On the eve of the outbreak of war
a Belgian friend arrived:
for days, hesitant salty palms
rubbed his ship like herd’s grass.
Together with him useless gifts arrived:
gardening scissors for a non-existent garden,
a ski-suit for a non-existent skier,
a mountaineering rucksack for non-existent journeys,
a map of a Flemish town, like cobwebs under glass
for an empty wall that does not exist.
And long thin Turkish cigarette holders made of rosewood
whittled by himself, so long
that the smokers in the tiny room collided
crossing them like burning spears.
They were made for greater distances –
a large terrace would do, a drawing room
or a picnic in the field.
Also, the smoke should be exhaled slowly, for this wood
absorbs it: tiny maggots drown in it
feeding on the smoke.
Thus spake he
while the cigarette holder stuck out
of his hermit-like beard and hair
like the beak of a hoopoe searching through
a non-existent nest in the air.
In a time of portents his gifts
portended different uses:
Necessary distances, as there are fewer and fewer
things that can be drawn in-between:
Burning trees, saturated with smoke,
growing on non-existent soil;
Translated by Novica Petrović