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Will Stenberg: Could Have Been/In The Difficult City


Image: Unsplash, downloaded (https://unsplash.com/photos/mEVoj8SCHq8) 4.9.2021.


What if we missed all our chances, last buses, trains to salvation, tickets for a better life, what is there left then? Only to tell the truth, whole truth and nothing but the truth, harsh and unforgiving as it may be. That is exactly what Will Stenberg does in these two poems. Somewhat detached and completely realistic, he sizes up his past and present, and reveals them to the reader, fully aware of his own faults and mistakes. But the question still remains; is the fight ever really over?


Editor-in-Chief, Ana Savković



Could Have Been a Hawk


Forty years is halfway there

if I’m lucky.

As for luck, mine has held

just long enough to worry me. It is past time to sit and have

a serious talk with me.

It is past time to ask my saint

to carve a space for love in me,

carve it raw in the rock of me,

for I have become

hardened and sick

with too much self, over-

stuffed with self deep

in the vein like ore or red rust.


By the end of my life I don’t want

to be of interest to anyone.

Obscure like a small tree

tucked away in a room of the forest

that no soul has seen.

When I die I want there to be

nothing left for death to take.


There was a chance once

that I could have been a hawk,

alive on the wind and indifferent.

Or a stag with a heavy head,

searching for a worthy rival.

I became instead a man who mapped

his mistakes on the world and searched

gracelessly for a good place to fall.


Halfway to the falling-place, maybe.

I am trying to sit myself down

and be serious.

I am trying to tell the truth

as I found it when I came here.

As I’ll leave it when I go.



The Difficult City


Everyone I ever loved stood in a circle and debated whether I was aware of the fine cracks cobwebbing my life so that, while appearing sturdy, it was in fact very fragile.


I wasn’t present so could not give testimony to say that I knew those cracks; I had put them there.


I was down in the Difficult City. My veins led me, a roadmap, and those roads so ruined that only one of my hands was working, and even then, only as a fist.


So I fought.


I fought in board-rooms and back-alleys, in riots and rallies. I fought in kitchens and dance-halls and the victories hurt more than the losses. They took more away.


I fought until my knuckles were drained of knowledge and my heart was sad and bloodless. I fought until the fight seemed futile. I fought because fighting is less dangerous than love. I fought because my fathers fought. When I ran out of opponents I fought my fathers.


Then I found a place to hide, a place of easy shadows and consoling whispers where no one is ashamed to bleed. And I hid, and bled, and waited for the rains.


When the rains came, all the souls of the Difficult City drank heavy, for it is a thirsty place. I stopped to drink too and slake the thirst that had staked me down to the same small patch of territory all of my cobwebbed life.


I saw you there, drinking too, still thirsty after all these years. (Last I heard you were dead, but that can change.) I scanned you sideways, watched you lapping up the cool water, and wondered how we do it. How do we ever slake our thirst? The thirst for sex or shelter, or for the rain.


How were you so gentle?


When I opened my mouth to ask, it was still dry, so I bowed again to the new water, and drank from my reflection like a hurt beast who has fought too long.



About the Author: Will Stenberg is a poet, screenwriter and musician who grew up in a small logging town in the wilds of Northern California and currently resides in Portland, Oregon. His work has been featured in Otis Nebula, Sybil Journal, Parhelion Literary Magazine, and elsewhere, and his poetry collection “No Comebacks” was published in 2019 by Yellow Lark Press in Austin, Texas.



Translation from English to Croatian by Ana Savković:



Mogao sam biti jastreb


Četrdeset godina je na pola puta

ako budem imao sreće.

Što se sreće tiče, moja je izdržala

tek toliko da me zabrine.

Kasno je za sjedenje i vođenje

ozbiljnog razgovor sa mnom.

Kasno je da pitam svog sveca

da ureže prostor za ljubav u meni,

ukleše ga sirovo u mojoj stijeni,

jer postao sam

otvrdnuo i bolestan

s previše sebe, pre-

punjen samim sobom duboko

u veni poput rude ili crvene hrđe.


Do kraj svog života ne želim

biti od interesa ikome.

Opskuran kao malo stablo

ušuškan u prostoriju šume

koju nijedna duša nije vidjela.

Kad umrem, želim da ne ostane

ništa što bi smrt mogla ponijeti.


Jednom je bila prilika

mogao sam biti jastreb,

živ na vjetru i ravnodušan.

Ili jelen teške glave,

u potrazi za dostojnim suparnikom.

Umjesto toga, postao sam čovjek koji je mapirao

svoje pogreške na svijetu i tražio

nemilosrdno dobro mjesto za pad.


Na pola puta do mjesta pada, možda.

Pokušavam sjesti

i biti ozbiljan.

Pokušavam reći istinu

kakvom sam je našao kad sam došao ovamo.

Kakvom ću je ostaviti kad odem.



Teški grad


Svi koje sam ikada volio stajali su u krugu i raspravljali jesam li svjestan finih pukotina

koje pokrivaju moj život poput paučine tako da je, iako je izgledao čvrst, zapravo bio vrlo krhak.


Nisam bio prisutan pa nisam mogao svjedočiti da sam poznavao te pukotine; stavio sam ih tamo.


Bio sam dolje u Teškom gradu. Vene su me vodile, putokaz, a ti putevi toliko razoreni da mi je samo jedna ruka radila, a i tada samo kao šaka.


Pa sam se borio.


Borio sam se u salama za sastanke i u uličicama, u neredima i skupovima. Borio sam se u kuhinjama i plesnim dvoranama, a pobjede su boljele više od gubitaka. Odnijele su više.


Borio sam se sve dok mi iz zglobova nije isušeno znanje i moje srce bilo tužno i bez krvi. Borio sam se sve dok se borba nije učinila uzaludno. Borio sam se jer je tuča manje opasna od ljubavi. Borio sam se jer su se moji očevi borili. Kad sam ostao bez protivnika borio sam se sa svojim očevima.


Onda sam našao mjesto za skrivanje, mjesto lakih sjena i utješnih šaputanja gdje se nitko

ne srami krvariti. I sakrio sam se, i krvario, i čekao kiše.


Kad su kiše došle, sve su duše Teškog grada pile, jer to je žedno mjesto. I ja sam

se zaustavio da pijem i utažim žeđ koja me je tjerala na isti mali dio

teritorija cijelog mog paučinom prekrivenog života.


Vidio sam te tamo, kako također piješ, još uvijek žedna nakon svih ovih godina. (Zadnje što sam čuo je da si mrtva, ali to se može promijeniti.) Skenirao sam te postrance, gledao te kako gutaš hladnu vodu i pitao se kako to radimo. Kako ikad utažimo žeđ? Žeđ za seksom ili zaklonom, ili za kišom.


Kako si bila tako nježna?


Kad sam otvorio usta da pitam, još su bila suha, pa sam se ponovno naklonio novoj vodi i

pio iz svog odraza kao povrijeđena zvijer koja se predugo borila.



O autoru: Will Stenberg je pjesnik, scenarist i glazbenik koji je odrastao u malom gradu u divljini sjeverne Kalifornije, a trenutno živi u Portlandu, Oregon. Njegovi su uradci objavljeni u časopisima Otis Nebula, Sybil Journal, Parhelion Literary Magazine i drugdje, a njegova je zbirka poezije "No Comebacks" objavljena 2019. u izdanju Yellow Lark Press u Austinu u Teksasu.

#WillStenberg #newpoetry #translations

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