In her collection of poetry Šah sa snijegom (A Chess Match Against Snow, Zagreb: HDP, 2011), Lana Derkač gathers impressions from her trips across the world: from Bratislava, Skopje and Padua to Paris, Mexico and India, and mixes them up with images of everyday life revealing to the reader that every moment, no matter how mundane it may seem, holds a kernel of something new and exceptional.
Distant places are an excuse to remove language from its habitual rhythms and to make it an instrument of reaffirming life in the plethora of its subjects: the sky, the night, the rock, and even degrees of Celsius, thus creating a most poetic form of animism.
Lana Derkač was born 1969 in Požega, Croatia. Author of more than a dozen books of poetry, prose, and theatrical pieces, she has participated in a number of international poetry festivals.
Yucatan restored the beaches all over the bodies
Even the silences recognize each other by their ranks,
A rock is a smooth-bodied blind man.
Only the light transforms the crowns of the waves
into a visible procession that crosses the Atlantic
bringing the sound.
Yucatan restored the beaches all over our bodies.
So many bays towards which the waves have trouble
finding secret stairs, so it is easier for them to climb
up the voices or up the dusk than up the skin.
Even though he sees in the dark,
at dawn God again turns up the light.
He’s the only one with no need for spies
and whom no one questions why he chose
a particular time of day for a certain purpose.
I think he could preserve one and the same
expression as if a face is a fossil,
despite the changes on the Earth,
in the universe.
But he doesn’t want to.
It is enough that he leans over one of the seas
and in each island recognizes a bird
who just happened to stay there.
So he gets taken by tenderness.
The sky is a magician.
It astonished the plains so they leaped into it
from then on defining themselves as mountains.
It impressed the waters, so much so
that on invisible threads their boldest
molecules ascended to clouds.
Sky is a good listener exactly because it’s
an empty space and no object
blocks the sound for it.
It sees all motion because no congestion
obstructs its panoramic view
nor steals its objectivity.
Sky is wide and when a newly sprouted skyscraper
squeezes it a little, pins its lungs,
it already gives birth to itself on the other side
of the Earth and celebrates.
Thus every day somewhere it has a birthday.
The lights that we in the evenings turn on across continents
are only numerous and uneven candles
on its cake.
Four Degrees Celsius
Four degrees Celsius gathered together,
next to each other shivering
like yogurt, egg, mustard and milk at
Though we didn’t take the cold with us
to Bratislava nor anything else
from the fridge.
If God preferred modern jargon,
I’m certain that he would
first the summer,
then the autumn,
proclaim to be redundant.
And his Son would say:
When you buy random papers,
it is as if the news is arriving on
a charter flight.
When confused, I try
to kick the morning out of a can on the street
and I expect the light as
the morning’s firstborn daughter.
It’s still timidly showing there
where the undressed trees meet
So, when the darkness re-envelops them
in an oversized canvas, like an illusionist,
it will disguise entire countries,
and not just the highway.
In Bratislava I spread
our tour guide’s break across the Danube
while watching the water through the window.
As if I’m moving the hand on the glass,
but I’m not moving it.
As if I mean to wash out
fog’s tender complexion
while it keeps rubbing even deeper
into the river and into the window.
Then the waiter brings a bowl of soup
and takes the ladle.
I imagine that instead of him it’s Jesus
who stops here to share with us the warmth from the bowl
without even dipping the ladle into the soup.
Darkness visits all four corners of the Earth.
Performs a ritual dance on each of them.
In the North it is more ancient than the Eskimo dance,
more ancient than the boomerang dance of the South,
or the fire and the eagle dance of the West.
In the East it is more archaic than Kathakali.
Here I disembark with the dark
and in the morning wake up just as it is leaving.
At breakfast only the hunters who hunt
its shadows stay; those who followed it
from the West, but have forgotten to bring warrants.
Disbelieving, they look for it even in the lotus pool.
In the Padmanabhapuram Palace.
On the beach that hides seashells
like tiny arks in the millions
of sand pockets.
Pursuers know that entire
docks of shells sank under
the eyebrows of darkness that
landed in India before Vasco da Gama.
Who, at the very spot where
the Arabian Sea, the Indian Ocean
and The Bay of Bengal meet, although completely blind,
opened his third eye fascinated
The darkness is a box modifying meanings.
Every day everything gets thrown inside it.
Every single body geography.
When I think of it, with fervor I wait for
it to appear again.
The Mechanics of the Eyes
Luka from the building next door died yesterday.
I wonder if he’s now taking his long-dead dog
for a walk across heaven,
if he’s dusting his new room,
and making coffee for the angels.
In Slavonia, Spring with its signature
on plants confidently guarantees the contract
between the seasons.
I’m sleep deprived,
as a parasite I nestle
against the train seat whose vigor I lack.
The train removes me from the town through
the milky sky of Organic Valley brand.
I don’t even got no milk.
As passengers swallow this milky sky
the whites of their eyes show.
Such curious mechanics of the eyes.
When passengers milk the sky
the place where the train meets the clouds
becomes a farm.
Although to me it’s more of a field of milk.
A milk rig in the sky to which, along with the milk,
all mammals, the whole Noah’s Ark, ascend.
Translated from Croatian by NGORwDAC