“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

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

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

–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.

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.

More Story
Lucy Holland Reads an Excerpt from Sistersong Damian Barr's Literary Salon tempts the world's best writers to read exclusively from their latest greatest works and share...