Opening river banks and washing small settlements away.
Peoples and dogs swimming for each other.
And before that there was a summer without warmth.
It never arrived.
When my daughter returned from her travels abroad.
Where ‘abroad’ names any place outside our floating islands.
Otherwise you could say that she went to visit home country outside of which lays ‘abroad’.
It all depends on the name you give to horizon you see while standing with both feet planted in the soil.
We can only ever see one.
Unless you are a character in Murakami’s novels. Two moons might be handy.
It would certainly explain a lot.
Anyway, it was a slow summer and I was teaching myself to write poetry.
What a mess!
Silences stretched across summer nights like the elaborate tablecloths my dead grandmother made from the thin white cotton she called ‘konac’. They were heavy.
She would lay them across our wooden table to fully show their opulence.
While all I learned is that poetry is like a fickle lover; it tempts, it seduces, it intoxicates,
Only to turn away without a warning,
Or a word of comfort,
Or a word of hope.
And still one waits.
In our times, they are serious people (and seriously trained for number of years) whose job is to name such state of affairs. They come up with such names as ‘psychosis’ or ‘disorder’. It helps rest of the population cope.
But I did learn other things too.
For instance – a man to whom I wrote a poem some four or so years ago invited me out.
He still remembers it.
I do too.
The trouble with people in poems is they take it for real.
Poetry is not real! No more than our souls and our hearts!
Otherwise what would be the point – you can hug your knees – they are real enough!
Still, I listen while my daughter talks.
She carefully pronounces names of streets in Zagreb she visited, people she spoke with, dishes she tasted.
She watches me carefully waiting for recognition.
I have none to offer.
The trouble with exiles is that everyone wants them romantic.
They are not.
Your memory makes a fool of you.
There is no square you swear on your mother’s grave was there once complete with flower sellers and an old man playing accordion in all weathers.
She was beautiful. In a way wild things are. Wild flowers growing on the road-side. Moist with dew and open towards the sharp morning air. Heavy with fragrances. Unaware.
You are like a young horse, he told her once. With all that hair, and all that limbs. Jumpy and Scattered. Unsafe.
Rain was washing her first autumn down the dormitory windows that day he loved her for the first time in the room next to his office. Where he played piano between his lectures.
She watched him undoing her hair, still and silent. Tracing outline of her mouth, her breasts and small mark just below her ribs. Yearnings in her back surprised her.
Later he showed her how to enter without being seen. How to read poetry, drink cognac and keep secrets. For ever.
I will always love you she told him over and over.
You do not know what always is, he would say and bury his face in her hair, nape of her neck, crevice of her stomach. This is what always is, she though.
The day she could not open the door of the room with piano, Nina remembered what he told her; ‘If something happened to me you must leave. And you must keep safe.’
They later told her she was half dead when they found her by the river. Her grandmother told them to look there, in the field where they kept horses for sale. Before they break them. Where they used to light small fires and sing, when the girl was only little.
It was all arranged then. She was nursed to health and married. You have a child right away, her grandmother told her. It will keep you alive. You will fight to live. This is the way we are. All other things come and go. Trust me, she said, I know. And you are like me. We survive.
Nina crossed the oceans, and fought. For each breath. Hers and her child’s.
Twenty years later, on an ordinary day in early autumn she walked into a man with honey coloured eyes. She watched him tilt his head back and laugh that open laugh only certain men possess. Made from equal parts of strength and tenderness. It commands attention.
She wished he would never stop laughing and talking in those sharp, clipped sounds all people from his land have. She knew he has stories untold. Stories carried across the oceans, to be buried in the foreign soil. Like hers.
When she kissed him, old river song came back to her for the first time since. Wild flowers opening with dew into the morning air. Longing.
You are a beautiful woman, he told her. But I can never love you. You are unsafe.
I wish I do not have to sit in this cubical, far above the street, and write official looking papers. On schedule.
I look down into the street and see people walking. Each with its own inner self.
And how I envy them! None of them knows about my papers and my deadline!
There is a woman in a bright orange dress. She smiles at the man walking next to her. He takes her hand in his. Ray of sunshine flickered over the chain of his watch.
Flock of pre-schoolers filled the view with chatter, like bird’s wings flapping against the warm air. Bouncing from side to side, in awe of the world; so new and so vast. Eyes wide with wonder.
Three young man cross the street. Each carries stiff black box. They perched them against the corner of an indifferent looking building.
An accordion, a violin and a bass. And an empty box left open for coins. I fancy I can see the shine of worn velvet and curves inside it. I fancy I can see one of them is very young and is smiling.
I inch closer to the window, cupped my chin inside my right palm, and, as my way is, begin to dream.
Of the village stretched beside a lazy river. The village I most needed to know, but most did not know.
Oh the dusty roads! Oh the shiny horses!
Village of rose-coloured embroideries drying against the summer breeze. For the new brides.
But I fancy I see it all now under the pretense of writing an official looking paper.
Gold-coloured quinces lined on top of an old wardrobe made of walnut wood, so heavy it can never be moved. Rooted to its spot in the village.
Wedding parties on horses, jewelled harnesses shimmer like diamonds against the pale winter sky.
Here comes a young gypsy girl, her bare feet dance with the first snow. Her laughs fly over the rooftops and tricoloured flags that cut the air like a knife inside the overly decorated wedding cakes.
There is that window with lace curtains she always left just ajar, (accidentally if anyone asks), while she waited for him. Shivering and puling the sheets all the way up to her chin. Heavy linen brushing her nipples, beck arching in yearning. Eyes closed she imagined him coming to her, once everyone is too drunk to care for musicians.
Jumping over the fence and the old barn-wall, then just a step through the open window. High leather boots and hat with pheasant’s feather tucked aside.
He always smelt of leather polish, horse shit and tobacco. She would bury her face inside his armpit and inhale deeply. First roosters sang above the village when he left her, wet and open like the furrows after the first ploughing in autumn.
When they married her off to a distant town, he sold his horses and paid gypsies to play until their strings snapped and their fingers bled. Lazy river spat his body somewhere downstream, his throat slit.
And now I fancy I hear that same old song and girls dancing, like no time has passed at all, like we have never left the village with the broad, lazy river … Aye how limited, but how full this dream has been.
We have visited it all; the colours, the smells, the love, the loss … what else is there to do but to stay? And that we cannot do.
Accordion cries across the street. I turn my gaze and see three young man playing tune I do not recognize.
Back to the official looking papers that made me dream ….
It just passed midnight. Wind is howling outside and waves are breaking against the shore in the distance.
I am sick with the desire to write. Thoughts swirl in my head, like frightened blackbirds; wings flapping, crying against the vastness of inky skyline. Open but unknown, free but uncharted, calling yet unanswered.
I long for my blogging fraternity. My friends. Friends who come to visit the Lantern even though, in a last month or so, it has not been shining often. Still you pass by and write words of support and encouragement, even nominate the Lantern for awards … TO EACH AND EVERY ONE OF YOU – THANK YOU VERY MUCH! I cannot thank you enough, and I will honour all the awards as soon as I can.
While it is not often I write directly about myself and my life, but instead weave threads of it in my poetry and prose, on this occasion I will make an exception. For my friends who send me so many great wishes. And who wonder where may I unanchore it this time.
This whole year has been a year of great change for me. And like with all great changes, one only becomes fully aware of it when already in the midst of it.
When I first arrived to New Zealand from Zagreb, that distant June in 1994 I was recently married and six months pregnant. I carried my daughter in me from one side of the Earth to another. Only I did not know it was a daughter. Or much of anything else for that matter, including English language. I smiled and looked aside when somebody tried to speak to me.
When my daughter was born in September 1994, I told her that I love her. In English. And that her name was Deborah. From that moment on we were together. Every hour of every day. Her father and I separated sometimes in the middle of 1996. He left NZ not long after that, or so I was told. Because he neglected to tell me. Or to contact me or Deborah since. I never held that against him. He was simply not equipped to deal with such things as exile, husbandhood, and fatherhood. I never held a grudge against him or spoke ill of him. It is because of him I have Deborah, and that alone is all that ever mattered to me.
I made a conscious choice to stay in NZ. For one; I had nobody to return to. I once read somewhere that home is a place where they have to take you in whenever you show up. My grandparents were dead. There was no such place. Besides, I was certain that New Zealand would be better for us both; me and my girl. For the first time in my life I was part of a team; team of two. Us; Deborah and I. It was all I needed.
Eighteen years passed this way. Blink of an eye. I still see her standing her ground on the pre-school playground yelling at kids who teased her about the way her mum speaks, that her mum CAN speak English. Hands on hips and ready to take anyone on. My girl. Nobody ever stood up for me. And she was only four.
And so we stood for each other over the years, we navigated storms and maestrals together. Always knowing where the light house is.
When she first started going out to teen’s parties and alike, we had a code word for any kind of emergency. It was a Croatian word only we knew. If and when in any kind of trouble, just txt that word and mum is there, wherever, instantly. Just say our word.
Each day I asked to just live long enough to raise my child. My worst fear was that my child will be orphan and sent to foster home if something happened to me. Because of that I raised her with huge emphasis on education and independence. Everything else can be taken away from you; any material possession, but not what you have learned, what is in your brain, I used to tell her over and over … ‘Mum, I DO understand!’
At the beginning of this year I had to move to another city for work. While initially we were both to move, Deborah decided to stay behind to finish her last year of high school without changing schools. It was the first time we did not live together, and a taste of what was to come. Deborah with her own life; her school, her part-time job, her boyfriend; a decent young man … in a word; a life separate from mine. As it should be.
Still, I was hopeful they will both come to my city to go to University. It almost happened. And then she decided to go to Dunedin to study Health Science at the University of Otago. The oldest University in NZ.
All I ever wanted for my girl is to be an educated, independent woman and a decent human being. I am proud to say that she is all of that and then some. I have never known one’s heart can be so filled with love and pride and longing all in the same time. But I would not have it any other way. She is mine to miss and I am hers to walk away from. It is the natural order of things.
And then of course morning came when I looked around an empty house, far too big for me to live in, and all the things I accumulated because Deborah may need or want them.
And the face of a young doctor who told me that ‘it does not look good this time’. I almost laughed out loud in his office. Because however it looks from his side, it looks jolly good from mine. Because my child is 18 and therefore it no longer matters. She could never be put in a foster home now.
And then I set to find a place to put my bags down. Just mine this time. Small and cosy; a writer’s den. I saw many places claiming to be so. For a price. Witnessed greed once again lurking from fancy advertisements and corners of people eyes. Small and beady.
It is a good price, so it is. Times are hard. You will not find better. How much? Not much really, we invested a lot in it. Very nice, clean, just renovated. It will only be that much if you … Just tell me the price will you! Because all I want to know is how much to cry inside?
During the last couple of days, the Lantern Post has been nominated for two lovely awards. It is always very nice to be remembered by fellow bloggers, isn’t it!
Sometimes when I follow the footsteps of those passing under the Lantern, they take me as far as open skies of Africa, vast plains of America, warm Mediterranean shores, charming streets of Europe, magic of Asia … and all I could do is to imagine what it would be like to have a gathering, let’s say somewhere half-way to us all, get a few drinks and talk about this blogging planet we jointly created! Would not that be just awesome to use teenage talk?
There is something about blogging that is not only addictive, but distinctively human … we leave our prints, our signs on the cyber walls so to say; we have been here, we have lived in this time. I believe it is the same compulsion; the need to be noted as an individual, to be acknowledged, that prompted the cave people to leave drawings on the walls of their dwellings. Only ‘tools’ have changed somewhat -:)!
The truth is; we may never meet, hear each other’s laughs or cries, learn to recognize each other’s voices, and in the same time we share some of the most private, most treasured of our memories, personal experiences, and points of views. We blog about our painful memories, the ways we see and experience our worlds, our joys and sorrows … we send them all floating down this cyber highway to wash in the endless ocean of humanity. I know not of anything more poignantly human!
But I am digressing -:)!
It is time to say BIG THANK YOU to two lovely ladies who nominated the Lantern for two different awards.
The first award came from lovely Sofie of Sofie’s Dairy at: http://sofiesdiary.com/ Sofie’s blog is all about ‘Being a Mum and Loving it’! Well I do not know of anything in this world more lovable than being a mum! Thank you very much Sofie!
The second award came from intriguing blogger Once4Always at: http://once4always.wordpress.com/ Well Once4Always is all about intriguing ideas, lingering talks, random thoughts …! Thank you very much!
As usual both awards have rules, and those are:
Display the award logo on your blog,
Link back to the person who nominated you,
State seven things about yourself,
Nominate fifteen other bloggers for this award and link to them,
Notify those bloggers of the nomination and the award’s requirements.
As one and two are safely accomplished, here are those seven things … as I have had few of those opportunities to list seven things about me, I am trying not to repeat the one already stated! Here we go:
I long to spend few months travelling from Bled to Ohrid,
I loathe bigots of any kind,
My daughter is my biggest love,
I am working on adopting the following approach to life: ‘Eating is optional, writing is not’, so I can quit, or at least significantly reduce my day job and just write!
When writing prose I feel like a builder who joins one brick to another, but
When writing poetry I fell like a lace maker who joins one delicate, precise detail to another,
I have always wanted to travel through Africa.
Now to the best part:
The following are my nominations. As always, my nominations are motivated primarily by good wishes and often include those relatively new to blogging as a form of encouragement: