Nina Zivancevic










I. ON small objects


Small objects are precious

they take time to breathe

they contain energy and then they walk

they talk   they talk to all sorts of folk

and talk and  talk  and talk

and talk


The stairs are there to measure the heartbeat

see how it flutters and then flies away

its rusty colours covered with sand and seaweed

Beckett was surely right

that bun is just a (s)word and man is

not much better


Oh to breathe the loveliness of summer

the precious small objects  the sand and lazy seagulls

taking off

the importance of being recycled

the present the future and then the past

a suffocating object placed on

a palm a swing a tinge a happy momentum


Memories come and go in snatches

they do not devour just deflower

a perfect ladylike gown walks through

the garden where the night had said good-bye

to small pebbles lush wisterias

you have to figure out

the exit you

figure out

the keys you

taking a breath of air

before you

descending the staircase

before you

becoming a bride a nightmarish groom

before you

throwing these small pebbles

at other people and yet other people

counting them up    never playing with them

too tired to play      who are these people

too feverish to play

left all alone

to the seagulls and to that bright bright sand

unforgiving                no rectangular swallows

no feathers            no pomp                 no remorse

no swallows         no feathers            no pomp

no remorse







Love is blue   love is gold    love is true

stop being childish   write that poetry

swallow your medicine    brush up your shoes

and go to school     and be a fool

get out of your castle  and blow it off  Orlando said

noon is humble feeding on crumbs

small objects speak Swahili and retain their post

modern post comatose glamour where night shivers

and closes its shimmering veil

saved from certainty saved from knowledge

saved from the poverty of information

along a shady dock

an object takes its place

round and wise and nourishing

it says nothing about its hidden days about its  strange taste

about its glorious past

it is extemporal

Mother   do you love me?

Mother    do you care?

And do I care, for you?

There you will trot

along the tiny pebble path and leave me all alone

in the universe peopled with buns and stars and

shiny trinkets   staggering books  and loud records

subliminal objects   cheerful dictionaries encapsulated in time

with carrots  beetroots thistle remedies

witch’s brews cobblestones agate rings cobalt sunsets


light rain washes away  huge robots impertinent bills

mortgage loans     stupid yawns hammered in

love comes back to me and is

blue   gold and true





night will wash away the pebbles

soaked in mud   expressionist yearning

sweet sweet smell of amber  the odour of amber

neutral and divine

very French and rigorous   unprotected stern

scared and oblivious

the trucks loaded with words

sentinels of yearning    ministries of waiting

cafes filled with challenge

schools full of undertakers     names peppered with history

jokers   stuffed with science

a bluff     a cough      a nut

he is a bluff   and you are a nut

and we are riding in a magic shell

covered with ice and legendary silence

come to me    right now

the eye of my apple   heart of my flower

is trying to keep that promise it

made at the bottom

of the deepest crimson sea







Never did I think of you before you were gone

The table was clean the glass empty the plate

full of my mistakes and you just slid through

the door was closed and someone was knocking at it

Come in I said

The wind pushed it open

That was an old woman with a ragged face

Spitting blood was somewhat lonely was dressed

Like my mother  and looked like me

She smiled at me and toothless curse had reached

Me there, I am your death she said, oh I am not ready

Not ready right now have to read a lot of Stoics have to acquire my Buddha hood

Get ready she hissed and I pushed her away, slammed the door and fell down

Woke up covered with Gothic sweat


I turned on the radio and listened to Bach

Lived with some people who hated poetry

Serendipity in fashion stupidity in labour


Speedy fingers of Glen Gould

At one occasion he claimed he encountered God

Counterpoint is everything, like in music like in life

He said while humming along Bach’s exuberant variations

Ironing wrinkles of serenity   sprinkling the lawns of domesticity

Feeding house mice  thrilling expectations

They were not great they were not solid they were not cold

They were just miniscule whispers of that loud

staccato of her insanity       that unbearable arpeggio of his complicity

that bloody counterpoint of his lousy promise



V. The Doctors come and go…


The doctor came and saw me  and what did he prescribe?

You’ve had too many poems for dinner,

Far too many plays, three bad novels and two borderline novellas

Five doggerels for breakfast and a romance for lunch

Very very bad for your diet   very very sad for your brain


And the doctors come and go munching seedy sultanas

Wearing dirty bandanas  reproducing an everlasting shock

In a life filled with schlock, schlock and sleaze,

mice and geese

Made at the bottom

of the deepest crimson sea





Oh, just before the morning light    before sunrise        before dawn

Before it starts getting               very bright          very soft

Very charming             very round     small objects reappear

Before  sunset         before  dusk            after the storm


Come on right now dance with me

Don’t sit in your giddy corner don’t just smile don’t just cry

Don’t just don’t            you know better you’ve just tried

You’re that hero   you’ve been working full time

Nine to seven, eight to five, ten to eleven, six to ten

Come on rinse it off     and wear it out            Daytona glow sunsets

Beaches and rusty lights               shaky movements in the dark

Lousy giggles squashed in rain

You know me so well        take my umbrella     tickle my feet

Your sense of humour I will nourish            under the young banana tree

Two slices of ham    a cherry salad please

I cannot remember my dreams                     although I fall asleep

Every evening at the same hour and it is early

To say if the hour is late and happy if it is stubborn and reminiscing

If it is lazy and unforgiving

Filled out with schlock, schlock and sleaze

with  a minor breeze on the horizon’s freeze

Fed on mice and geese

Made at the bottom

Of the deepest crimson sea



VII. A Frank O’Hara Memorial / July 25 2006


Was Frank O Hara as large as New York City?

Or was New York City as large as Frank O’Hara?

We learnt they both came from Ireland.



Was he carnal was he flippant   was he funny?

Was he tragic   was he simple was he fragile or

Was he strong was he eclectic or was he

Surrealistically dialectic?

Was he blue      was he green

Or was he brown?    Was he a siren a hedgehog

A diamond or a clown?  Was he a nurse was he a bottle

Did he dance or did he throttle? Was he into dolls

Dogs or into spiders?  Was he high on whisky on beer

On amphetamines or on cider? Was he Jewish

Finish or just outlandish? Was he demanding oblivious

Problematic tender  uptight   or just selfish?

We learnt that he was everything and then some…Irish


And then everyone went out and had some booze

And then everyone went out and had some booze

And then everyone went out and had some booze

And then everyone went out and listened to some Scarlatti

And then everyone went out and listened to some Scarlatti

And then everyone went out and then…



VIII. A VISIT TO Blake’s house


They wrote hefty volumes on Allen’s poetry

After all, he took himself quite seriously

Just once, he said, “it’s a shame, they’ve got you”,

But who were “they” he did not say…

He probably meant – the gargoyles of capitalism,


But he said so many things. and sometimes

I would drift away, and sometimes I would fall asleep…

And I would probably always outguess what he meant

but it was just “probably” and I was just a “would”

who wanted to change her life, living like

Beckett after Joyce, tinkering with three languages to

Write in, losing the essence biiiig way

Obeying the gargoyles of money and place biiig time,


And it was just “probably” that I would write and earn my credit

Like Gertrude Stein, as I was not

An American in Paris, as I was just- like Allen had mentioned

Before “A crazy Eastern European, in New York, somewhat like

Naomi totally left alone, to her own madness….”


Then Peter, repeating the family pattern, Anne and Steve

And Bob keeping a tiny flame, a hope

Their presence at the wake

And then the vultures, people who never read the Sunflower sutra

The supermarket oracle the Wichita  the Vortex, the Sutras

Allen patting my belly 3 months before I delivered my baby

I saw him only once after that    we saw a movie

He regretted for not having children,

Then Peter, repeating the family pattern, Anne and Steve

And Bob keeping a tiny flame, a hope

Their presence at the wake

But he had no children

We, Eastern Europeans understand each other quickly, he said,

We think too fast, of course Allen said  to mini- me

But we are on mescaline and we’re supposed to think fast—

Nothing, just nothing is too horrible or too beautiful

Whatever it appears to be, it’s not me, Ginzy said, but

Dudjom Rinpoche, and I kept laughing and laughing

“I don’t want to see you sad face anymore”, he added.

He loved that old Blake’s “O, Lo’ why did you make

me so different from the rest of the world, good Lo’,

why have I become a poet?”





Once I had a dream   or rather a nightmare

I was living in a mad house with people

With no name ; they had neither time

Nor knowledge to face themselves

They were jealous of my daydreaming

They were envious of my looks

They neither read or wrote newspapers and books

They were small time crooks- I say they

And it was silly me, attracted by their energy

Boiling for eternity…


Energy    energy    energy

That vicious prophecy      of the techno beat

When I was up, they were down

When I was sad they took me for a clown


Energy    energy energy     of the techno beat

They catered to a trance and I was a pagoda

They always had to dance, my bygone fashion-moda…


Energy energy    energy           of the techno beat

One is doomed to wriggle while stomping his feet

Microphone is handy and so is my amp

I just want to mingle in a techno trance


Once I had a dream   and there is no shame

I was living in a madhouse with people

With no name…





She was pushing a pushcart

He was blowing his trumpet

A mermaid was making somersaults

And the dolphins were winning gold medals

The seals were eating fish

Tin-Tin  was drinking beer

My shoe was making a long squeaking sound

And my son was stuffing himself with carrots

The parrots were screaming OH LA LA

And the karaoke student was yelling OBLADI OBLADA

Jane was smoking a joint and Max

Was playing his blue guitar

And Lateef  was thinking of all these things as they

Really are Tin-Tin and Max and Jane and

Dick with his blue guitar

I’ve lost my teeth but

Did not lose all my battles

to sanity and good sense

Rules the world and a bunch

Of flowers   oh flowers

Flowers and pots

Pots and flowers

Pots and terrorists

This poem could

Do without





So funny in your seriousness

Your hesitations keep you awake

This chamber music       this shallow mood    this apricot sunset

This thunder coming out of your eye


You are so wonderful and simple

Scared and venomous               you are dopey

Tired and confused           cheerful and analysed

Wakeful and synthesised   sunny and advertised

Waiting for a new button to light it up for you

Supreme percussionist you hear your own droning sound

Going from no place onto nowhere

You dance like a concubine with your chin up

You are so dumb you cannot recognize the sound of your mother’s horn

You are the disco king and your music is too loud to be blue

Too bad to be true

Just look at you   and admit it Darwin was right

We all came from the monkeys

I am your side-effect   your true blue

Too good to be blue

Too bad to be true

And now, the hour of Final redemption has come…   the Lord of Ignorance

Is knocking at your door                       time to smoke your joint

Time to shave your head                       time to ruffle up your bed

Wash your feet

And go to sleep         with you,

my love, I’ve always been on my own, quite quiet

and all alone.





someone has tried to do me in

Someone was sad and really bad

Someone has tried to wash it off

Someone has tried to brush it down

Someone has tried to play the clown

Music was good and so we tuned in

And there you’ve gone snapping your fingers

Dialing numbers and howling at the moon


You said AMAN* and I said ZAMAN**

For the sake of Lord and to the end of time


My feet so light and thoughts so heavy

A hopeless night and shimmering sky

Cold thin air  to the end of time

Tumultuous hooves and headless riders

If we move an eyelid will such RAHAT

And sheer light show the hour of SAHAT

OK, Bashi, let the girls weave the fabric

Of oblivion

You said AMAN and I said ZAMAN,

For the sake of Lord, and to the end of time


The symmetry of that cemetery

Has fed on  so many dancers

The flightless eagles and sleepy lions

Have heard our song before it was recorded

Before we rehearsed and uttered these elegant notes

This sleepless presence  this patient flutter


You said AMAN and I said ZAMAN

Aman, aman, to the end of time.


*Aman- “until the end of” (in Persian)

**Zaman- “time” (in pers.)












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