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.