Poems by Obren Ristić



Translated by Danijela Trajković


Afternoon in the Suburb

Crying cries and hoarse music

on the radio from a nearby house

Last move of a rooster

reflection of the ax

and sprinkled apron

and nothing happened again


The Municipality Celebration Day

At the railway station in Nis1

(or Astapovo2, the devil would have known it!)

Some whores persistently get in and kiss

my grandfather’s medal.

(Count Tolstoy went down to the people).

I tell them to get lost!

Not for the sake of guilty dick they are

and my grandfather, Srem’s3 youth, is no longer a communist.

While I’m taking him out of the hospital

some important people are watching me

and all remember.

Our priest in the first row alone as a saint

the second row is empty

and in the third local dignified politicians

and the main ladies having their twisted hair buns.

City Choir solemnly performs Mokranjac’s composition!

(Foot notes: 1 Nis is the bigest city in South Serbia / 2 Astapovo railway station is near the village of Astapovo, Russia / 3 The District of Srem is one of the seven administrative districts of the autonomous province of Vojvodina, Serbia.)


Dogs Bark

Another letter from Serbia,

Spring 1999.

And this water has flowed!

Every effort is unfruitful

only to understand the sound.

And black birds fly down

biting concrete from the bridges

which are getting fewer.

Spring has reached our places

and from the sky cherry trees fall –

right in the river .

People massively in nature come out,

from Heaven gifts collect:

anathemata, misconceptions, henbanes and curses.

(They make plows, tame the beasts).

Drunk to madness they are all happy!

Neither furrier Marks nor avaricious Lenin

Would get better here.

But the son of a bitch?

And the son of a bitch …

Dogs bark to get us crazy –

today we are told by Yesenin again.


Before Departure

For a hundred years I feel on my shoulders

all the pain of our great grandfathers.

For us on the ravine in this part of the Balkans

years pass quietly and we get old quickly.

A whole century and more

my grandfather on the nettle near fence.

And now here before departure

On the yellow paper he erases the borders.

Instead of a will there is

a lore at least for two books.

Below the threshold

he says long goodbye to the snake

and asks her to take care of the house.

Sons for centuries serve the master,

what they have built have been demolished.

A great sacrifice is meant for them all

the grandchildren are already embedded inside.


About the author:

Obren Ristic (1960) is a Serbian poet, short story writer and anthologist. His poems have been published in numerous literary magazines and are included in several collections and anthologies, including the recent anthology – Eight Centuries of Serbian Poetry Von A bis Z (2017) (translated and edited by Johann Lavundi). His poems have been translated into several languages. He has received various awards including Zmaj Ognjeni Vuk (2010), Milan Rakic (2010) and Zlatna struna (2011). He is a member of The Association of Serbian Writers. His published volumes include: Ponder Over Impressions (1996), In the East, in Serbia (2002), Upset are Holy Warriors (2006), The Lord is a Great Bard (2009), Wreath to the Creator (2009), The Barbarians of Tomorrow (2015). He lives and works in Eastern Serbia.

About the translator:

Danijela Trajkovic (1980) graduated from the Faculty of Philosophy in Kosovska Mitrovica at the Department of English Language and Literature. She writes short stories, essays, literary criticism and translates. Published by literary magazines and newspapers: Istok, Zlatna greda, Sent, Koraci, Trag, Sustina poetike, Eckermann, Bagdala, Vecernje novosti etc. (Serbia); Srpska vila (Republika Srpska); Poem (UK), Picaroon Poetry (UK). She is currently working on the book Selection from Contemporary Anglofone Poetry, which will come out of the press in Spring 2018. She lives and works in South Serbia.