The Wounded Man Tempts God

Tomica Bajsic
Translated from Croatian by Damir Šodan

I wandered around the forest of the enemy kingdom
and stumbled upon a piece of wire hidden in the grass
which turned out to be a buried PROM2
tripwire-activated bounding anti-personnel mine
and in that split second before the explosion
I expected God to let that cup pass me by
when the detonation threw me into the air I saw pieces
of iron, pieces of my uniform, bits of my flesh whirling
in orbit / sand / stars / porcelain / four winds / tartan
razors/ ice / Joseph Conrad proposing to Freya, the girl from
the Seven Islands / my enemies cats stealing the planet's oxygen
digging through garbage / all lighthouses ablaze
from the New Hebrides to the Pepper Coast / the President of Zimbabwe
Canaan Banana listening to German radio / thousands of mummified fish heads
prophesying in alien tongues / Amadeus Mozart
making airplanes out of newspapers —
I never liked Mozart and that's what threw me down to the ground
while the Vienna Boy's Choir sang:
"a pitcher goes to the water until it breaks,
a pitcher goes to the water until it breaks!"

God make that cup pass me by – I thought
there in the ambulance vehicle
let me live for a little bit longer at least for another 100 years
I don't want to die now that our time has come
I wanted my medals to shine like the petroleum platforms
lighting up night flights over the Atlantic
and my veteran's charisma to be electric
let my limousine slide through the crowd the way Moby Dick
slid before the eyes of helpless Captain Ahab
I never said I didn't want to sell my soul
I was only negotiating the price
let me be summoned to a reception at the President's office
there are so many dishes I never tasted
there are so many people on this Earth whose destiny
I never took into my hands
I want to rob and preach to the robbed ones
I want to lie and laugh at the deceived ones
I want my place in the Ark so I can
watch the flood with a cocktail-glass in my hand
because it's better to set up fires than to be burned
it's better to humiliate than to be humiliated
so let's lay all the cards on the table: we have but one life,
so give me a hundred cannibal whores from Borneo
let me splash in the purifying fountains of youth
give me power to live forever like that invisible poison
in the veins of all humans

give me parts of their spines hands eyes brains hearts kidneys
my hands are the hands of a sculptor hungry for work
— I'll smile at you, the green pastures of Croatia
with a harvester's smile

outside the hospital cats rummage through garbage
they have conspired to steal the oxygen of the entire planet
the iron holders on the façade are empty
50 years ago three colours hung there
one for gluttony the other one for greed
and the third one for misery
instead we hoisted up our tricolor banner
the red was for Christ's mineral blood
the blood of our dead, the guarded subterranean blood that boils
the white was for hope that we were fighting for a better civilization
the blue one was for our brazen adventure, for friendship firm as those
overseas underwater telegraph cables that fishermen sometimes
stumble upon when their nets get lost somewhere
really deep
but the cats came overnight and did their dirty trick
so once again the red colour stands for gluttony
the white for greed and the blue for misery

so, dear friends, one thing is certain:
those very cats are also the guardians of that other world
those same cunning cats that sometimes transform into politicians
the cats that are still rummaging through garbage
conspiring to steal the oxygen
of the entire planet


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