Daring to Remember

Homeland

A selection of poems by Tatjana Gromača, Istria. Translated by Tatjana Jambrišak

Homeland

A dirty road, hollow plundered apartments, paupers and thieves, silent suicides.
Diseases, soiled genes and faulty judgments, compressed and crammed,
puke in the street, cracks, bumps, slime, fat wide-necked bus conductors,
harshness, impudence, submission and scorn, repugnance.
Rejection, impudence, rudeness, impracticality, inefficiency.
To oppress, to humiliate, to murder, to destroy otherwise.
Deceit and compliance.
Lethargy, compliance.

Demons

Family demons, fiercest, darkest demons.
On a white Christmas.
Anxiety, fearing family demons, loathing your roots, loathing your own blood, your own tribe.
The night lamp smashed, mattress drenched in blood, the wooden bed dismantled into pieces, like a coffin, waiting.

Happy Killers

A crystal clear night, a journey by car.
The icy cold night kissing the chill and frost.
We left the burning house, abandoned the glittering, sinewy flame.
The starry night is well-lighted and clear.

An Ideal Existence

To crouch, to bend. To be smaller than you are.
To walk the Earth as a hermit, a beggar,
deficient of any feature, baggage.
Be invisible. To crawl, to cry for help, yes!
Attract no attention.
Pervade no air, disturb no animals.
To shrink to a corner, show no signs of life.

Us

They would like a confession
A confession only, and remorse
and when they get bitterness and pain,
they seem calm for a while.
I am sitting by the window on a wooden bench
found in the old furniture warehouse.
Certainly, it may cause some envy?
Down by the feet laurel and rosemary limbs
picked on a Sunday stroll by the sea
at the spot where a man slept in his car.
Perhaps he was dead?
Hours and minutes fly by fast.
Only seagulls are slowly cruising the sky
with wings alluringly spread.
Foreboding the cataclysm
illness, hunger, poverty and death.
Something to look forward to, anyway.

A Winter Postcard

This is the title of the short story I will write.
I will go there, spend a Sunday or two in that town.
In winter, of course.
Everything will be covered with snow.
Low, rundown houses,
streets and bridges.
The rivers will be frozen.
Here and there, ice holes drilled by fishermen
fishing along the banks.
Two fishermen in a boat
back to back.
A metal sheet on the wooden boat bottom
to light a fire, to warm up.
Corn fields under the blanket of snow.
Sharp corn stalks
protruding from the frozen ground.
Empty courtyards.
Low, bush-like trees.
At twilight,
lights will be on at the far end of the park,
in the yellow house, behind the golden pavilion.
Abandoned country roads.
A few courageous bike riders.
Small houses in the distance, fields under snow.
Old women wearing head scarves.
Open country.
The clammy comfort of melancholy.
Wood poles.
Weak, smoldering light.
Dogs barking from afar.
Darkness.

There

There are still
small houses with cracked windows.
Boards fastened by nails
where the door used to be.
Tuberculosis halls.
Courtyard houses with rustical
balcony rails
where cats convene.
I am waiting for the woman in a red negligee
to come and bring them some bread soaked in milk
as she has been doing
for years so far.
She curses and vanishes in the outhouse.
The Station Street is the same
as at the time when Milan Steiner painted it.
The Jewish church is there,
behind the park,
opposite the café where the bomb hit.
In basement flats
the lights fade in silence.
The houses of the displaced, the murdered, the missing,
radiate eerily void.
Another war has passed,
and its greatest mercenaries and servants
are those we worship today.

Scent of Humus

After the journey
as after copulation.
Depleted and guilty.
Again on my own turf where
misunderstandings and discrepancies begin.
The chest pain like a cuckoo's nest.
The scent of the native humus - warm and moist,
erotic like the scent of blood.
Driven by the irrational and the passion,
loneliness and misconceptions
as the rare constants
of existence.

Krakow 1989

I suppose that the bond was caused by architecture.
By the wind around the Wawel castle.
The passageway spouting the cold breath of history.
The queues of people waiting for vodka ...
What really happened with me and Poland?
I bought an amber ring, too large for my inexperienced hand,
a leather jacket from a woman in the street.
One unknown Pole gave me some violets
after he had kneeled piously in the cathedral.
Everything was a sign to me, everything.
Everything worth keeping.
Even the parched violets lay in the drawer for years.
Today I know we should throw away things.
Not mourn anything too much, harden the heart.
Not daydream of Krakow.

Nova Gradiška, Okučani, Novska

Nova Gradiška, Okučani, Novska.
The grief of war gone by.
It is still there, the presence is intensive.
Houses stringed along the road, fearfully vacant.
A human face in the window, busy with chores.
A child, the mother is bringing out a cake.
Houses riddled by bullet fragments.
Houses with huge grenade holes
and plastic sheets like spider webs spun over them.

Childhood

Caustic mornings with factory chimneys,
refinery's torches burning fear and elation.
The smell of the river and the sting of the nettle,
foamy dandelion spheres,
the first early childhood sins ...
A cow shepherd whipping cattle,
chimney sweeper peeking out.
A murder of crows in the plum orchard.
Heavy rust of cargo ships
a swing under a thick oak tree.

A Night in the Black Forest

The sun is already near the forest
black as coal.
The swamp, the budding willows.
The house with a dented roof
windows smashed.
Spaces overspill,
rivers.
I have switched several countries these days.
So many people streamlined through my life.
Have I managed to hurt them enough
so they would remember me as evil for a while?
Warehouses of boards, the brick factory,
former ammunition storage.
I was malicious,
lacked self-control.
In an informal company I said
needless things about many others.
Trifling babbling is the greatest crime
of the twenty century intellectuals,
wrote Czeslaw Milosz.
The sun is setting behind the black forest.
Houses like tiny sculpting alloys,
scattered under the green hill.
I will be ridiculed
by those more malevolent than me
because of my idealism and veraciousness.
I cannot survive in the world
where I need someone to guard my back.
The river is carrying rotten branches,
hills rippling over land.
A solemn rank of trees on the slopes.

 

© Radenko Vadanjel
Tatjana Gromaca from Croatia
Tatjana Gromača, born in 1971 in Sisak, Croatia, lives in the area of Central Istria and Pula. She studied comparative literature and philosophy in Zagreb (completing her degree in 1995). For many years, she wrote literary features, book reviews and articles on cultural topics for the “Feral Tribune”, a Croatian weekly that has since been discontinued. Since 2008, she has been a cultural columnist and reporter for the daily newspaper “Novi list”. She is a free-lance author (of poetry, prose and essays) who has published numerous books, the most recent of which are Bijele vrane – priče iz Istre, a documentary volume of prose (Zagreb 2005), Crnac, a short novel, (Zagreb 2004), Nešto nije u redu?, poetry (Zagreb 2000). A selection of her work appeared in German, entitled Stimmt was nicht?, published by Thanhäuser. For this, she was awarded a scholarship by the Berlin Academy of Arts in 2001.

 

Translation by Fabjan Hafner
Fabjan Hafner was born in 1966 in Klagenfurt, Austria. He studied German Philology and Slavic Languages (Slovenian) in Graz and Klagenfurt (1984-92), earning an MA and a PhD. He is an author who writes in both official languages of the Austrian Federal State of Carinthia (Kärnten), German and Slovenian, and a literary translator from Slovenian, Croatian and Serbian into German. Moreover, he is a literary scholar and editor. Since 1998, he has been a collaborator at the Robert Musil Institute for Literary Research at the University of Klagenfurt. He has published 32 translations of books, primarily of poetry (by Kajetan Kovič, Maruša Krese, Ana Ristović, Tomaž Šalamun, Maja Vidmar, Dane Zajc and Uroš Zupan). In 2006, he was awarded the Scholars’ Prize of the Austrian Society for German Philology, in 1990 he received the Petrarca Translators’ Prize, the Austrian State Prize for Literary Translation in 2006 and the Prize for European Poetry of the City of Münster in 2007.