There goes my father
There goes my father underneath the hill. Among the shadow boxers. Consumed
by memory and desire and that special sort of longing worn only by the dead.
You can see it in their eyes. For love and for justice and for a better
There goes my father underneath the dew. A good Jew.
Dip a cup into a lake
Dip a cup into a lake and take out a little water and do not put it back. The
lake closes over itself again. Memory is like that.
The pure lines of the bone in this single wing, now it is cleaned of
ligaments, blood, and plumes, you hold between your hands, you cling to
between your eyes, as, with an unspoken shout rising in you, you uproot your
feet and, taking two paces backwards, hurl it out, high, white, articulate,
before you, and watch it float, with the uncertain lift of an untugged kite,
up, up, into the pinnacle of its curve, balance there a moment, then twirl,
like a loony thing crazed by delight, down, down, over the cliff, following a
reluctant obeisance to air, to gravity, till it's lost to sight, blurring,
merging into the beach below, before it hits, bounces, and is glimpsed again,
being licked by an edge of wave, sucked back and forth, an irrelevance, by
the rising tide.
St. Patrick's Day
St. Patrick's Day. Midnight. He was lying on the wide pavement at the top of
Mill Road Railway Bridge. Flat on his back. Sobbing. I loosened his collar
and rubbed his chest. I said, Do you want any help mate? He went on sobbing.
I lifted his head. Blood streaked down his face from a cut on his forehead.
I want my wife. I want my wife. He might as well have been crying for the
dead. For his mother. For the lost of the world. Tattoos on the backs of his
small hands and in the crook of his thumb, in capital letters, CAROL.
As out of dream
As out of dream, her voice again on the phone. The banal Come round to dinner
crashing tears through me, dredging psychic marshlands, digging up peaty
Such stuff as dreams are made on
The 'on' suggests the dream is a pattern, or stamp, 'printed' onto the human
I will not lose my secret names: among forgetful flowerings, exfoliations,
recrudescences, by speaking them, by shedding them like petals in late love.
Notes from Three Cities
I left the cab on Vasintonova Street, not knowing my wallet had fallen from
my pocket on the seat next to the driver, just after I had paid him. Ten
minutes later, by cruising, he found me walking the spaces of his city, map
in hand, half dreaming. He hooted me, rolled down his window, and with
scarcely grin or wink, leaned out to hand back my worn leather holder of
notes, snaps, mementoes - my precious personal scraps of history and
identity. Here, he said, take it. And he thrust it into my hands, changed
gears and revved away. In the ensuing silence, the light became crystal, and
I recalled his eyes, momentarily screaming, I recognise you.
The woman was heavily pregnant and should have taken a cab. The tower block
they lived in was three kilometres from Zemun. I'm going out, she called to
her partner, to the market to buy cherries. She returned three hours later
carrying several kilos. You might have had an accident, he said. I walked,
she said, and laughed, There weren't any cabs anyway.
Rainy Sunday, on the uncertain border of Spring. My old friend was visiting
me from England with his new wife. He wanted to take her to Smederevo, to
show her a restaurant famous for fish soup, which he'd stopped at on his way
to Greece, twenty years or more before. So we drove off from Belgrade, found
the place without difficulty, and ordered, just as it was getting dark. We
were the first customers to arrive. A gypsy fiddler sat smoking, waiting for
the clientele. Over our slivovice, I mentioned to my friends some lines of an
Old Town Song, and hummed them. The gypsy overheard, stubbed out his
cigarette, came over to our table and, without any comment or by-your-leave,
played and sang it for us, verse by haunting verse . . . Ima dana kada ne
znam sta da radim . . . Days I don't know what to do . . . The fiddle and his
voice re-opened separate wounds stored in each of our memories, took them
out, re-examined them, and bound them back tight inside us on the
instrument's chords. The constant reiteration of this kind of sudden invasive
intervention from totally unexpected quarters constitutes the specific
quality of light in the Balkans.
© Richard Burns