Blesok no. 95, March-April, 2014
Translated from Croatian by Andy Jelčić
You are getting out of the bathroom after what you have done behind the closed doors. Between us is a small corridor with a large mirror. You are disappearing in the left corner, because there is a wardrobe. I want to see you naked in the mirror, so I flee from the computer and turn around: the only thing I see is my repeated face in a vast and abandoned space.
I return to my place before the face of the screen, striking the characters of my keyboard: shall I summon you in this way, shall I describe you? By confessing what I wanted I show how weak I am and this will take revenge on me in my future life, in the text.
But who would worry about that now? Where are you, I mean to say that this is important to me? What are you doing? What are you wearing, I am asking about the cover, about the end.
They said that the Genova Low was coming and because of this liberating news we have decided to depart from our temporary leisure home. This was supposed to be the best thing to do for all of us, to be done within the next half an hour.
And that was all.
And that was all.
Now we are closing the doors in a hurry and we have done everything necessary before that: took the food out of the gas refrigerator that we would turn off later, unsure of one thing – should we have closed the door or should we have left it open, like this had been done by our predecessors. They were not much of a role model, having left so many untidy and imperfect things behind them. We know that the house owners, our relatives, had encouraged this approach by a pile of bread cut in slices, left there to the joy of creeping and ugly pests or by the omnipresent smell of decaying potatoes found in the storage under the stairs.
We could have called a stop to all that and changed it. Now we should pack quickly and tidy up a bit; we collide, hands and different jurisdictions intersect. But, as much as this is left unspoken, we know with whom the authority lies; there are no great changes in these roles and nobody protests. The children have grown up. Suntanned, tall, and beautiful, they resemble rare birds with special voices; angry and wonderful, in discord with their hands, legs, and heads they carry things to the unstable boat, over the bow and ropes to the cabin; merchandise, fish caught in a net and with a trident that we shall eat in the town.
Then comes the moment you are afraid to write about: locking the doors and closing the shutters, enveloping the house in darkness and cold, a shadow of the day in which voices outside and within you have subsided. There is a fear that everything deeply yours will remain in that house at Smokvica, while you are closing everything around you, unconsciously catching the last glimpse of the sea, the last conversation and movement you have made only a moment earlier. You catch a glimpse of the scenes around you, while half-crazed you run around picking up, spilling, throwing away, and locking up.
While you are locking up yourself, while you are talking aloud to yourself about yourself that the ghosts of Kornati would take your face and your body, hide in it and spend the winter by the side of the ones who will come to pick olives, sit among them and scare them, when they fall asleep, that a storm is coming or that the northern wind will scatter around everything they have gathered.
You are not breathing at the moment when you are talking and drawing the air in and the memories of summer. You would like to remain frozen, to enjoy the fear of never moving a hand or a leg again, like this happens in dreams. You are cast all in one body; there are no scars and memories, nothing apart from immobility, nothing of that craving for another body, nothing that you could turn into a word larger than yourself.
But you are already in the sun, on board, waving to the ones that remain. They are busy, working, as if the weight they carry would give them security, containing the real reason for their staying on the island. They jump into the sea, preparing a sailboat for a trip to nearby islands. We wave to each other, because we wish to stay, survive, and come back. You are waving because you are afraid of dying, of abandoning this place forever and never coming back; because of a woman who sought flowers along the paths leading to the top of the hill, because of blackberries that remained small and acrid…
You are waving while you are getting away and out of sight, you are waving, although you have been sitting for some time. People are already talking about past summer, how it was, you are silently waving and looking back. You are waving because you know that nothing has been left in the house supposed to disappear. You are waving because you know that danger, death and fear, ghosts and the wind – nothing has remained there and there is nothing, just a simple empty house on an island, on Kornati Islands, in Dalmatia, a locked up house near a restaurant and sailing boats.
But you are waving because you know that there is nothing hidden and forgotten, that there is nothing because you have taken that horror with you as well. It is not visible on your face, but it is knocking and will appear at some point, even when you will not be thinking of the closed house at Smokvica. Horror will appear of which you think that you have slammed the door at its face and turned your back to it.
Beer bottles on a cramped table were supposed to end in the workers’ hands, but the danger lies in sudden disarray and laughter: they fell on the table, then on the ground and a gush of glass and hop smell hit us.
What are empty glasses doing at that moment? What is happening with you, while you are sitting in a secret (lovers’) place, becoming an accomplice in a conspiracy on an ordinary summer afternoon? You are creeping into a story that does not want to be a love story; you are standing in its centre, thinking that you are pulling its ends, the ones that are pulling it forward. It is nice to say that you are thinking of the places where you were just beautiful in the eye of the summer, before the storm, before the weather became rough.
And what else, what else are you doing?
The end of events is still far away and no one would order again. Let us say it now, then, to make things easier. Let us decide what we are going to do while our hands are still free, our minds and hearts pure and brave! The workers have finished their work, unloaded the cement bags, put their shovels away, and left their blouses on the grass. Now they are sitting at the foot of an imagined mountain. Enveloped in muscles and curses, light-hearted, bearded, strong, exhausted, and different, they belong to that which demands no name, which does not care for the childhood. They are laughing, smoking, drinking. They are poor. They are rich. They are sick. They are healthy. They are happy. They are trying hard. They do not ponder over the question who and what they are? The hardships of the world, wars and political crises end in their curses, low wages, abandoned families, and places that hold no room for them now. They are full of hatred. They are void with loneliness.
But you cannot hide behind them, because you do not belong to the noon in Gračani, while bottles are falling and a gush of glass, spume, and hop smell attracts laughter and voices.
And what now? What now?
The teacher gets into her car and takes the ringing of a school lesson with her. My 45 minutes are over, she says. The boy does not hurry anywhere. This was my day, Tuesday or Wednesday, a happy Friday, he says.
Where is your happy day, your happy hour, you ask.
She is not saying a word. She is just looking at him – thus Gračani will always remain in her eyes. In her silence. In her gaze.
Viktor lives in a villa at the seaside, but this is not our topic. He deserves a much more interesting and longer story, a story only about him. He deserves more than just an introduction. But for now, we shall leave it that way. He asked us our name, our exact birth date and the birth date of our closest relatives (if this is the right expression). You feel uneasiness and anxiety, like in an exam or when facing people who can seriously harm you.
What if you do not know the exact date of birth of your older or younger son? What is your wife’s date of birth? Maybe this story should be told from the beginning: the villa ought to be placed into its reality, its appearance described, as well as the access to it and the way to reach it. How do you talk in it? How do you talk to it? The history of that house is longer than the history of some large towns or nameless stretches of wilderness. It is longer and more interesting if we disregard plants and animals, large and small traces of wind in the sand, if we do not cry over the defeats of lovers when dawn comes and everything looks as if the sun would never rise…
We should come very close to its windows, to the sea, because it seems that this villa, crammed up with books, old and valuable objects, is losing its glory yard by yard, losing everything surrounded and captured by its walls. The villa is moving towards the sea as its owners and friends are abandoning it. Its only reality is a view of the open sea. We hid, the two of us, behind large windows, thinking that we were invisible, imperceptible…
But this is already a story for some other reality and a discussion on landscapes that at a certain moment create an illusion of eternity. Before I say anything about you, it is better that we both return into the future past, to Viktor’s questions, who will forever remember the date of our arrival into the villa, our date of birth and the date of birth of our closest relatives (if this is the right expression!?).
Present. Perfect. Poetry
Passing the main railway station I am looking at Zrinjevac glittering in a sudden winter: crystal, precise, illuminated and cold, like the wind that swirls the last autumn leaves, I am walking and thinking how happy I am. I am happy that poetry is on a good path, because it is getting closer to what it really is: an esoteric cottage industry. Arriving at a poetry evening, devoted to my book, I feel gratitude towards the ones who came, gratitude devoid of my obligation to them and their obligation to me, because I am not pondering over their reasons; I have not informed anyone that I’ll be there, said nothing to my family and friends. I almost failed to reveal the reason of my going out late to my dearest. I am simply glad that poetry is on a good path, because it is getting closer to what it really is: an esoteric cottage industry. And everything keeps repeating. And everything keeps repeating. And everything keeps repeating. And everything keeps repeating. And everything keeps repeating. Present. Perfect. Poetry.