:: Article

Four Poems

By Lidija Dimkovska.

Translated by Ljubica Arsovska and Peggy Reid

Decent Girl

I took my perspective of the future to a thrift store
but nobody would buy it. The net is prickly
and there are no more heroes. Sorrow is purely physical pain.
If there’s no water, let the eye-fl uid hanging on the glasses drop.
If you wear no glasses, pretend you are Chinese
(one eye looking eastward and one looking westward
equals écriture féminine in a male society).
The fashion of the Orientals
comes back in a package of diet food.
And bless me while I’m still a decent girl.
Tomorrow or the next day I’ll lose my sinful ways,
I’ll wear embroidered blouses from the Ethnographic Museum
of Macedonia, and someone will have to pay for them.
To survive, we’d best turn the lector’s apartment
into a gallery. We shall exhibit
varicose veins, dried umbilici, retinas
and broken hearts in direct proportion
to South American soap operas
(tell me why you left me and married my sister),
and sorrow is purely physical pain
cured in my country by surgical operation.
Here I recognize it by the pain in my index fi nger,
crucial in the expansion of mobile phone networks.
I don’t know why my uncle didn’t beat me in a sack.
At this age it’s best if somebody else
cuts your umbilical cord,
and I am not afraid of Virginia Woolf,
I fear Lidija Dimkovska. Have you heard of her?
A woman not wholly christened,
whose friends have all taken the vow,
the bodiless woman and all those she’s loved remain unmarried.
That almost completely non-woman of yours
(likely sponsored by Soros to become tender?)
almost to the negation of the idea of Medea, of Judea, of her.
No, I’m not afraid of the numbers , ,  in the eye clinic,
or of mortgages on religious holidays,
what I’m afraid of is the existing attitude of God,
the God who does not exist, and I’m afraid of his great eyes.
Alas, what a multitude of words! Dictionaries are a lucrative job.
You sit at home and play: Something beginning with …!
From now on I shall speak in onomatopoeia,
Or better, in metaonomatopeia.
Be that as it may, it was nice meeting you, Father.
Were I not a woman you could’ve taken my confession.
But I don’t mind this either.
We’re having tea, biting each other’s nails
and licking our lips. Chirp chirp! Metachirp metachirp!


My memory is a soldier’s tin of bully beef
with no best-before date. I return to places
I have trodden with only one tongue in my mouth
and beat egg yolks for the natives to give them a good voice.
In a snow of the whites Jesus lies crucified as if in jest.
It takes two tongues for a French kiss,
now that I have several I’m no longer a woman but a dragon.
Like St George, I never learned
to give mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, my nose being blocked for years
I myself only breathe through others’ nostrils, the EU’s paying.
Aha! There’s something fishy about you, something’s fishy here,
the little fallen angels
collecting old paper and plastic cry after me,
I love them best when they take their cots
out into the corridor to air the DNA away
then A. and I sprawl out on them, a side each,
and in a carefully worked-out act of love
all our porcelain teeth chip off,
our gums turn into wide-open eyes, before which
our tongues in the darkness trip each other up,
growling, whimpering and moaning, and we
feel neither fear nor sorrow.
My memory is the black box from a crashed war-plane
with no best-before date. I return to places I trod
with only one blood under my skin,
I cross off fertile days for the natives on the calendars
with their name days and family feasts,
tame animals crave for the wild, the wild for the tame.
Like a Jewish couple during fasts and monthly periods,
so God and I have been sleeping in separate beds for years.


Death horrifies the relatives abroad.
There’s a plane to be caught, a walnut cake that’ll give me ulcers
to be swallowed, a tongue to be burned with hot coffee,
and for lack of a farewell lettter Life or The Economist to be read.
There are no articles for a section headed Culture on the Sundays.
Just articles on how to arrange your house, garden, paradise.
The telegram I sent travels with me,
but in business class. The man in the post-office counted the words three times
as though they were an extinct species. Like a language that can be preserved
if there are just two women who don’t know each other but gossip about the same man.
There are such women on my mother’s side. The husband died yesterday.
And there are chairs at home I’ve never sat on,
with hard seats, reserved for the domestic saints
who only come home for funerals and weddings.
From now on we’ll be giving each other relics as presents
on the anniversaries of the insurance policy
against damage caused by death.
The living charge for each death. With a small packet of paper handkerchiefs,
with new black knee-length stockings, with announcements on the LCD TV screen.
After the funeral I lie under the tree of life
like a bonsai waiting for the children of the dead one to play with it.
My veins shiver, my roots strain to hear the dead
who gurgle like little water-heaters
and sprinkle hot water into my drop of dew.
It was so much easier when death was in God’s hands,
when at night-time I dried the river under the window with a hair-dryer,
when the soldier bought me a carton of popcorn.
And now I even have a hobby: I go to commemoration services
for people I don’t know. On the way back my stomach swells with all the fizzy drinks.
With speeches written in double spacing on the loss that’s befallen us
here and now. We shall follow in his steps.
I drink blood-donors’ blood and already I feel better. You should try it.
Put your life in order with the systemic lottery ticket
and never cross out more than seven numbers. Because you too
have been tickled as a baby:
‘I’ll eat you up, I’ll eat you up …’ Love is the natural state
of cannibals. The others lie around on leather sofas
and bet on the last five minutes of Jesus’s glory.
Will he be born, will he die, or be resurrected?
Messages will keep coming on the dead one’s e-mail
offers will keep piling up,
‘Lose 5 kilos in 7 days, no charge.’
And the tree of life will keep shrinking, the meat will keep diminishing
around the bone until it vitiates
the five meals a day, until it becomes a bonsai.
The only border between there and here is the plane’s small window.
There I’m a tree for the timber industry, here I’m a little tree for meditation.
Life as usual mocks relatives abroad.
One must endure the flight, buy ‘travel fit’ perfumes,
shut oneself up in the loo and pee for a long, long time,
until down there, on the grave, my bonsai becomes a tree with a shadow,
and then, in the absence of a will, read the Financial or the Sunday Times.
On Sundays there is no section headed Life.
Just articles on how to arrange your subconscious, ego, hell.

Recognition 9

You have a sense of direction even in worlds
you’ve never visited, A.
You can tell what personal misery will give birth to a work of art
which will travel the world like the mind of an imbecile.
And which imbecile will return from no-man’s land, and which won’t.
That’s why in the church supplies and book dealer’s
you pause with the Bible open in your hands
to listen to the singer simulating orgasm on the radio.
An exchange of ideas, isn’t it? Before she finishes, the monk
manages to find the cassette with chants performed by the monks of Mt. Athos,
but the customers are already leaving. Encore un fois.
I must tell you that in East-European countries
the best looking men are the Mormons: the side parting of their hair
radiates with first love, something in their gait
brings glamorous fashion shows to mind. Was it you who told me
the joke: “Do you know whose creations Lady D is wearing now?
I don’t know. Versace’s.”
Mormons have muscles of spume.
They float above obscurantism in waves like
true Balkanophiles.
And the only ones. I’m trying to tell you
that the retired teacher was caught selling drugs
in the neighbourhood and together with her former students
the cobblestones slipped into the river during the night,
but you’re not listening to me. Why did you repeat all night:
“Flambé… flambé… flambé…?” Do you want us to go for a flambé?
The child … the child from the house that caught fire was burning in my hands,
while I was running to the hospital, but when I got there it was too late.
The doctor said: Oh, it has turned flambé. Now I know how you get bulimia.
And only out of fear of breaking the glasses you bought me for my birthday
I poured the poison in a plastic pot
(my grandfather kept his cut-throat razor and brush in a pot just like this one)
but I felt the smell of decomposing beard, so I threw it into the sea.
It’ll have a hard time decomposing for several centuries,
and I’ll be vomiting in vain babies wrapped in eco-paper.
Don’t sully it with letters, A. letters are out of fashion.
You’d better turn it into a nudists’ beach.
Socio-linguistics of lunatics vowed to silence.


Lidija Dimkovska was born in 1971 in Skopje, Macedonia. She is a poet, novelist, essayist, and translator. She took Ph.D. degree in Romanian literature at University of Bucharest, Romania and for several years she worked as lecturer of Macedonian language and literature at the University of Bucharest. Now she lives in Ljubljana, Slovenia. At the moment she teaches World Literature at the University of Nova Gorica and translates Slovenian and Romanian literature in Macedonian. In 2012 new selected poems are going to be published in English by the American publishing house Copper Canyon Press. She published her first novel Hidden Camera in 2004 and for it she received the award of Writers’ Union of Macedonia for the best novel of the year. Her poems have been translated and published in more than 20 languages all around the world. In 2009 she received the German “Hubert Burda” prize for younger Eastern European poets.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Monday, September 19th, 2011.