Posted on Tuesday, November 30, 2010, under


‘…yesterday for the first time I couldn’t remember a Bosnian word for a birch tree,
I had to look it up: “breza”… Asija, I don't remember the birch trees.’
– Saša Stanišić, How the Soldier Repairs the Gramophone

My father’s father, Branko M.,
a woodcutter, enters the poem,
struck down by a Bosnian birch.
His face hangs on the wall not far
from our family icon St George.
The family allege Branko saved
another mate during the tree-fall
as his axe lay not far from the body
(my old man doesn’t recall
being a pink-skinned baby).

Branko M., my lost relative,
drowned in the turbid Danube.
His motive? His refusal to live.
They found his clothes neatly folded
on the beach pebble stones.
If only his life was as neat
by which my family must’ve meant
he’d hurt himself rather than those
who made his life morose.

I’d better unbecome Branko.
I crawl from under the tall birch
that killed me. I begin my search
for the saved in my previous lives.
A few links later I am riding
Urashima Taro’s tortured tortoise,
its feet the beautiful hands
of princess Otohime, saved in vain.
I’ll open a gift she bid Taro not to,
the cursed cube of tamatebako.

I’d better unbecome Branko.
I search for Wang Zhi, a carpenter,
a solid birch for his axe handle.
Dead of winter. On a felled branch
two men crouch over a board.
I watch the shade-pitted pieces
appear and disappear, outwitted
by the flickering light of a candle.
When their game’s up, which is never,
and I come to, the axe handle
is my decomposed arm.

Unbecoming Branko won’t do
unless I keep a piece of my cursed name.
I am therefore Bran, son of Febal.
In my birch coracle I set sail
south-southeast from the Irish Sea
via the Channel, the Rhine upstream
into the Prussian blue Danube –
which, before I was made a Serb,
flowed ultramarine.

I’ve reached the Island of Women.
I, a self-made citizen of the Serbian
Tír na nÓg. Lying naked, unseen
from the Singidun turret,
ignored by hunger thirst fears.
I unfold my paper cube tears
before the women lament – your
homecoming, Bran, looks imminent.

Come morning, I am forty-one.
At the fate-prescribed time
the curse is bound to charge.
My name will thus be undone
and, as such, axe-inscribed
on my own struck down birch.

November, 2010

edit post

1 Reply to "MYTHS IV"

  • Anonymous on 21 January 2011 at 18:47

    Thank you, nice job! This was the stuff I had to have..