THE GREAT GATES OF WAR
for Davor Sefić
We drove 2,000 miles all across Europe
in our Golden Boy, Robi’s old Kadett:
the three of us,
smoking, listening to the radio,
long arrows of light
stretched along the wet road. Miles pile behind us
and night emerges; we stop only
to change at the wheel, continuing on, breathlessly.
Drinking, smoking, listening to the radio
that’s how we meet the daylight. The sky expands
and you’re saying,
40 years, that’s just about right. I don’t need more,
that’s long enough for one life.
Shortly afterward a tank grenade near Dubrovnik
will take you up into the atmosphere; you lived 23 years
Seven years ago
we had driven relentlessly all across Europe
up to that Chetnik roadblock at Plitvice.
It was Easter
and we passed through the Great Gates of War.
In your only photograph taken in uniform
you have a curious look, as if you can see what’s coming ahead.
On the wall above you a flash of white light
coming from the Spirit—its everpresence.
Translator’s note: Historically, Chetniks were Serbian self-styled monarchist elite military units established before WWI. In WWII they sided with the fascists and fought against Tito’s partisans. In the early 1990s, they resurfaced as right-wing nationalist paramilitaries responsible for many atrocities in Croatia and Bosnia and Hercegovina.
Translated from Croatian by Damir Šodan