Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

Stefan Tontic

Odyssey to Penelope by Stevan Tontic

(transl. Hatto Fischer
Athens 2003)


The event
Being anxious
Your voice
Happy angel
I who dragged my love…
The grave

The event

In the besieged city,
After three months of fear about sheer survival,
Of running from bed to the bomb shelter, of starvation,
wrested the woman – the Almighty must have given her the signal –
one night,
during sunrise, just when the cocks started to crow,
from the body of the man a burst of happiness and bliss,
wrested it with electrified fingertips and fell asleep
as one of the blessed.

The man stood up,
Bathed ceremoniously by candle light,
Lit himself ceremoniously the last cigarette
And thought not without a certain satisfaction
That the machine of his body could still be used
And the matter, out of which it is composed, does not belong entirely to dust,
Rather that his life makes equally, so to speak,
here and there some sense.

Being anxious

I know: I left you behind in a safe place,
In a friendly orientated circle,
In the house, painted white that same spring.

Your pillow is like the smelling rose bush,
The meadow rings around your smiling ankles;
The animals, that you call and caress at the threshold,
Believe, that you are immortal,
And that you are indeed.
Only here, in the night, I hear
hear beyond the seven seas –
the murmuring of the henchmen underneath your window
and the hailing down of the axes around your body,
I hear it
And cannot fall asleep.

Your voice

For S.

Always after three, the most seven days
Your voice for a minute
On Belgrade’s nightly telephone.
How my window in Berlin radiates!
The air appears to create waves,
The morning bells I hear already.

Even the iron attempts to tell me,
That it is prepared, to iron my shirt.

Always after three, the most seven days
Your laughter, your weeping, a fragment only –
Like a tear clear is life,
Shining through the fate of the persecuted.

Happy angel

Happy angel –
a twig of light, a glowing beam,
although dressed in the scented gown
of human flesh, into the blue of matter;

A being inscribed by the glowing ember-like track of gender
deep as the night,
a gender, in which everything is felt,
a being with still unexplored flames
breathes this night in my cave,
thrown amongst the wild animals,
cast out to perish.

My breathing stocks –
I am not allowed to touch the being.

The wagon of stars races,
It races through my room –
I see and hear no more.

Exists here, oh Sir,
Someone happier than myself?
In the lap of your earth’s darkness,
Underneath your mountain, magicians.

I who dragged my love…

I, I who dragged my love away from battlegrounds,
And I, I who send my love after beer to the murders,
I, I who looks into long sunken faces,
And I, I who flees through non passing by conditions –

In the slave- and criminal cell I sit only by force
Made into a monk; the black butterfly swirls around
My head like a raven.
From her, through whom I breathed, they separated me,
I stutter death verses, without my sky and my shape,
I stutter since I shovel myself out of this world a tunnel,
The scent of that world reaching me.

From there comes a sense of her from whom I have been separated.
And since I know how to resolve the puzzle of our new fate,
I hear: a black bullet corn draws around her heart a circle,
And so I close the eyes and cease to breathe.

The grave

On the high plain please,
On the high plane,
In the clear land,
In the clear sky filled with stars.

In no man’s land,
In resounding emptiness,
Free from home,
Free from history.

In one boat with the one
I loved
When I was here –
In unbearable happiness of two-some-ness.

Two lonely ones
In the hut made of ice
Underneath the pale blue rags of a sky.

In the crystal
Without property, without a name.

We ourselves. On the own floor and ground,
In the abyss. In clear flames of stars.

After thoughts

What does a poet, any man do, if he is in Berlin, in exile, but she, left behind, in a city like Sarajevo, a city under siege, for not only one week, but five years, a city separated, besieged, voiceless, bleeding and in pain for it hurts to remember the days of the Winter Olympic Games, when the flavor of international crowds mingled in the streets until turmoil and other forms of violence erupted until the international world decided this is on the brink of genocide? It became a terrible mess and Europe was dragged into it, thereby loosing innocence and conviction to be for peace and not war. Here then Stevan Tontic witnesses close by and from a distance at the same time the forces of war separating at personal level two people and similar to Odyssey and Penelope the theme is recalled that only faithfulness between two people can bring two halves together again, and this after five years of separation. Here then the analogy resonates with modern times having to deal with other themes and forms of separation. Interestingly enough since 9/11 ‘terrible looses’ (Enzensberger) become equated with ‘radical sadness’ in the aftermath of Beudrillard’s death (see discussion between Ken Wark and Geert Lovink, in ‘nettime’, 15 March 2007). Stevan himself wanted for the translation into English a closer reading not only of the Serbian language in which the poems were written originally before being translated into German, but also to understand what can be said in one cultural context, but not in another if some wrong connotations, but also misunderstandings are to be avoided. That is critical for any translation. And then there is a range of considerations for structures of languages being so different that it is important to take sometimes the woman just as she is: an angel.


At the nove sad international poetry festival in Serbia, August 2009 some of these poems by Stefan Tontic (trans. by Hatto Fischer) were read:



Novi Sad International Poetry Festival

HF Athens 15.3.2007

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