Serbian Encounter

I came across this amazing Serbian poet, feminist and activist Radmila Lazic while researching for an upcoming show about women and was really struck by her poetry.  A Wake for the Living, published in 2003 was the first translation of her poetry into English by fellow Serbian poet Charles Simic.  She has published numerous essays on literature and is the editor of an anthology of women’s poetry and another of anti-war letters. Lazic is also the founder and editor of the Serbian journal of women’s studies: Profemina International for Women, Writing & Culture.  This is something of hers:

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A Woman’s Letter
By Radmila Lazic

I don’t want to be obedient and tame.
Coddled like a cat. Faithful like a dog.
With a belly to my teeth, hands in the dough,
Face covered with flour, my heart a cinder
And his hand on my ass.

I don’t want to be a welcome flag at his door,
Nor the guardian snake under his threshold,
Neither the snake nor Eve from Genesis.

I don’t want to pace between the door and the window,
To listen hard and be able to distinguish
Footsteps from night-sounds.
I don’t want to follow the leaden movement of the watch-hands,
Nor see falling stars
For him to gore me drunkenly like an elephant.

I don’t want to be sewn with needlepoint
To the family portrait
Next to the fireplace with balled up children,
In the garden with puppy children,
And I the shade tree,
And I the winter landscape,
A statue under the snow.
In a pleated wedding dress
I’ll fly to heaven.

Alleluia! Alleluia!
I don’t want a bridegroom.

I want gray hair, a hump and a basket
To go roaming in the woods,
Picking strawberries and dry twigs.

With my whole life behind me,
The smile of that boy,
So dear and irreplaceable.

 

(trans. from the Serbian by Charles Simic)

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