Swing it Low

/ by Srđan Srdić

A woman doesn’t know how to fall asleep. Mark Sandman is dead. A man stands at the beginning of a path leading somewhere behind, into the neon. The man thinks about the path. A boy, who will later become a man, thinks that the sun is mild. A school bag is on his back. Then he smiles, when the thought vanishes.


People who wait for other people's words, immersed, waiting. People who yearn. The text is supposed to be about love. A woman carries a bag. Your body is wonderful, someone tells someone. Someone says. Women and men on long strolls. Petrol stations, nigh shift workers, drowsy. Someone should carry the woman's bag. It's a light bag.


Once I met a lunatic on the path. I wished to embrace him. It was hot. Terribly hot.


I’m right here, I’ll watch your back in case the wind blows off your hat. Mark Sandman.


Bakeries at dawn. Going fishing. A father and his daughter and a little dog in her hands. People who die and don't live to tell. I remember a storm was gathering and I was a little boy being led by a girl, but I don't recall who she was. No-one can remember. I can remember. Yes. This is how it was.


A woman goes out to buy cigarettes. She stops to watch some passengers stepping off the bus. Passengers at night. Hedgehogs in the wet grass. Students in front of a kiosk, waiting for roasted chestnuts. A mother says to her daughter: This is plasticine. Plas-ti-cine. A boy passes by a girl. When decades pass, they won't remember. They'll invent that they do. A crossroads at daybreak. A man stands at the traffic lights crying. His eyes are full of someone else's windows.


A wish never to do anything ugly, anything evil again. Books that are never borrowed from libraries. Then they are written off. A girl on her way back from school. She counts silently, pretending that it isn't dark. Pretending to be a big girl. You especially, you especially, you especially. A woman sends a text message: Come over. And so it is.


Mark Sandman died on the way to hospital. It was July. Cigarettes, stress, too warm. That's what it says. His heart. It no longer worked. No. Mark Sandman died in Italy. His two brothers died long ago. They were young.


One can write automatically. I believe automatic writing is good for the world. It's good now.


Freedom for all.


A girl falls off her sled. She laughs loudly. Her parents laugh. Everybody laughs. A girl in the snow.


Your eyes are like a diamond mine. Deep and bright inside.


A wish to be a poet, if only I could be a poet. And the language to be clear. With no residue, with no residue at all. A woman holds a half-naked man in twilight concrete. He weeps. This is something that belongs to the two of them only. There’s no physics in it.


Philip Roth said no-one could ask him for prose any longer. And he gave up. No-one should give up music. To die for someone. To live for someone. Just so.


To believe that someone would come. Sooner or later. To wait for them. To be ready. To save oneself. To give oneself. Everybody should give themselves up. Just so.


Sixteen-year-olds on frozen benches. They aren't in a rush. They'd stay there. Right there.


People who send text messages in order to help sick children. Their parents. Anyone.


Mmm, mmm, mmm.


Women with no children. Women with no-one. Men who pace slowly on a Sunday afternoon. They go to their pubs. Parents die and children can't help this. To bury all parents decently.


To understand. This is important.


A thought: It could have been this way, and it could have been that way. Someone comes and becomes precious. And stays. Just so.


A woman and a man shout, not hearing each other. Terrible words: I don't know, it isn't worth. And it isn't true that they don't know and that it isn't worth.


Mmm, mmm, mmm.


To have the past for someone, the future for someone. To look forward. To let someone go. To spread your arms.


Mothers who sleep restlessly, waking up to check whether their kids are covered. Men who sleep restlessly, waking up to check whether their wives are covered.


To write and sleep on the chair. To go out of a dream in order to write. A man waits for a woman, trembling. And always so. Some things never pass, after all. Music never passes. A woman rushes and a man rushes. Then they don't rush.


Daydreaming is men's stuff. What have you been doing over the past years? Daydreaming. No-one records daydreaming, no-one interprets it.


Some wear wedding rings. Some don't. Some are afraid of thunder. Some fear for others. Some don't fear, fools.


A man imagines a woman. He should tell her. How is it done – the declaration of love? He says he'll come and cover her. He says he loves her. He repeats this. A man notices that hours have passed. People at the airport. Everybody leaves. Absolutely everybody leaves.


Men and women buy presents, children in pet shops, the dead in graves, in seas and oceans. One day the dead will rise. The dead in the streets.


A woman in the dark. She holds a phone. She hesitates. She puts the phone aside. And starts to cry.


Plans of women and men, common plans of inseparable women and men. There's no death. 


Swing it low, swing it low, swing it low, low, low, Swing it low, swing it low, swing it low, low, low.   

Srđan Srdić

is a novelist, short-story writer, editor, essayist and creative reading/writing teacher. He has published two novels, two short story collections and a book of essays. From 2008 to 2011 he served as the editor of the international short story festival Kikinda Short. He returned to this position in September 2015.