published her first poetry collection, Prvi korak u tamu (The First Step Into Darkness) as part of the Goran Award for Young Poets. Her first novel Hotel Zagorje (Hotel Tito) was published in 2010 and went on to be a Croatian best-seller; the French edition won the prestigious Prix Ulysse for best debut novel. She has also published the poetry collection Prijelaz za divlje zivotinje (A Road for Wild Animals) and the short story collection 100% Pamuk (100% Cotton). Her novel The Pit was awarded the Balkan Noir Prize for best crime novel. Bodrozic's work has been translated into English, German, French, Czech, Danish, Slovenian, Hungarian, Spanish, Italian, and Macedonian.

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