Great and Small
by Milan Djordjevic
for Anne-Lise Gautier
The poet Bashō teaches that the famous feats
of blood-soaked military leaders come to nothing
while the leap of a frog may last for centuries.
Black clouds and rain arrive from the Atlantic.
The sun was out, but now over Saint-Nazaire
The grains of ice fall out of the sky like black rice.
Poets are creatures often lacking in substance,
men who say stupid and untrue things,
madmen and blabbermouths who imagine what they will.
And yet, and yet, they whisper about miracles,
rant about what others don’t even suspect,
so their words glow in the dark like phosphorus.
The Japanese poet Bashō teaches me
that what is close may be terrifyingly distant and that a journey
to a far off place brings one closer to oneself.
Over the Atlantic, the sky has darkened,
hail fell just a moment ago, and now the city glistens
in the sunshine and under the clear sky.
From Oranges and Snow: Selected Poems of Milan Djordjevic, translated (from Serbian) and introduced by Charles Simic. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey, 2010, page 17.