There goes my father

There goes my father underneath the hill. Among the shadow boxers. Consumed by memory and desire and that special sort of longing worn only by the dead. You can see it in their eyes. For love and for justice and for a better world.

There goes my father underneath the dew. A good Jew.

Dip a cup into a lake

Dip a cup into a lake and take out a little water and do not put it back. The lake closes over itself again. Memory is like that.


The pure lines of the bone in this single wing, now it is cleaned of ligaments, blood, and plumes, you hold between your hands, you cling to between your eyes, as, with an unspoken shout rising in you, you uproot your feet and, taking two paces backwards, hurl it out, high, white, articulate, before you, and watch it float, with the uncertain lift of an untugged kite, up, up, into the pinnacle of its curve, balance there a moment, then twirl, like a loony thing crazed by delight, down, down, over the cliff, following a reluctant obeisance to air, to gravity, till it's lost to sight, blurring, merging into the beach below, before it hits, bounces, and is glimpsed again, being licked by an edge of wave, sucked back and forth, an irrelevance, by the rising tide.

St. Patrick's Day

St. Patrick's Day. Midnight. He was lying on the wide pavement at the top of Mill Road Railway Bridge. Flat on his back. Sobbing. I loosened his collar and rubbed his chest. I said, Do you want any help mate? He went on sobbing. I lifted his head. Blood streaked down his face from a cut on his forehead.

I want my wife. I want my wife. He might as well have been crying for the dead. For his mother. For the lost of the world. Tattoos on the backs of his small hands and in the crook of his thumb, in capital letters, CAROL.

As out of dream

As out of dream, her voice again on the phone. The banal Come round to dinner crashing tears through me, dredging psychic marshlands, digging up peaty skulls.

Such stuff as dreams are made on

The 'on' suggests the dream is a pattern, or stamp, 'printed' onto the human material.

Secret Names

I will not lose my secret names: among forgetful flowerings, exfoliations, recrudescences, by speaking them, by shedding them like petals in late love.

Notes from Three Cities

A Wallet

I left the cab on Vasintonova Street, not knowing my wallet had fallen from my pocket on the seat next to the driver, just after I had paid him. Ten minutes later, by cruising, he found me walking the spaces of his city, map in hand, half dreaming. He hooted me, rolled down his window, and with scarcely grin or wink, leaned out to hand back my worn leather holder of notes, snaps, mementoes - my precious personal scraps of history and identity. Here, he said, take it. And he thrust it into my hands, changed gears and revved away. In the ensuing silence, the light became crystal, and I recalled his eyes, momentarily screaming, I recognise you.

White Cherries

The woman was heavily pregnant and should have taken a cab. The tower block they lived in was three kilometres from Zemun. I'm going out, she called to her partner, to the market to buy cherries. She returned three hours later carrying several kilos. You might have had an accident, he said. I walked, she said, and laughed, There weren't any cabs anyway.

Fish Soup

Rainy Sunday, on the uncertain border of Spring. My old friend was visiting me from England with his new wife. He wanted to take her to Smederevo, to show her a restaurant famous for fish soup, which he'd stopped at on his way to Greece, twenty years or more before. So we drove off from Belgrade, found the place without difficulty, and ordered, just as it was getting dark. We were the first customers to arrive. A gypsy fiddler sat smoking, waiting for the clientele. Over our slivovice, I mentioned to my friends some lines of an Old Town Song, and hummed them. The gypsy overheard, stubbed out his cigarette, came over to our table and, without any comment or by-your-leave, played and sang it for us, verse by haunting verse . . . Ima dana kada ne znam sta da radim . . . Days I don't know what to do . . . The fiddle and his voice re-opened separate wounds stored in each of our memories, took them out, re-examined them, and bound them back tight inside us on the instrument's chords. The constant reiteration of this kind of sudden invasive intervention from totally unexpected quarters constitutes the specific quality of light in the Balkans.

         Richard Burns 2006