Zoran Bognar | Selected Poems | Scene4 Magazine - April 2016

Selections from Albedo, Aura, Alchemy:
Selected Poems 1984-2010

Translated by Dejan D. Markovic; selected and edited by Lissa Tyler Renaud





Tonight the black clouds

have transformed themselves into a map of Europe...

I saw black Italy

the reincarnation of Mussolini's boot...

I saw black Albania,

devoid of any thoughtful eye

I saw black Yugoslavia,

wounded in eight different places

I saw black U.S.S.R.

already monotonous with its forced charisma...

I ran home for some white paint,

and threw it from the balcony into the sky.

The white drops, like children of optimism,

began to evaporate, flying higher and higher,

and then, like tears of the moon,

arcing like a boomerang,


they splashed right back in my face...

Thank you Mr. Orwell,

you were so damn right...


Borovo, 1989





















    Unselfishness is the law of the spirit,
    While selfishness is the law of the body...

    —S. Yessudian

You had the endurance to keep on watching while preying mantises

devoured each other,

huge islands sank into the abyss,

the mountains were consumed by clouds...

You had the endurance to observe while the period

of optimism changed into the period of darkness, joyless clowns

on the stage, the work that receives honours

even though it has no substance... but you have always been

afraid to look into your own

soul because perhaps there is nothing in there...


Vukovar - Belgrade, 1989 - 1995




GUEST (Elogium)


And there was birth.

And there was purpose.

And there was aim.

And there was dream.

And there was suffering.

And there was pain.

And there was unrealized journey.

And there was unfulfilled desire.

And there was creation.

And there was obstacle.

And there was unresolvable enigma.

And there was decadence.

And there was unbearable nihilism.

And there was unbearable cynicism.

And there was Man like any other

guest at the table of Genesis.

And there was chair.

And there was rope.

And there was gallows.

And there was the last spasm.

And there was eternity.

And there was wasteland.

And there was applause!                                  


 Vukovar - Beograd, 1991 - 1995






There are no two perfect beings, because

then we would be one... Perfection is indivisible,

an unbroken whole.

So, how do you manage to go on living

with two persons inside you

who cannot stand one another?! The road between two hearts

is never a straight line. The road between two minds

inside the same skull is clenched with the urge to escape.

One should stop and wait for a while until the Messiah

takes his place behind the pilgrim, until inflexibility

is overcome by reconciliation; until the splintered thought,

collapsed like a temple, shudders within itself, far from any

Anacreontic Assumption... To resurrect everything once again,

to bring everything back to its place; the decay of the forest,

the temple, everything...To take the emptiness by surprise,

the gaol wall and, as the final treatment, to continue to knock

on the head, on the chest, over and over again.

To keep on listening to one's own footsteps

all the time in order to be able to recognize

the footsteps of someone else. It is about time to realize

the meaning of this resolve, and when one takes

the second step before taking the first, one should never imagine there is anything noble about this act, because

to be born dead and never to live at all,

is not in the least Godlike.

To recognize the doubts that are imposed, to relieve

oneself of one's fatigue, despair, the disgust of the exhausted self...

After all one's efforts, never to allow this uncertainty to recover

the power of a prison, to give birth to a dependence,

to the abandonment of the will, even of the body.

At that moment, imagine yourself with your arms pressed to your chest, as though you had a fever, deformed, completely losing consciousness, and with this feeling of liberation

subdue and conquer the effect of heat and obvious intent;

strike with a hammer with all of your might,

the two-headed dog which has been gnawing since birth on the bones of its own skeleton.

Observe without remorse as it rolls

and twists with its pain in the dust,

as white and shining as salt,

so that it becomes the prisoner of your gaze.

Break free from that feeling of hatred that binds

you to it as to a jewel, a precious stone which

regains an indestructible life in you—the life of a

mountain. And, then, strike again with all your

might, swinging on your feet like a giant

pendulum. Its limp body will retain

consciousness only in its thighs and loins;

its life, the hope of the last eidetic image,

the feeling of failure, will turn into a rage

and a grotesque, as it will be truthful to you

for the first time, confessing that never,

until that moment, has it told you the truth.

This confession will make it quiver all over in its

dazed frenzy, release its spirit, relieve it of breath

like a flash. The last words uttered, their loss of

clarity, will induce an erotic convulsion,

common to any prolonged struggle...

Suddenly, you'll stop, bewildered by the altered

sound of your own footsteps. A confused vision,

green and blue, will leave you gasping for breath;

nevertheless, as your eyelids continue to flutter,

a new vision will force itself on you,

more powerful than the vision of everything

surrounding you: a crack!

The sunlight will spread along its length, and the

sculpted part, also visibly cracked, will be seen

lying in the grass

like a severed head. Then you will finally breathe a sigh

of relief, slow and deep, enfeebled and tearful.

The world will regain control over you

as though you were a drowning person,

and an apparently stupid gratitude will reveal

a malign twin in front of your feet. In front of the toppled body,

with a crack when in light, a sudden harmony between you,

the temple and Him personally will be established.

And then, do not fall into despair: become stronger.

Think of three stones placed one upon the other:

two dancers, the most innocent that you know...

they should all be loaded upon a two-wheeled cart...

In your thought, you will be unable to free yourself from them;

when you are asleep they will awaken you and

lead you barefoot to a clearing, to melt you with the light.


Belgrade, 1999







I say: the clarity of the words not said

amazes me.

I find my refuge,

and a hidden passion in it.

Oh, eternal temptation!

I was fondling the aura of a kindred soul,

at a semi-dark Irish Pub,

on Kneza Milosa Street.

She approached the table

like pollen,

like the first breath of a newborn child,

like the beginning of a new life…

There were no variations,

no rules,

nothing orderly.

Her whole attitude

was a patient waiting,

a magnetic force

felt by those she was passing by

and the one she was approaching.

Oh, gilded Mephistopheles,

I thank you

in the name of the halo and the charisma

because of everything that we should have done,

but did not;

because of everything that we should have named,

but did not;

because of all the replies suppressed,

but nevertheless given.


Belgrade, 2002

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Note on the Author
Zoran Bognar, born in Croatia, is a distinguished Serbian poet, essayist, critic, and editor of a leading Serbian publishing house, Dereta. His works have been translated into 18 languages.

Note on the Translator
Dejan D. Markovic was born in the former Yugoslavia and lives in Canada. He has had thirty books of his translations published.

Note on the Editor
Lissa Tyler Renaud is also a longtime editor and champion of Serbian writer Milan Oklopdzic.

©2016 Zoran Bognar
©2016 Publication Scene4 Magazine



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