The Poet’s Crimes Against Humanity

Radovan Karadzic listens to a translation of charges levied against him at the War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague. [Source: PRI’s The World]My friend Chris Merrill talked tonight on PRI’s The World about Radovan Karadzic’s other life — no, not the naturopath in hiding who was captured last week in Serbia — but the psychopath who wrote poetry as he pursued ethnic cleansing in Bosnia. Chris told a surreal story I’ve heard several times about meeting Karadzic in Belgrade on New Year’s Eve, 1992. A British filmmaker introduced them as “fellow poets” who might have something in common.

Chris traveled to the Balkans as a journalist in the 1990s. The result was his 1999 book, Only the Nails Remain: Scenes from the Balkan Wars. Today he is director of the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program, and he gigs as international book critic for The World. Tonight he discussed a Karadzic poem called “Morning Bomb” which he found tucked into a book sent to Iowa in the 1970s, when Karadzic applied there for a visiting poet position. (Listen to an mp3 download).

The World also provides links to University of Iowa professor Russell Valentino reading “A Morning Bomb” in Serbian (mp3 download) as well as his translation (mp3 download):

A Morning Bomb

At last I am lost to all benefactors,
I burn like a cigarette between neurotic lips,
while they look for me everywhere-I wait in the dawn’s ambush
for the enormous occasion of leaving it all once and for all,
all the wondrous possibilities the savior offers me:
I rush to drop a morning bomb on a lonely man-
like a biting line more delightless than a mood.

On the hill a snatch of sleep and a glass of clear water wait for me,
a poison mushroom and a viper sharply sworn,
the clean closeness of the sky and a tense wind,
a blood-soaked relation in an ambush of pure death,
unforeseeable blue, Elijah’s stakes, windswept hilltops,
the deer-like fate of supple Cyclopses, a sure fate-
but I am carried away by the formula of nothingness, the idea of non-sleep,
I leap to drop a morning bomb that returns
amid the magic eye above town, in a professor’s happiness,
though my anxious sweetheart waits, along with a scholar’s life.

I can look for myself in sad, empty spaces,
strangle the rebellion of my beast in my blood,
just as I find myself on the ceiling of a church-I can go to sleep,
or wake up pierced at dawn on the barroom’s altar,
I can share my solitude with the river that flows peacefully
filled with mythic fish and peace that is unattainable from without,
so much solitude that I seize it for myself alone and the evening,
and seek out stocks of gold, the secrets of manganite,
and come to love seeing right through the Earth’s crust,
mild towards all and as a gentleman at the end
peacefully resolve the mystery of mysteries, and then
all night on the square of darkness shine with good:
but I rush to drop the morning bomb of laughter
beneath the left breast of this perfected century.

Or I could, all in robes, dream of Chinese rain,
lean my head against the moon goggling in the field
full of bluish star flowers, a noose of thoughts,
follow the bees buzzing, transparent, open to all
and, filled with the faith of the great magus, wait prone:
look-evening is falling on the Eskimo’s tongue, god shakes the fields,
a pair of lovers disappears behind the high school and a dog-
But I go into the magma of the night in anticipation
of dawn, to pour through all the hidden holes and into
all of it a morning bomb of laughter, a torrent of disbelief.

Radovan V. Karadzic

Književna re?, May, 1974 (written in pencil on the back of the second page – RSV)

Translated by Russell Scott Valentino

This entry was posted in poetry, politics and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.