In today’s High Window preview we are highlighting the work of Mario Susko, an internationally renowned Croatian poet, some of whose poems in English we published in THW3 September 1, 2016. We’re pleased to announce also that The High Window Press has now published End Phrase, a selection taken from Mario’s work over the last decade. You will find below two poems taken from it. We hope that they will whet your appetite and that you will agree with Fiona Sampson that Mario Susko is ‘a poet of rare seriousness’. Copies are available here.
, a witness and survivor of the war in Bosnia, received his M.A. and Ph.D. from SUNY Stony Brook in the 1970s and moved back to the US in 1993. A three-time Fulbright scholar, he has taught at the University of Sarajevo, but has lived more than half of the past 36 years in the US. He is currently an Associate Professor in the English Department at Nassau Community College in Garden City, NY.
Mario Susko: Two poems from End Phrase
THE CONDUCT OF WAR
from an old dank cardboard box in the cellar
I dumped out a whole forgotten battalion
of tin soldiers I used to play with as a kid.
how it got there and when I couldn’t remember:
perhaps I outgrew wars or mother believed people
when they proclaimed: This war ended all wars.
it would have seemed so as I gazed silently
at my troops’ once colorful uniforms, now
just faded patches, telling me they’d fought
in all decisive battles, their drawn swords
twisted or broken, many a base they stood on
gone, making them look as good as dead.
some without a hand or a leg I put carefully
back into the box, together with two wooden
horses, their head dangling on a shiny wire.
what I really needed now was a few tanks,
if nothing else some heavy artillery pieces,
for I knew the advanced armored units
had already reached the suburb, intent
on crossing the river behind my building
and linking up with the encamped mercenaries.
my army was the only thing that stood
in their way, yet no plan would I’ve been able
to devise that would save us from being overrun.
the following night, when the steady rumble
of tracks and engines began to drown out
the croaking of frogs at the river bank,
I painted with a crayon I found on the floor
a red cross sign on the box and put it
in the drum of a discarded washing machine.
I took those battle ready soldiers to the lobby
and set them down on the highest step, all
of us in a combat line facing the front door.
later, through half-closed eyes and the dark, I
saw a ten year old kid I grew up with burst in,
brandishing a wooden sword, a paper cocked hat
on his head, and we fought again, I, a twelve
year old veteran, swinging my mother’s broomstick,
until we both fell exhausted and said: Truce.
A THEORY ABOUT KNOWING
the center can probably hold
even if you think it is where you
stand, the problem, though, arises
when you try to claim you also know
where its circumference is.
to prove that you would have
to circumscribe it, though everything
keeps telling you you’d have to walk
a straight line you could never consider
to be part of anything else but itself.
that’s why God let us find out
about the earth and the sun,
what moved and what didn’t,
yet kept from us why something
can be everywhere by being nowhere –
and that was a cruel thing to do,
perhaps his ultimate irony when it
comes to the power of knowing.