Poetry at Sangam



BALKAN POETS by Vesna Goldsworthy

For Oto and Aleksandra

In exile, we sleep side by side
With half-packed suitcases by the door:
A comb; a toothbrush; a change
Of clothing; a handful
Of photographs; the knowledge
That staying at home carried the greater
Risk. A memory of mother’s voice remains
Locked in the double helix of vowels
In our names. The echo
Lingers in abandoned rooms
In the southern Habsburg provinces
Like the smell of coal and cinnamon.

Before the dawn light greets
Calcifications of shell and bone,
The tidal marks of imperial retreats
Which stole the shape of our lives,
We dream of suburban streets
In London, Erlangen, or Florence,
No matter. Somewhere
Where the lime trees will ooze
Their honeyed lymphatic fluid –
Not shrapnel but summer
Stirring in the bark. Somewhere
Where you can whistle and walk
To the same desk in the same
Untorched library, every morning,
Forget that in your native language
Death consists of consonants alone,
Watch the clouds sailing, think
How wonderful a life just
Like that.