Ferida Duraković

SARAJEVO (1993-2006)


Ferida Durakovic was born in Olovo, Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1957. Her first book of poems was published while studying at Sarajevo University and she is the author of three subsequent volumes. Her most recent collection, Heart of Darkness (1998) has been translated into English. She is Secretary-General of the PEN Centre of Bosnia-Herzegovina and lives in Sarajevo where she remained throughout the siege

(About the letter from before the war)

                                      (About the letter from before the war)

The Universe set darkness to our humble home,
which is gone now. The letter, and every single book,
as well as precious tiny things: all burned like Rome…
But it is just an illusion! Have a look:

We aren't gone! And manuscripts never burn,
they say. It means that I'll read anew
that particular precious letter, whenever you turn,
whenever only those few precious syllables

change our agony into an endlessly dull
wintertime afternoon… In those hours
everything's so simple, so that I suffer because
I don't love anyone, and the fear devours

me that passion, which brings back the very first day
of love, of the re-Creation, finally gone
like my heart grown into a poplar tree! And may
only this flourishing pain stop! May everyone alone

leave for good, to wherever they want: to
water, to air, or fire. And us? What fireside
awaits us in the times to come? Here is our home,
where Mother can never get tired of planting

roses and fruit, and us, her poor ones, on her palm.




Cruelly and for a long time everything
has been repeating, and yet everything
happens for the first time: the face of
a young man whose life was flowing away
all night through your fingers, through the hole
in his back. The face of a soldier,
near the bus station; his eyes wide open:
the mild May sky has settled down there:

You're imagining, I say – it's not
the calm and distant face of history you know.

And a pool of blood: in the middle, a bread loaf
soaked with blood as if with fresh morning milk.

You are imagining, I repeat, for the first time:

heavy Sarajevan clay which falls on a boy's
big feet in the Reebok sneakers, leaning on
the too short tabut made of a cabinet door.

No, you should not be trusted.
You have arrived from the heart of darkness
which burst and gushed into the daylight.

You are an unreliable witness,
a biased one besides. So that is
why the Professor came, the Parisien one,
from head to toe: Mes enfants, he started,
and his fingers kept repeating: Mes

enfants, mes enfants, mes enfants...

In the Academy of Sciences
many wise grey heads could think only about
his screamingly white shirt. Mes enfants,

Europe is dying here. Then he arranged
everything into a movie, into images, great words
like histoire, Europe, responsabilité,
and naturally, les Bosniens. So, this is the way
to look into the face of history,

not like you: in crude irresponsible
fragments, in a sniper shot which stabs the skull,
in graves already covered with tireless grass...
In your palms, laid upon
Edvard Munch, who once
invented it alla, in vain.

                                       Sarajevo, 1993, To B.H. Levy
cum grano salis



Our dear Lord dwells above the planes, in the highest Heaven.
His golden eyes settle on the dark, on blackened Sarajevo.
Blossoms and shells are falling outside my window.
Madness and me: alone. We are alone. Alone. Alone.

For M.H.

This town, catching up to us,
clasping us to its arms
and around our necks –
we watch it from above.
We are Ceasers of the moment,
breathing in its breath: human
bodies, divine blossoms…

The mourmouring stations;
the calm of the Japanese cherry
in the State Museum Garden, and those
who were dear to us
and nested in our bosoms…

One of us waves his hand toward
the ruined tower high above in the air
as if giving his permission
for it to be built anew, and says:

Still, this is an incredible town.

Let us go, then…
down. The face of History
ought to be watched
with more modesty. Only thus
shall we be reflected
in our inner selves: How big were we
amidst poverty and splendor?
Neither poor nor splendid, but… so-so

that – God forbid – neither befalls us.

Each of us tore off for himself
what the haughtier
and the greater
had conquered, with a simple
and sublime account: addition,
multiplication, division, subtraction…

Let us go, then – we, the masters
of the air tower, let us go
down to the town, quiet
And hurt by everything.

Let us glide down the street’s palm
As though we are raindrops,
so our dreams do not come true:
they  are all the same: addition,
multiplication, division, subtraction…

Selection from the Heart of Darkness, poems,

White Pine Press, Fredionia, New York, 1999