How about a pleasant poem to start your month off right? Ugly Duckling has smartly created a Eastern European Poets Series that we Americans might benefit from. I am currently immersed in Lidija Dimkovska’s most excellent book, DO NOT AWAKEN THEM WITH HAMMERS, translated by Peggy Reid – yay!
Craig Santos Perez wisely reviews this collection at Galatea Resurrects – check it. And if you’re thinking of holiday gift giving already … hint hint.
Incidentally, I’ve been thinking about where the bulk of my paycheck goes lately, after rent and other bills. I’ve narrowed it down to books, fine wines (recently got into sampling), and the occasional dining experience. I don’t even go nuts for clothes anymore, and many friends would concur – I’m not the “fashion plate” I once was – ha! No more keeping up with the Joneses, ahem, I mean, the hipsters.
Okay, no further ado; it is now for your daytime treat – here’s one from the collection:
ADVICE FOR EXCELLENT ACHIEVEMENT AND EXEMPLARY BEHAVIOR
The Newscaster entered the history of her people,
the children study her for a grade, and they know her
from the advertising billboards in all the suburbs.
Who knows if she’s going to have her photo taken for “Playboy?”
Mommy, why does this lady have such a big ass?
So that the daily “Nova Makedonija” will not perish or else your father
will hang us. And why did you get an F in history?
The teacher asked who wrote our anthem,
and I said Ataturk, because I had melted into the palms
that the Turkish girl sitting next to me on the school bench
was warming between my legs, and drawing
bridal veils in my notebooks.
Shame on you son.
Is that why I sit at home, patching dead languages,
starching sonnets, is that why my back’s killing me
from washing Byzantine hymnographers’ manuscripts,
Havel’s letters and all sorts of other cult mystifications?
And every night my cheeks defecate,
and I have to tell you, not even Cleopatra went through
so much toilet paper. It is for nothing that
I press Delete, nothing can erase them,
and even less stop them from ejecting
feces–worms in a game of mirrors.
Oh son, son, it’s not the wind beating against the shutters that wakes you at night,
it’s the pores of my outer skin flushing themselves with water from the toilet,
and whoever arrives first in the dream
on the other side of the cable TV goes to pee. Look at her,
she’s all dressed up as if she was talking about Osiris,
not about the rice that caught diarrhea at dawn,
and do not ask shy she has such red eyes,
or why her nails are all gnarled, and her cheeks transparent.
Study son, repeat, not battles and peace summits,
but: why doesn’t a dead person’s hairdo stay in place
for more than ten minutes, why didn’t Isis
catch it from Osiris,
(and your father once told your uncle:
the more I beat her, the more she loves me),
because you have to know everything so as not to know anything
and be photocopied on freshly painted walls,
white walls for all those wonderful people.
Study son. Study will not harm the head underwritten
by the Lethe Insurance Company.
–Lidija Dimkovska, DO NOT AWAKEN THEM WITH HAMMERS
Lidija Dimkovska was born in 1971 in Skopje, Macedonia. She is a poetry editor for the online literary review Blesok (Shine). She took her Ph.D. in Romanian literature from the University of Bucharest, and now lives in Slovenia. Her books include The Offspring of the East (1992), The Fire of Letters (1994), Bitten Nails (1998), and Nobel vs. Nobel (2001).
Ljubica Arsovska is editor-in-chief of the quarterly Kulturen Zivot, the leading cultural magazine in Macedonia, and translator of numerous books, plays, and poems.
Peggy Reid is a translator of Macedonian poetry and prose. In 1973 she and her husband, Graham W. Reid, received the Struga Poetry Festival Translation Prize for their translation of The Sirdar, by Grigor Prlicev. In 1994 she received the Macedonian Literary Translators’ Society Award; she has also won first prize at the Avon Poetry Festival, UK, twice for her own poetry. She teaches English at the University of SS. Cyril and Methodius, Skopje.