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1 poem

by Dženana Vucic

Dženana Vucic is a Bosnian-Australian writer and poet. Her work has been published in Meanjin, Stilts, SAND, Kill Your Darlings, Australian Poetry Journal, the Australian Multilingual Writing Project, Rabbit, and others. She is a 2020 Wheeler Centre Hot Desk Fellow and has been shortlisted for the 2019 Deakin Nonfiction Prize, the 2020 Nillumbik Contemporary Writing Prize, and the 2020 Woollahra Digital Literary Award. She is currently undertaking a PhD in English Literature at the University of Glasgow.

This poem was longlisted for the 2020 Peach Gold in Poetry with guest judge ALOK.

First Year After War

When I am five or maybe six

and home is low income high rise and

the clamour of arguments no neighbours understand,

I watch from the lounge window

behind government-issue blinds:

this brand-new life

which is quiet despite the road beneath us, so quiet

Later we will cry at the machine gun pop of fireworks

drop to the ground, hands over head, at a car’s backfire

always flinch at raised voices and

unexpected bodies on the other side of doors

Later we will make our own noise

howl against the rattle of unmoored lungs

scream fists into pastsick bodies

throw ourselves awake drenched in shaking


But here is a moment of fracture, of still


I stare at the high rise opposite, a woman

as she feigns at flight:

a moment of quiver and hold, of reach,

the expansiveness of arms wide and encompassing

I imagine her to shout:

Gledaj šta imam! Ovaj veliki i bezgraniči život!

And then she is landed, ungainled

I do not hear her cry but surely, surely she must

I cannot know how to uncouple noise from terror

even in shell shock, there is the earbreak pitch

and all dying screams and whimpers and chokes


My mother says my name over and over,

voice tilt with frustration

and I turn to her, sitting with a friend

on our government-issue couch;

her friend who is Australian

the first to sip coffee with her, eat bikkies with her

even through the breaking sentences and

questions like how to say makaze?

hand raised horizontal, two fingers extended

Scissors I tell her and—

Neka žena je pala s prozora

But she does not hear or pretends

Says to the Australian scissors

and there is laughter, delayed punchline,

politeness in the face of jokes that do not translate

I turn back to the window, the woman


How do you fall from a building unshaken by bombs

How do you fall unrunning from gunfire


When I am 29 I will not remember

if I see the body or if it is a thing frankensteined

from shrapnel and exit wounds,

superimposed on this idyllic suburban street

I will remember only that it is

five minutes before sirens

and the world becomes loud in the familiar:

shouting, a TV crew, men in uniforms, panic and rush

I will remember that I do not tell the psychiatrist

who earlier that day said

when the bad thing comes, you must not fight

turn to it and say: this is a dream and I am not afraid

But it isn’t. But I am.


Everyone knows not to stand near the windows


What is happened?

My mother is beside me, hand on shoulder

Her friend beside her, hand over mouth

A woman fell, I tell them and to my mother—

to sam ti rekla

Oh god oh god how awful

my mother and I are silent

it does not feel awful

us here in this whole apartment

with our couch and our table

our unrationed coffee, milk,

a TV playing the news and

Sarajevo flashing bitter on the screen

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