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Slobodan Rakitic

All you have you will lose
in a poem. All you have not:
freedom and love,
wealth and joy,
beautiful mornings
and mild sunsets,
the poem will give to you.
You will find a friend in a poem
and write a poem for that.
It is your morning prayer,
your evening prayer,
and the prayer of your patron-saint's day.
It is your day and night,
a bright dandelion, an iris,
a burning blackberry bush
and a shriek of a titmouse.
Write a poem
like a child being born.
Lean over a spring
in the woods. Pick a fruit
from the tallest branch.
Write a poem.
All you have not is in it.
All you have it will take
from you. Write a poem for that.
Bread and salt
you must give to it first.
The day of birth
and the last day,
appearing to you more and more clearly,
you must give to it.
Write a poem, your own home.
It is your language,
your country, your prayer tree.
Write a poem
to your brother on the cross
and to your brother under earth,
and to your brother in heaven.
Write to God's son
in whose shadow
you live alone. Write
to your brother in jail
and to your brother in exile.
Write a poem
to your non-brother at the table
and to the one with a scepter
and with a whip.

Be a letter.


[After Jorge Luis Borges]

If God offered me one more life,
again would I opt for the same
life I have lived so far,
for the same mistakes and joys of mine,
for the same delusions and same delights.
If by some chance I could choose,
again would I choose you,
your frolicsome and unpredictable disposition,
your anger
and your clemency;
your late getting up
and my early sorrows.
If God gave me one more life,
again would I stumble on the same stone,
I would study medicine,
graduate, needlessly, in literature,
write a few books of verse,
mostly about love and poverty,
and a collection of essays on my poet friends.
Could I choose again
between this one and some other life,
again would I opt for the same one.
Again would I delight in primroses in spring,
again would I run after children and sparrows
in the hills overlooking Vlasovo,
and spend each summer by the Ibar River,
now on the one and then on the other sandy bank.
Again would I imagine far-away cities
while watching stars above Raska
come on and die out.
In my second life I would also admire
the Holy Virgin of Studenica,
the angels of Sopoćani and Apostle John;
at least once a year I would climb on the big stone
above my parents' house,
which is climbed now by our son,
and I would watch the world around me,
and trains, lit in the night, rushing along
the Ibar railroad.
If the Lord let me choose once more,
I would opt for the same friends,
and for the same enemies,
I would yearn for the same desire, in vain,
and rejoice in the same things.
But I do know that I will not be allowed to choose,
and whatever I experienced in my life,
I mostly experienced resisting,
as if I had seen all that could be seen,
as if I had lived all lives.


I gradually break of a habit of living
I break of a habit of loving, my love,
of a habit of pursuing whatever made our life,
of a habit of looking at your face, of breathing,
of a habit of eating bread and salt,
of a habit of drinking clear water from a jug,
of a habit of watching the sun rise and set down.

At every moment, hour by hour,
I break of a habit;
it seems like I have been with you
for a thousand years;
it seems like I have been with you
for a single day.

I break of a habit of breathing in two,
of a habit of listening to children's babbling in the yard;
I feel I am gradually leaving
and giving up life.


Je romps peu peu lhabitude de vivre,
Je romps lhabitude d'aimer, mon amour,
Lhabitude de courir derrire tout ce qui fait notre vie,
Lhabitude de regarder ton visage, dcouter ta respiration,
Lhabitude de manger du pain et du sel,
Lhabitude de boire de leau claire de la cruche,
Lhabitude de contempler le soleil qui se lve et se couche.

Chaque instant, heure aprs heure,
Je romps lhabitude.
Il me semble que j'aie vcu avec toi
Des millnaires,
Il me semble que j'aie t avec toi
Juste une brve journe.

Je romps lhabitude de respirer pour deux,
Lhabitude d'couter le gazouillement des enfants dans la cour;
Je sens que jabandonne,
Que je quitte peu peu
La vie.

Slobodan Rakitic
Traduit en franais par Athanase Vantchev de Thracy


Biographical note

Slobodan Rakitic
was born in the village of Vlasovo, near Rashka, Serbia, on September 30, 1940. He graduated from the Faculty of Philology, University of Belgrade. He edited a number of literary magazines, such as The Contemporary [Savremenik], Rashka [Raska], and The Literary Word [Knjizevna reč]. As the editor in charge of literature and language, he has been working at Ilija M. Kolarac Foundation ever since 1973.
He wrote and had the following books of poetry published: Lights of Writings [1967], Rashka Tunes [1968], The World is not Our Home [1970], Earth on the Tongue [1973], Poems on he Tree and Fruit [1978], Craving for the South [1981], The Descendant [1982], Basic Land [1988], Deeds on Fire [1990], A Soul and a Sandbar [1994], Water Letters [2000], Southern Land [2000], Poems [Selection and Introduction by Bojana Stojanovich-Pantovich, 2002], Sailing [Selected and New Poems, 2003], and The Flame and Dew [2010]; as well as the following books of essays are: From Ithaca to Illusion [1985], Forms and Meanings [1994]; an anthology: Yugoslav Peoples' Poetry of Romanticism [1978], Selected Works in five volumes [1994].
Slobodan Rakitic received the following literary awards: ,,Milan Rakić' [1974], ,,Isidora Sekulić' [1982], ,,Branko Miljković' [1989], ,,Laza Kostić' [1995], ,,Kočić's Pen' [1997], ,,Jovan Dučić' [1998], ,,Gold Link' [1998], ,,Prince Lazar's Gold Cross' [1998], ,,Desanka Maksimović' [2002] and others.
The book of poetry Deeds in Fire was awarded The October Belgrade Prize in 1990 and The Rade Drainac Award in 1991. His poems have been translated into a number of foreign languages. The book Earth on the Tongue was translated into French and published by a well-known publishing house L'Age d'Homme in Switzerland, in 1990. The edition of his selected works The Lonely Descendant has been published in Serbian and in Romanian in Temishvar in 2002, whereas the book of selected poems The Southern Land was published in Prague in Serbian and in Czech in 2005.
Slobodan Rakitic was a member of the Serbian Parliament in the first pluralist mandate [1991-1992], during which time he led the largest caucus of democratic opposition MPs, and a member of the Federal Parliament of Yugoslavia [1993-1994] thereafter. In addition, he served as the President of the Association of Writers of Serbia [1994-2004]. Presently he is the chair of the oldest publishing house in the Balkans - the Serbian Literary Cooperative.



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