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            For Martin Kelbl

by V. B. Borjen

I.  Past the Neptune Fountain, Gdańsk


We drag our feet in concord

walking across the bridge

over the Motława,

like two ships trying to sail

having forgotten to

weigh their anchors to be

hoisted up.


We trail silt in our wake

that mirrors the mist

lapping at the Crane:

It is early morning,

the city will forgive us.


Before we breathe salt

we must pass the hulls

towering on land

and scratch our skins

on the rust and the angles

of the past;

a spot of Solidarity,


There to show something

we have missed –

but how many beginnings

had we missed before

and still lived on?

Here is but our own:

Filling crevices with

whiteness, burning skins,

stretching up to fix the stars

and bite into the moon,

reaching, holding hands.

Beginning again.


II. The Sopot Pier


The train breaks and screeches

and we climb down onto the

land-d-d land land

before we see

            the sea,

always out of season,

spitting fossils

and amber.


I spot you inside

the yellow on my palm,

your youth caught

in the resin of my old bark

when I was a spruce,

propelled into the future

where I collect you again,

unchanged but crystallised,

and put you in my mouth,

begin to kiss and suck you

out of your splendid

transparent grave,

            for us to walk on the

pier again,

and talk between

the cries of gulls and wind slaps;


Then blue-ue-ue blue blue

the sea

stretching endless

fractals in your eyes.

III. Arriving in Gdynia


I washed my feet in the Baltic

three times:


The first was for the sea;


The second to hold your hand

as you shivered in;


The third was for me,

to release the tidal urge

and embrace the patience of

many broken things arriving

on the same shore


Where Neptune combs

his beard on our toes

and the siren call of other


needs no wax to resist;


We are home.

Those are only relics of

ancient coastal lore.

We travel for pleasure,

and metaphorically.

You weave yourself closer

as I spear the crests of the

waves with my looks;


Far off in the distance

slow ships pass,

mammoths in the steppe.

But here, before us

the sea unloads gifts,

they thud and fan out


              we leap,

caught unreadied

into life, unreadied,


V. B. Borjen was born in 1987. in the Socialist Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina and now lives in the Czech Republic. His work in Bosnian has previously appeared in magazines across the former Yugoslav region and Hungary, including Strane, P.U.L.S.E., NEMA., Symposion, Novi plamen, Metafora, Astronaut, Gracanicki glasnik and the daily Oslobođenje, while his first poetry collection Priručnik za levitiranje (Levitation Manual) won the 2012 Mak Dizdar Award. Four poems from his second manuscript have been included in the Greek-Bosnian Anthology of Young Bosnian Poets (Vakxikon magazine & P.E.N. International, scheduled for publication in the summer of 2019). His work in English has previously appeared in Hypothetical: A Review of Everything Imaginable and in AZURE, where another piece is forthcoming.

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June 2019

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