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  • Poems of Živojin Rakočević
  • Živojin Rakočević
    Translated by Petar Penda

Živojin Rakočević was born in 1973 in Podgorica and has published four books of poetry and a number of articles dealing with literary criticism. Upon obtaining a degree in Serbian language and literature, he was employed as a Teaching Assistant at the Faculty of Philosophy in Priština. In the period between 2001 to 2005, he was an editor-in-chief at KIM Radio in Gracanica, Kosovo. Currently, he is an editor-in-chief of the magazine Glas juga in Gracanica. He won the “Brankova nagrada” award given by Matica srpska for the best graduation paper in Serbia and Montenegro and a prestigious award for poetry “Vidovdanska nagrada.” He was also awarded for investigative journalism and bravery in reporting with the award “Milan Pantic” during the pogrom of the Serbs in Kosovo in 2004.

Živojin Rakočević is a poet whose work is strongly marked by social and political tumult. Although colored with the local setting, his poetry excedes the local and has universal meaning. The universality of his poetry is achieved by employing symbols and myths applicable and understandable to any culture or social milieu. Tradition and its values are very significant features of Rakočević’s poetry. They are not presented as mere inheritance from the past, but stand as a reminder of forgotten ethical values.

Bosnian Night

The Devil milks a mare at the cattle-pond A white river carries a lamb and a pig Nothing has ever happened Bogomils sleep

Wrapped in hair-cloth and silk They dream of pregnant Byzantine nights Of sleepy mistresses from damp Provence Bogomils dream [End Page 341] Seeds sprout with difficulty and blood is at pains Their teeth broke in procreation As if everybody is absent Bogomils are being born.

The Drim

(In a file of Metohija refugees, I ask a boy named Zoran Stojanovic: Where are you going ?—He replies—The river Drim will welcome us all.)

The Drim is our guest we were the first to welcome it we hosted it our reconnoitrer met it to show it the way not to be dammed up not to be drunk in tiredness by horses and chasms

Now, when we have nowhere to go The Drim will welcome us all The way we welcomed it In the beginning of genesis While the sun and the wild sun were brothers While the cross was descending from the sky And while the first rain was pouring from the buffalo

The Drim will welcome us all We are the fruit’s black soil We are the oldest world’s love We know the death’s looks On the river pretending to flow. [End Page 342]


In spring, when ants drop by And horns smell of sooth and a brotherly knife Life is felt From the hungry lake in the mouth Water floods in a dream For an ant smells.

Ants take out the winter’s rot And human rot they take out They know that honey hangs above That we have eaten snake’s venom And mixed gunpowder for St. George’s Day They don’t care for us.

They take out shame Take out death So small So happy They come forth from worm-eaten beams From bread they come forth As if this were their house


A wolf is always in a herd It dies only on the Transfiguration And on that day his soul lives In an empty horn With a halved snake

A wolf is within a sheep When it is a herd Only on the Annunciation it breaks the leg Always to watch backs And thin necks of its offspring. [End Page 343]


It smelled of lime and wool Of soil and goat milk Of father’s sweat and of summer pasture smoke Of steel of grandfather’s knife

Once an anthill moved in our pillow So ants’ gasping And jumping in sleep was heard After the death I listened to The thumps shaking out My granny’s soul. It smelled of winds Of a railroad sleeper Of olives and refugees’ rooms Of arson and hunger Of monk’s stone Of a...


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