In a Sentimental Mood

Ivana Bodrožić
Translated from the Croatian by Damir Šodan

Jazz is so fragile
I put on a light summer dress
rubbed a drop of perfume between my wrists
(never smear for that’s how you destroy the molecules of
fragrance)
and before leaving you kissed me on the back.

We packed up,
—our way—
we selected music for the car,
spread out the map over our knees,
then the earth split open, the road ahead unfurled,
the rivers spilled out of their riverbeds.

It’s summer. Everyone’s going down to the water,
or else staring up at the light blue sky
welcoming the joy of oblivion, as the trees turn into
carousels,
and we descend, down to the ground,
and a bit further underneath.

What are we searching for, tell me,
as we stand above the tombstone
where Oste and Stojan, father and son,
were buried a long time ago,
whose lives we reconstruct in this game
that only the two of us understand,
as our fingers softly touch our upper-arms.

We did not go out dancing,
over there lies Omarska, how many more sons and fathers,
how many bones below, how many more creak above
still waving, ordering iron to go this way or that.

Jazz is so fragile, my love,
a Time Machine parked amid the main street in Prijedor,
Paris Caffe, Current Jazz, always, mornings and evenings,
except on St. Vitus’s Day, the day for celebrating wars
after the monster has already devoured everything,
the way you’re showing me with your hands.

Jazz hid itself somewhere,
it rustled its brushes cautiously,
before all those christs and crosses,
before all the loud sons and fathers

below our hotel room window
aggressive men howl,
herding their beasts of steel,
spitting and swearing,
as we shudder underneath a single sheet,
so thin
that every sound hurts, every loud ominous laugh,
pretending we’re brave with Coltrane in our ears,
so they can find us ready when they come
to take us to the iron plant,
if need be
to out-scream them
this time around.

 

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Ivana Bodrožic lives in Zagreb, Croatia. In 2005, she published her first poetry collection, Prvi korak u tamu (The First Step Into Darkness) as part of the Goran Award for Young Poets. Her first novel Hotel Zagorje (Hotel Tito) was published in 2010 and went on to be a Croatian best-seller; the French edition won the prestigious Prix Ulysse for best debut novel. She has also published the poetry collection Prijelaz za divlje životinje (A Road for Wild Animals) and the short story collection 100% Pamuk (100% Cotton). Her novel The Pit was awarded the Balkan Noir Prize for best crime novel. Bodrožic’s work has been translated into English, German, French, Czech, Danish, Slovenian, Hungarian, Spanish, Italian, and Macedonian.

Damir Šodan is a Croatian poet, playwright, editor, and translator. His notable poetry translations into Croatian include the work of Leonard Cohen, Charles Bukowski, Raymond Carver, Charles Simic, Richard Brautigan, and Frank O’Hara. He divides his time between The Hague, the Netherlands, and Split, Croatia.

Ivana Bodrožic's In a Sentimental Mood is emotional, but never woeful, deliberate, yet playful poetry capable of reaching both the highest and deepest registers of expression. From abstract jazz-inspired musings to bedroom intimacies, these poems converse with the idea that being alone is not the worst thing that can happen to a person. To lose your dignity and the dignity of your words—that is the worst thing.

"In this brave and fresh poetry with (no) sentimental mood, 'the bleeding/ is what's/ in the middle' — between the comfort and the disaster, the laugh and the cry, the joy and the sadness, the tenderness and the cruelty, the peace and the war, the summer atmosphere and the grave stones, the Eros and the Thanatos, the ethics and the esthetics, between the life and the death."
—Lidija Dimkovska, author, A Spare Life and ph Neutral History

"The title piece is such a wonderful love poem in spite of itself, in spite of war and pain (we feel Bodrožic tiptoe toward sentiment) . . . A book of bodily pain and soulful despair."
—Nick Ripatrazone, The Millions

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