Poems: Antonio Karlovic


I never learned to dance.
It always seemed too late.

You were so beautiful on the podium last night.
Chopin must have imagined the wavy lines of your body
while composing this waltz.

For two hundred long years
these melodies were looking for you.

And right in front of my eyes
the music and the woman united
in a slow, tender dance
which I did not know how to join.

I will never learn to dance.
Today it is too late.

Translated by Antonio Karlović


Black Hands

For the third time today
an engine is being disassembled
by my father’s black hands.

Piece by piece, screw by screw,
engine oil on shallow wounds.

Who’s going to pay the bills
if the car doesn’t start until morning?

Locked in the garage
beneath my room
you took on blackness
so that my hands
could be pale and clean.

Forgive me black hands
that you were never idealized,
that I have without a “thank you”
snatched out of you
slices of white bread
and that nothing was ever
good enough for me.

Forgive me black hands,
Tired, heavy black hands,
That I have only rarely
helped you to carry
this cross with internal combustion.

Forgive me black hands.
I write these words in shame
but also, with some joy
for I did not open my eyes
dressed in funeral garments

and that I still can
grab you gently
and with a caress tell you
I did not deserve you
I did not deserve you
I did not deserve you

Translated by Lana Bojanić



that’s poverty.

I’ve never been poorer
than when I was waiting
to hear your steps
on the stairs.

I was crouching in life’s corner
condemned to silence;
I, one nervous body,

People wait
only when there’s nothing else they can do;
and nobody ever waited
as I did last night.

And waiting,
that’s poverty

Translated by Lana Bojanić


The Summer I Shaved My Head

The hair adores when fingers
caress it, mess it up
and I did not have anyone
the summer that I shaved my head.

The sea was warm as blood.
Milky-white-skinned people
drove-in from the north.
Bloodthirsty people.

Some brave children
Were diving off
the cliffs, head first.
Some crazy children.

It’s easy for the Sun
To have so many friends
when it is silent
and unimpressed.

The fish were helping
each other to avoid hooks
and I did not have anyone
the summer that I shaved my head.

Translated by Lana Bojanić


The Gun

He is not a man,
he has a gun.

A dozen scared bodies
stepped back
‘Don’t face him,
he has a gun!’

Like a black poisonous adder
in his right arm
lays the gun.

The night is cold.
Every word he utters
carries meaning.
He has a gun.

Violence means to provoke existence.
Nothing matters anymore.
He has a gun,
and I do not.

He is not a man,
he has a gun.

Translated by Antonio Karlović

Antonio Karlović (1994, Zagreb) won first place at the 2017 International Poetry Festival in Vrbas. As part of the award his debutant poetry book titled ‘Bodies. Stairs. Poverty.’ (hrv. Tijela. Stepenice. Siromaštvo.) was published in 2018.
Lana Bojanić (1992, Zagreb) is a Croatian poet and short story writer. She is the founder of the Croatian Poetry Group 90+ and currently resides in Manchester, UK.

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