The skin you see
I stretch for kilometres
In the dark hours
Of my anxiety
The hair you see
I dye twice
To hide the greyness
Of my age
The mouth you see
Still learns every day
To pronounce warily
The desired and expected
The head you see
Well in this head
There's the Battle of Waterloo
The Normandy landings and
The Battle of Kosovo.
There are days I hardly survive
One time I surely won't.
When I feel the heartstrings of life within myself,
I write a poem about your former self.
You were, I fear,
My first time to a city, to the sphere,
You were also my first despair,
My first loss of face,
My first jump over the fence,
You were, I fear,
To what I aspired,
Fantasized and wanted,
But I was timid.
My dear alter-ego, well-known,
Again, make it known
That I dare do
Whatever fancy can conjure
Only when I feel the heartstrings of life within myself,
I imagine telling it all
To your soul.
Bios: Sandrijela Kasagić (1973) teaches the Serbian language at the Grammar School in Banja Luka, Bosnia and Herzegovina. She has published several scholarly papers on syntax and stylistics, and writes short stories and poetry. The translation of her poetry was published in literary journals “Fevers of the Mind” and “Lothlorien”. She is currently working on her first collection of poetry to be published in 2022.
Petar Penda is a professor of English and American literature (University of Banja Luka, Bosnia and Herzegovina), literary critic, and translator. His translations have been published in renowned journals in the USA and the UK. His poetry and flash fiction have been published in “Fevers of the Mind”, “Lothlorien Poetry Journal”, “A Thin Slice of Anxiety”, “Trouvaille Review”, ” Amphora”, and other journals.
Till yesterday I was thinking your body was
too hard; your intelligence was solid as the soil
shedding the blood and sweat where you can
grow plants, bear fruits and bloom flowers
but then you never possess the tactics of
hoarding the grains in the barn, never
your pain oozes like the water
your eyes never know the dishonest sun.
When the darkness is encompassed
in the cleave of the mountain and you hang
yourself one day in the bough of a tree
without letting someone know
I’m a daughter of this country, the daughter of
a farmer, I burst out for you when you are
thrashed by the rain, but why
the lights are expelled from your ways
potholes are dug in your way, the four
directions are surrounded by barbed wire.
When the entire country sleeps in the fear of
the virus you awake in pain for reaching rice
to every mouth, you remain steadfast and say
if you die, die but not because of hunger
when you become so strong like the floor
making all the trickery futile, you stand up raising
your shoulder, I smile even from the periphery
of death as I’m the daughter of a farmer.
Hunger blazes on the edge of the train lines
hunger blazes on the premises of the temple
and in the shanties below the darkened slum
in the corner of the hearth place hunger blazes.
There’s no sleep in the eyes to extinguish
this hunger; nothing can be availed for free here
not even a word; to compensate I can give only
the fragile body, if you want to take it,
I’ll pour it out into your hands—-oh, hunter.
How can you understand the torture of hunger?
Can a dog understand?
When my child spread his hands in uncombed
shagged hair or soiled clothes in wriggling pain
in hunger, you take back your legs frowning your
eyebrows and the same feet spend sleepless
nights in my shanty; I can’t see anything in front
of hunger, as it snatches food from the mouth of
my child; and can sell me—-to the enemy.
If it goes, let my body go, if I watch over the
body, my death is apparent and then my body
will be eaten up by the vultures and crows
in the whirlpool of hunger, I’m just a small twig—-
quite helpless; hunger forces me into the
darkness away from the light; my stomach
doesn’t understand anything—-caste, religion
or morality which I should refrain from!
The Faces Resemble God are not of God's
If someday, you are asked to leave the house
no matter who the person is
spitting a lump of phlegm, come out, no issues
purify the tears in the fire holding in your palms
make your fist strong, time is very cruel.
I’ve not become a shoulder for anyone
wherever the daybreaks, he lives there
the mild darkness is no less enigmatic than
this street alleyway, I threw a fist of moonlight
set your feet seeing the speed of the wind
your activeness is the thorn in someone’s throat
if you are a silly girl, your road goes to hell
for sure. Whether you’re a class 9th girl
or a girl who has never gone to school
whether your age is fifteen or fifty, it doesn’t
matter to them; no matter how thick is your cloth
the unsatiated tongue can pierce up to the
lower abdomen, wherever you go disguised
people are watching your way, once you fall in
their hands they’d just swallow you; the
faces resemble god's are not of god's, just
construe soon and return back towards life.
War of Life
Let the head go off or the chest crack
let the last drop of blood drip from the heart
every thoughtful war, taking the larger
responsibility to descend on a resilient shoulder
a war can begin in a house and can go
to set the highest mountain peak on earth on fire
and can wipe out the lights from all the roads
with blooming trees.
The outrage goes on flag marching
barefoot in silence too, nevertheless,
the unwavering courage and a chest
like the blood-pooled floor, both are needed
if you have to fight then learn how to prolong
the war first and the disciplines for it.
Whether he takes or gives the head, the knight
fights from the front, in his dying and killing
he proves heroism, war is not fought from the
back nor does it seek a mask or the darkness
war lives in the light all the time
war is life and life searches for war.
*Translated from the Odia by Pitambar Naik*
Jiyanti Biswal Behuria: is a poet from Baleswar, Odisha in India. She studied for her BA at Utkal University. Mun Mo Sahita is her debut book of poetry and she has her second book of poetry forthcoming.
Pitambar Naik is an advertising professional. His work appears or is forthcoming in The McNeese Review, The Notre Dame Review, Packingtown Review, Rise Up Review, Ghost City Review, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, The Indian Quarterly, and The World That Belongs To Us HarperCollins India among others. The Anatomy of Solitude (Hawakal) is his debut book of poetry. He grew up in Odisha and lives in Bangalore India.