An early autumn evening

Stilness of an early autumn evening is predatory,

Disguised inside small pockets of dozy, warm air,

Waiting.

For the first frost at dawn,

As fine as the fresh gauze over a new wound.

Barely touching.

But covering.

Before the rains expose the earth anew.

And there were some rains this year already.

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.

And hopes.

And loves.

Poetry.

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 poem.

Not him.

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.

Your words desert you.

You say not what you want but what you can.

No language would have you.

And that surely is a death of any poet;

True or Imposter alike. 

Makeover!

After 183 posts and 44 months of blogging – Lantern Post has well and truly deserved a makeover!

And so one has been duly administered to ensure the old girl remains, if not exactly in the vogue, at least not completely dishevelled either -:)!

Makover

New, more up-to-date garments have been obtained and matron squeezed into them with rather much less ceremony than it was the case in her youth!

Sleepy streets of old Zagreb she nestled against in the background for almost four years, have been replaced by Wellington’s sunset.

It is, after all, what we see every day … sun setting over the harbour, shaded lamps casting glows over benches in Botanic Garden.

Where we sit and smile sentimentally to the images of a city we once knew, gliding across our inner vision, briefly; like a snow-flakes drifting across frozen glass-pane in the winter morning.

Then we walk to the ‘Room with a Balcony’ thinking nothing at all.

Just the two of us;

The Lantern and

The Keeper.

In a new City.

Sitting at a window

Let me sit here at the window,

In the quiet colours of dusk,

Pale shadows of the day end,

To think of the year gone since last I wrote a birthday post,

And of today’s shiny colours wasting into sunset.

 

Let me send a wish to one distant, wandering star;

For a little memory of our orchard at the end of summer,

Glistening with ripen plums, and

For a little memory of true love,

Before the day’s end.

 

plums

 

First Year!

Today is exactly twelve months since I published my first ever blog postfirst

After some initial searches for the suitable platform and  identity, the Lantern Post was created on Zagreb’s virtual street, and ignited 137 times since, with posts written from my little ‘Writer’s Den’; nestled inside a leafy suburb of Wellington. A bridge between two distant worlds; half of my life left in each.

As every émigré knows; those halves do not feet into each other naturally, one must build a bridge between them. Otherwise they separate even further and split one apart. Never to be whole again.

If I could paint or draw, I would have painted them a bridge with delicate, exquisite ornaments, arched over the vast waters. But alas, I do not know how to paint or draw such a bridge. All I could do is to write them one. To bring them a bit closer. To bring me a bit closer. And to pierce the silence.

That was then.

Twelve months on, I am walking over the bridge utterly astonished and above all truly grateful. For each and every one of you who stopped to read, comment, like, nominate, and write emails. Ask questions, offer support, make suggestions … and much more. I thank you all. While the stats page tells me that more than 1000 people have decided to follow the Lantern and over 25,000 visitors passed under its soft glow … numbers are not what is counted on the Lantern. Footprints are.

Coming from every corner of this world, you helped me build a bridge. And pierce the silence, even when as thick as mist over the grave-yard.

I learned much about myself, writing and what does it mean to me.

I learned much about our common human conditions … we all have stories. We all need someone to hear them. To recognize our footprints.

And while much of it I still do not understand … in the words of Paulo Coelho; Love does not need to be understood. It needs only to be shown.’

                                                                        Thank You!

Walking through the city carless and childless!

About a month or so ago I undertook a radical cleansing, sort of ‘life detox’. In the process I disposed of all unnecessary, non-essential and otherwise superfluous ‘things’ … those objects we accumulate throughout our existence and, in the process, convince ourselves that we absolutely need and must have all of those ‘things’.

That our lives are simply not possible without the certain number of square meters occupied by those ‘things’ … ranging from piles of clothing, footwear, electronics, ornaments, games, boats, sporting gears, cars … oh yes cars too!

That’s right; among the ‘things’ I decided are not essential was my car too. There were several reasons for this, (not the least that I was always somewhat of a rubbish driver … my searches for destinations are quite legendary in some circles -:)), but after some weeks without it, I am convinced it was a right decision!

For a start; cost of running the car is very high when compared to an average earning in my part of the world, then there is of course stress of finding a park in the city (and in my case never quite remembering where have I actually parked the jolly thing -:)), stress of causing or being part of an accident, … I am sure there is a very good reason why truly reach people have professional drivers to drive them around and take care of their vehicles!

I am of course aware that there are places and circumstances were a car really is essential. When my child was little, that was my situation too. We lived in a very small country town without a public transport and a car or a taxi was the only option apart from walking. For years the main, if not the only, use of my car was to drive to and from pre-school, child-care, school, various out of school activities … and of course finally letting the child learn how to drive the very same car (yes, it was an old but well looked after car).

However, since I am now childless as child has flown the nest, and carless as there is no longer anyone to drive to and from, I have taken to walking around this city which I arrived to almost 12 months ago. And what a joy that is!

Once you start and discover first few secluded streets and alleys … you realize that the only true way to claim a place for yours is to walk it.

And so when I stroll down from my little Cottage in Hobbiton I happened upon the Wellington’s Botanic Garden, a sight to behold.

Take a look:

WP_20130112_001
And there is a lantern of course -:)
And a place for one to sit ...
And a place for one to sit …
Isn't is just beautiful -:)!
Isn’t is just beautiful -:)!
Flowers everywhere!
Flowers everywhere!

And then if I continue walking down towards the CBD, after some ten or fifteen minutes I come upon the New Zealand Parliament  Buildings of which the Beehive is the most famous and some say the ugliest building in Wellington … I would not go that far – I think just ugly would suffice -:)!

Wellingtonian’s owe the Beehive to a Scottish architect Sir Basil Spence who provided the original conceptual design of the Beehive in 1964. The Beehive was built in stage between 1969 and 1979. The building is 72 m high has ten stories and four floors below ground.

Here it is in all its glory:

WP_20130112_009
No wonder it is called beehive -:)!

 And now of course I am in the CBD, the compact but vibrant place. 

It occurred to me that there only two cities in which I have been both; carless and childless; Zagreb, the city in which I grew up and Wellington the city to which I came once I ceased to be a day-to-day, hands-on parent … while there are oceans between those two cities, and the whole sea of my own life in between, the both cities made me walk through them to get to know them.

And so here is the little snippet of Zagreb … this is the Croatian National Theater in the Zagreb’s CBD. The University I attended is just across the road from it and the my bellowed Upper City not far either.

hnk_zagreb

How much to cry inside?

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.

English: University of Otago Marama Hall, Dune...
English: University of Otago Marama Hall, Dunedin, New Zealand (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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?

Small anniversary!

Zagreb

It is today; three months to the day the first spark illuminated the Lantern … and since then so many wonderful, kind and generous souls have passed by, or stopped below the Lantern’s glow. For that I thank you with all my twinkling heart. The Lantern’s heart twinkles with, and for you all. And for all of those who may yet come to pass. Because whenever anyone finds even just a tiny flicker of solace in the Lantern’s glow, she sparkles brighter! To honour the Lantern’s origins, her Croatian roots and her love for all humanity, below is the poem after which the Lantern was named. It says it all … all that the Lantern stands for in this world of ours.

Because the Lantern now glows in an English speaking land, English translation is first, and the original follows. I have translated the poem in English today … it was an experiment and a challenge from which I have learned a great deal.

The poem ‘Gas Lantern on Gric’ (Plinska lanterna na Gricu) was panned by a Croatian poet; Vjekoslav Majer (1900 – 1975). Majer’s gas lantern stood on Gric; the old part of Zagreb. The Lantern’s background and logo are from the same place. This part of Zagreb known as the Upper Town of Gradec, (or Gric as it was called) originates from 13th century. The place has a very interesting history.

If you would like a glimpse of Zagreb as it was when Majer wrote this poem:

Gas Lantern on Gricu

Here I am;

an old-fashioned gas lantern.

Even Matos was standing below me,

cursing and despairing over this city.

Snow sweeping his raglan.

Often he would vanish

into the night cussing.

But I would only smile,

because I knew, he would return.

To stand here for a long time,

so long that his shoes freeze to the ground.

In the morning when I shrivelled and died,

city lied under me red and silent;

and I did not know whether dawn was bleeding over the hill,

or whether Matos had lost a verse by verse in snow.

Then, the war arrived.

The whole day music was screaming from the city,

Oh how sad trumpets cried against my glass!

Standing below, old Gric’s crones wept desperately,

drying their tears and staring towards Italy.

And many I knew when passing beneath, I never

saw again.

Now only rats pass through their chests.

For the first time I was ashamed of people.

After the war,

many plum gentlemen were passing by,

with fat, red necks,

and many with hunger sleeping in their faces.

Oh yes, lots of new things arrived to this city,

I know; someone will remove me too.

And when the fitter’s hand touches me,

My glass would clink for the last time.

And so you know; that would be my old, honest heart

breaking for

Gric.

Here I am;

an old-fashioned gas lantern.

************************************************************************

Plinska lantern na Gricu

Tu sam laterna plinska,

vec starinska.

Poda mnom jos je Matos stajao

I nad tim gradom zdvajao I kleo.

Snijeg je po njegovom raglanu meo.

Cesto bi kunuci nestao u noci,

a ja bih se tiho smjeskala

jer znala sam, on ce opet doci

I dugo stajati tu

Tako da mu se katkada cipele vec

primrzle k tlu.

A jutrom kada bih se smreskala

I ugasla

poda mnom grad bi lezao crven I tih;

tad nisam znala da l’ zora krvari po brijegu

ili je to Matos izgubio stih po stih

na snijegu.

Na to je dosao rat.

Cio dan su iz grada glazbe jecale.

kako su tuzno medu mojim staklima zvecale

trompete!

Babe sa Grica poda mnom su stajale,

suze brisale I zdvajale,

prema Italiji zurile.

I mnoge, koji poda mnom su bili,

nisam nikada vise vidjela.

sada im stakor prolazi kroz grudi.

Tada sam se prvi put zastidjela

Ljudi.

A nakon rata

Mnogo je debele gospode poda mnom proslo

tustoga I crvenoga vrata,

ali I lica na kojima spava glad.

Da, mnogo je toga novog doslo

u taj grad,

pa znam; I mene ce netko da makne,

i kad me se ruka montera takne

zabrencat cu jos zadnji puta muklo.

Tad znajte; to moje je staro I posteno srce

za Gricem puklo.

Tu sam laterna plinska;

starinska, starinska.