Marija Dejanović


You know, I belong here now,
says my mother, looking at one half of her garden
that is full of eggplants she raised,
like children, on a small square of land she bought herself,
with her hard-earned money,
in the soil that she made fruitful
with her own aching back,
up-and-down, left and right. On the other half,
there is still some soil to be dug,

and it seems as if, with every move of the hoe,
she’s increasing the distance between the village she grew up in,
and where we are standing now,
as if each new hole were a step forwards. In each hole,
she plants the memory of a familiar face
buried half a life ago.

You know,
we don’t belong there.
It doesn’t exist anymore.
You never even lived there, anyway, you only went to visit,
and I have been here longer than I’ve been in – –
and then she stops before she says
that I was born during the Prijedor ethnic cleansing,
and that there was nothing clean about

the moment when I emerged hanging with my umbilical cord
wrapped around my neck,
surprisingly still alive –
while soldiers and civilians were dying around us

her umbilical cord,
and that I was conceived on the flower meadow,
but born in non-sterile, smelly bed,
and that admitting a pregnant woman into this hospital
wasn’t a service,
but a crime against humanity.

She raises her elbow slowly. She swipes the sweat
from her forehead with the back of her palm and
stops digging.

Then we silently enter the car. She’s driving.
We see the border police. She’s not afraid this time.

Just like the last time I saw her,
grandma is wearing a shabby gray dress
and a wide smile.
She is standing in front of her yard.
She made us a potato pie.

We brought a home-raised eggplant
and a granddaughter.

Even though she’s too old to remember almost anything,
grandma still remembers my mother well.

My dear daughter, you haven’t changed
– she looks at us with kindness,

and then reaches to caress my cheek.