Златен круг на времетo
Старинска ѕвездо, ѕвездо на пророци и чуда, –
распрсни се во стихот, потони во најцрн мрак.
Повеќе трае во крвта оваа светлина луда
и овој невидлив пламен што нема ни име ни знак.
Сениште ѕвездено, ѕвездо на студена мора, –
исчезни со сите наречници со сите митови падни.
Под ова стебло од зборови зараснати во столетна кора
се пали страшен оган и горат корени гладни.
Кој си ти што идеш со лузни од правта на векот дален,
со едно дамна во неврат отшумено време,
и место лика на некој очајник жален
ностиш суров закон за себе и своето племе?
Гласи сe со виј од молк, проговори со поглед нем,
засводен во својот говор со јазли семоќно власни,
и како ненужен воин со очи од црнозем
обѕрни се во кругот златен и победоносен згасни.
Старинска ѕвездо, ѕвездо на пророци и чуда,–
распрсни се во стихот, потони во најдлабок збор,
додека трае во крвта оваа светлина луда
овој подземен оган, овој непрегор.
The Golden Circle of Time
Olden star, star of prophets and wonders, –
burst into verse, sink down into the blackest darkness.
This mad light lasts more in blood
and this invisible flame that has no sign nor name.
Starry ghost, star of a cold nightmare, –
disappear with all the fortunetellers with all the fallen myths.
Under this trunk of words planted on a hundred year crust
a dreadful fire is being lit and hungry roots are burning.
Who are you that comes with scars from the dust of a distant age,
with a time long unsounded into irreversibility,
and instead of the air of a poor man in despair
you bring a cruel law for yourself and your kin?
Voice yourself with a scream of silence, speak out with a mute glance,
arched in your speech with nods powerfully threaded,
and like an unnecessary warrior with black earth eyes
look around in the golden circle and victoriously fade out.
Olden star, star of prophets and wonders, –
burst into verse, sink down into the deepest word,
while this mad light lasts in the blood
this underground fire, this eternal ember.
Aco Šopov (1923-1982) and I were born in the same city; we grew up under the myopic eye of the same medieval ruins, under that beloved hill, the Isar. He, as Yugoslavia was being born, and I, as it was dying. Šopov made it to Africa as the Yugoslav Ambassador to Senegal (1971). He was a partisan in World War II, and founding member of the Macedonian Academy of Sciences and Arts (1967). He died in the same country where he was born, in Skopje, on the 42nd parallel north. As I am reading Šopov’s poem in downtown Chicago (and where else should you be? – Marija says to me), the “L” is rumbling in the background. The Red Line is circulating above my head, always the same route, different passengers every time. The Chicago Loop. The rusty belt of the Windy City. I am reading this poem, with all of my academic literary baggage weighing me down. But I realize that I am reluctant to apply any of it to these words, written in Macedonian, a language that smells of wet soil, knee wounds, and petroleum lamps, and of trouble, slightly. This is not like reading Montale, my Genoan friend who, unknowingly, is the poet of Lake Michigan. This is not Cesário Verde and his mad Lisbon. These words are the last thread of the umbilical cord to the “rodina” or “birth land” or “Heimat” or “patria” that scars if not severed during childhood. Scars ache when it is about to rain, my baba used to say. This is a poem of home and Šopov a poet of elementary school memorization.
“Prophets,” “blackest darkness,” “blood,” “flame,” “ghost,” “cold nightmare,” “fortunetellers,” “fallen myths,” “dreadful fire,” “burning,” “scars,” “dust,” “despair,” “cruel law,” “mad light,” “blood.” A semantic field (I was taught to say) that encompasses possibly the entire history of the Balkan Peninsula. I read “blood,” and the red background of the Macedonian flag comes to mind which, we were told in school, represents the suffering of our people throughout centuries of foreign rule and the blood they spilled for freedom. I read “golden circle” and “olden star” and I am a five-year-old trying with great effort to outline carefully and color the yellow Socialist star that was then replaced by the Vergina Sun, to then burst and spread onto the blood-red background, like a distant cousin of Tibet. Freedom, they told us it represents. What of the prophets, the fortunetellers, the wonders? What of scars from past battles, cruel laws, regimes, and Mančevski’s Dust (2001)?
Time in the Balkans, so it seems, is circular. Just like the name of this neighborhood where I am standing and of the train routes above my head. “The circle is not round,” we hear in the same director’s Before the Rain (1994). Different people, different ideologies, same outcome, same ever-returning conflicts. The poet wants to tame time, he orders the warrior to “burst into verse,” to “sink down into the blackest darkness,” to “disappear with all the fortunetellers,” to “voice” itself, to “speak out,” “look around” and “victoriously fade out.” The verse itself has to become the only host of time, time has to “sink down into the deepest word.” So we learn how to speak anew, this time politically correct, we write, we read foreign literatures, we emigrate, venture distant shores in an attempt to keep the boiling blood in check, to forget the babbling of the fortunetellers, coffee cup readers, archeologists, to realize that not enough time has passed and that right now the only way we can respond to a childhood poem is with another poem. But as I am reading Šopov’s poem in downtown Chicago, I cannot help but think of Upton Sinclair and John dos Passos, and of the fact that Chicago also lies on the 42nd parallel north. Where else could I be, Marija?
Prepared by Ana Ilievska