-Trans. Stanislava Lazarevic´. Willimantic, CT: Curbstone Press, 2008
The plain fact is that there is poetry after Auschwitz, however wounded it may be. An honest poem today must at least have windows open to the never-ending tragedy of our times. But windows imply a house, secure, protected, from which we look out. Dragan Dragojlovic´’s recent collection, Death’s Homeland looks out from no house and says so right from the start:
this pain may have sunk into the heart,
the next one will sink deeper;
however loud this shriek may have sounded,
the next one will be softer,
filling the wasteland from a strange, inner voice.
there were no houses,
or stables, or fences.
Only soot and ruins.
Even the voice in these poems is nearly no voice, or a voice searching for itself:
the distance in vain
to find the voice
that was extinguished.
Such mercy as the poems utter comes from afar: “the good old sun / that gives me warmth” [“Before the Unchangeable”], “a fragment of the moon [that] / hangs over the shredded forest” (“The Landscape of Dawn”). In “The Sun Above a Naked Forest, a single ray of sunlight breaking through “smoke and shooting” and bitter cold brings hope that “the forest will put out new leaves / to hide this death.” Yet even distant heavenly props are dubious: “The heart goes on counting / the rosary of the stars / that have betrayed us” (“Merciless Daybreak”).
Against such desolation, even heaven can offer only tears:
for the wan moon,
for the fickle stars
that were visible
but a moment ago?
. . . .
Now that I have no strength,
I will cry in heaven.
What else is there
to fill eternity?
In the end, such comfort as we can take from Death’s Homeland is that, in the midst of war’s horrors, this suffering human voice can still be heard. And in hearing it we are brought into intimacy with the suffering of both the people and the landscape, thus affirming human solidarity in a wounded land that comes close to destroying it. From this we draw heart.
In Death’s Homeland Dragolovic´ reaffirms the necessity of a poetry of suffering in the midst of which the poet utters unquenchable life and compassion:
May your pain be eased
Forgive your murderer,
Pray for those
upon whom you have inflicted
suffering and death.
So must we all pray, against the again and again and again of human brutality, lifting our own “Never again, never again.”