By Goran Simic, Bosnia/Canada (Published in Issue 11)
The War is Over My Love
The war is over. I guess.
At least that’s what the morning paper says.
On the front page there is a picture of the factory
that until yesterday produced only flags.
It is starting to make pyjamas today.
On the next page there is a report on the posthumous
awarding of medals and then there are crossword puzzles
and national lottery results
in which they regret to inform that this month
again nobody won the grand prize.
Pharmacies work all night again,
radio plays the good old hits
and it seems as if there never was a war.
I enter an old clothing shop
and on the hangers I recognize my neighbours:
Ivan’s coat. We used the lining for bandages.
Hasan’s shoes. Shoelaces are missing.
And Jovan’s pants. The belt is gone.
But where are the people?
I run along the main street
to look at myself in the shop windows
but the shop windows are smashed
and there are only naked mannequins
that will wear new pyjamas tomorrow
according to the morning paper.
Then I run into our apartment
and look at myself in the glass
on your picture on the wall
and I don’t care if I am not the same anymore,
the one who cried when they were taking you away.
You told me you would come back
when the war is finally over.
The war is over.
At least according
to the morning paper.
Goran Simic was born in Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1952 and has published short stories, plays and radio plays, and was the editor of several literary magazines. His poetry, essays and reviews have appeared in many prominent journals of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, and Serbia, as well as prestigious publications such as The Times Literary Supplement, The Paris Review, and Salmagundi.After the Bosnian war of 1992-95, Goran immigrated to Canada in 1996 under the auspices of PEN Canada, and remain an active PEN member. In 1993 I initiated and was co-founder of PEN Bosnia and Herzegovina.
An Immigrant Poem
By Goran Simic
For Aleksandar Bukvić
We who doze in sleepy subways at dawn
and read yesterday’s newspapers on city buses
have never missed our Saturday evenings.
We meet in a bar and talk about the homeland.
We swallow beer greedily as if washing down the sickness
that inhabits our stomach every Monday
with the alarm-clock ringing
and the anxious face of an employer who doesn’t understand
the point of talking about homeland and politics.
There, springs smell of childhood,
there, mother smells of kitchen towels,
there, people have time to love.
We gaze at each other like conspirators
and speak in low voices.
We whisper to prevent some smart-ass
at the table next to us asking:
Why don’t you go back to your homeland
when you suffer so much here
and everything is better there.
We would then have to justify ourselves
with unpaid debts
and children who don’t want to go back,
only to drive away a terrible doubt
that obsesses us like a disease,
the doubt that perhaps
those for whom we would return
don’t live in the homeland anymore.
There, birds sing more beautifully,
there, passion perfumes the air,
there, men sit in bars even on Mondays.
We drink and talk politics
and each of our words is as precise
as the bill that arrives after the drinks.
We whisper to prevent the waitress from saying
that we could have already returned to the homeland rich
if only we had avoided our Saturday evenings
for all these years.
What do waiters know about nostalgia?
What does the homeland know about our sorrow?
What do Saturdays know about our Mondays?
We drink and talk
as if curing ourselves of a fatal illness one dies from
only on Saturdays.
We talk to prevent someone mentioning
that a hangover is as ugly
in the homeland