Ivan V. Lalić


An Inventory of Moonlight

Translated by the poet

An Istrian moon
Stained with salt and the west wind,
Over the lean and dark green slopes
Gnawed by the were-air of equinox,

A moon which might have been a match
Struck on the stairs of a Belgrade house
Razed to the ground sixteen years ago,

A house razed sixteen years ago,
A house inhabited by tainted fire and children
Who turned, as legend tells, into angels,

An angel, a smile emerging from the ashes
Like a leaf from a tree, defenceless;
The angel rehearsing a gesture on his wall
For centuries, with unknown intent,

The gesture I make in sleep to ward off the birds
Liming the wet carbide and singing like machine-guns
When, drenched in sweat, I want to wake in a garden,

A garden turned in compassion towards the sea
And steeped in the blue anaesthetic of afternoon shadows;
The old lace of light, yellowing and frayed,
And the sea’s fire between the trees,

A tree in the wind, half fire already,
A tree which seems to resemble the name
I’ve long been inventing for you, my love, in vain –

In a razed house, in dust, in wind,
In the years, in fire, gardens,
Yesterday, today, and tonight,
Lit like a match:

In the gnawing air of equinox
Over the lean and dark green slopes,
Stained with salt and the west wind,
An Istrian moon.

Notes on this poem

Please note that this translation is a subsequent translation by Francis R. Jones, included in A Rusty Needle (Anvil, 1996) and published by permission of Francis R. Jones and Anvil Press, rather than the original translation by the author.