Poetry by Branko Ve Poljanski


The day is a jackal’s eye
Why do eyes hunger for the dark
The day hungers for barricades
The sky is a straitjacket
Wide roads gnaw at the sun
We build brute towers
Oh Europe
Your roads will crave Balkan masses.



You whack your head with delight when houses collapse
When you speak
Your words bounce off the walls
A canal song on a summer night boils
The world happily blossoms among lamps
Gin – gin – ginarata!
The music begins and our childhood aches
Everything aches
My dear citizens
Which of you can defiantly leap
Like a fish over water?


This joyous hour marks the birth of new pains.
Loneliness silences me under the stars.
Night veils the town, damned
black and hard.
The sky
wide, high, and heavy
a pall on my youth.
The days
with their screams, cramps
and pangs of love
Rebellion and blood
in the dusk of a culture
on the barricades
like a dream found in a romantic poem.
I can’t bear
the thought
that every flight has its fall
that I’m wilting like a flower folding its petals
at dusk.
Splendid the splendid death and the dream at night
the dream at night with its low song
on cold lips.

Joyous Poem

No one in the world believes in miracles
And every day thousands of marvels
Blow up before our eyes:
Houses eat cars, ordinary people, and ministers
Flags lie to the sun
Arrogant idiots flood the streets
Selling a horn for a candle
Cretinism for genius
A bloody river flows from lampposts
In the visions of miraculous people with souls.
Without roofs overhead they roam the world
Many starved curs
New poets.
On the streets silk swishes and perfumes taunt roses
Canals, toilets, and muddy streets sing
About the scent of our time
May the miserable rejoice
That the whole globe has yet to be devastated
At the expense of the bourgeois
A morsel will remain for us
Heavy cars will quicken
Houses and hearths
Gasoline will stream down the streets
Bombs will blossom in parks.
How lyrically I feel the future
When palaces flip onto their roofs
And our shoes step on the cobbled skulls
Of our contemporary sages and stock market players
On the tambourine of millions
Our poor millions,
Bloody millions.



Black branches
White silence
In the soul, black and frozen

In my heart’s rhythm
A woman
In a silver cloak
Of moonlight
Disappears in the night
At the corner of my teary eye
A shriek
Frozen in her throat
—  —  —  —  —  —
The moon’s silver shrouds
My longing.

In the soul, frozen pain
In the throat, strangled shriek
The sun’s love
Black branches


At the Hair Salon

My cheek’s reflection
the mirror
damns itself
the world

I’m still
on the toilet seat
In the next room
a prostitute talks
the beauty of her bleached hair
An electric gadget rattles
blow-dries her hair
the clock on the dirty wall
ticks the seconds away
tick-tick tick-tick
carries time somewhere
beyond comprehension

Yellow electric rays
crawl along objects

In my mind
plays a soft abstract song


Blind Man Number 52

Number 52
hurts me.
The blind man stands at midnight
waits at
intersecting streets.
orgiastic music.
Daylight dawns
through the black
of the blind man’s sunglasses.
Magicians Russian czarist generals
10 dinars per evening.
My shadow my vampire.
Break the clock
stop time
transform the world
into a foolish country fair


Dada Causal Dada

1, 2, 3, etc.
Every afternoon rings the breaking of imaginations
at the bend of my finger.
I love you u u u u u
39° heat.
The tousled train tracks to Russia.
I’ll tell my student Seneca that
Kurt Schwitters escaped Hanover
to avoid paying the shoemaker
************Friedrich Nietzsche
the bill for real Dadashoes.
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 . . .
Scram, causal whore!
ooooooooooooooooo . . .


Branko Ve Poljanski

Branko Ve Poljanski (1898–1947) was a leading figure of Zenithism, a 1920s avant-garde movement unique to the then Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes that was a synthesis of expressionism, futurism, Dada, and constructivism. He wrote and published a single issue of the futurist-expressionist journal Svetokret (1921), a monthly cinema magazine Kinofon (1921–1922), and a one-off issue of the anti-Dada journal Dada-jok (1922) before focusing his attention on zenithism. His books include the anti-novel 77 samoubica (77 Suicides, 1923) and three poetry collections Panika pod suncem (Panic Under the Sun, 1924), Tumbe (Topsy-Turvy, 1926), and Crveni petao (The Red Rooster, 1927). In 1927, Poljanski handed out copies of Crveni petao on Terazije Street in Belgrade as a farewell to his literary life. After that, he boarded a train to Paris where he devoted himself to painting.

Steven Teref and Maja Teref

Steven Teref translates from Bosnian, Croatian, and Serbian with Maja Teref. Their books include Novica Tadić’s Assembly and Ana Ristović’s Directions for Use, the latter shortlisted for the National Book Critics Circle Award, Best Translated Book Award, and the National Translation Award. Teref’s other books are Foreign ObjectPleasure Objects Teaser, and The Authentic Counterfeit. He is Chief Copy Editor for Asymptote.

Maja Teref translates from Bosnian, Croatian, and Serbian with Steven Teref. Their books include Novica Tadić’s Assembly and Ana Ristović’s Directions for Use, the latter shortlisted for the National Book Critics Circle Award, Best Translated Book Award, and the National Translation Award. Teref is a past president of Illinois TESOL. She teaches English at University of Chicago Laboratory Schools where she is also the faculty advisor for Oroboros Review, a student-run literary translation journal.

English translation copyright (c) Steven Teref and Maja Teref, 2020.