Sunday, February 14, 2010

Taken from the Notes of a Prisoner (Dragan Georgievski)


…As I started up in this world, I was a menace, a fiend of man and woman, and I became someone else. I was born, and I ceased to become that same fiend I always knew when I looked in the small pond in front of our house. The impeccable pond, in front of our house, grew each and every day for as long as I can remember. It was situated near a village, not far away from Athens where my parents, my two sisters and I resided for a long, long time.

In the beginning, I used to love looking at that wonderful reflection every day, when I started off at school. My Greek primer in hand and my dedication to the study of Homer and Horace, painted my face in that pond, the pond that kept growing as I grew.

And then, I realised, I had become someone else. One day a completely different face was looking back from that small pond and it kept smiling back at me! I could never smile like that! I was never able to do anything, except be serious about my studies and never leave home unless it was for school or the local library. I threw a stone inside that pond and it started to make so many circles, that my analytical brain started counting them one at a time, never assuming that I was counting how many times my eyes multiplied within those circles.

I had become a man, but not just any man, I dedicated myself to the study of thunder and rain and everything that caused trouble to that little pond. But, there was something else beside my dedication to this study. In fact, I had tasted something that I had never tasted before. And it wasn’t the taste that you get when you bite a beetle which has, by accident, fallen into your mouth. I felt my own blood, human blood. Then the person looking back at me in the pond was different. The smile of that person grew larger, and suddenly the pond grew larger as well. Its appetite grew in a way. But what grew in me was a calling to serve that pond. Once it even turned into a swan. He called to me, gave me instructions and disappeared. I was ready and I did what I had to do!

Now that I recall all this, so as to present you with the facts: I have become someone else. I am not allowed my freedom to visit that pond, because I am put behind a wire. I am looking at a mirror instead of a pond, watching television instead of reading Horace and listening to the news forecast instead of studying whether the weather will lighten up, so that my jail-mate will stop nagging me about my know-it-all brain!

But a very important thing hasn’t changed, though. I have remained in service to that pond. I have managed to get my cell just opposite my master’s house, and now I can finally show you my perspective! I have taken a couple of pictures to make it easier for you…Even though, it became very clear to me at first that I have become my master’s servant, the world managed to disturb that picture by saying that I was only throwing stones into a pond that made circles inside my head. But my master instructed me differently. I was able to change that picture into something else – my own image I have kept inside my head.

Dearest reader, I provide you with those same images now, and I leave your honourable mind to bring a suitable answer to the question you asked me before. We all serve different masters, enlightened one, but I chose to serve the first and the biggest one of them all! He sits on the top of everything, hides behind every corner, goes into the soul and the mind and governs....oh how, he governs...


Dragan Georgievski (b. 1983 – Skopje, Macedonia) is currently a Senior Undergraduate student of English and Czech Language and Literature at the ‘Ss Cyril and Methodius’ University in Skopje. He has translated works from English and Czech into Macedonian and Aromanian and vice-versa. His latest work was the translation of three plays by George Bernard Shaw (Androcles and the Lion, Overruled and Pygmalion) into Macedonian and is currently working on translating Macedonian literature into English.


“Taken from the Notes of a Prisoner” is copyright 2010, by Dragan Georgievski. All rights are reserved. This story may not be reprinted or reposted without permission from the author.

The images are copyright 2010, by Jennifer Semple Siegel.


Friday, February 5, 2010

People with Burnt Tongues (Ana Lakaliska)


The Skopje sky is like a silver blister, ready to splash its contents all over this city of statues. So monotonous, concrete, enveloped in a mist of exhaust fumes and the noise of heels on top of the shrill voices of street vendors. Little barefoot children, splashing in the puddles from yesterday’s downpour, chasing people, begging for spare change. Chestnuts being roasted on every corner. Massive billboards hover above our heads.

We escape into a café. We haven’t seen each other in a while. Not much is different. Mya has changed her hair back as it was three years ago. It still makes her look older. “That’s what I was going for,” she always said, when we strove to find something pleasant to remark after her unfortunate visits to the hairdresser’s. But she doesn’t really care. She never has.

I came here to write, Mya came with me to dispel the awkwardness, as if to write in public were a crime, a kinky thing to do. We pick a spot in the back, dark, understated corner; we didn’t come here to be seen, we came here to see each other, catch up.

I place a notebook in my lap, I cover it with my scarf, so that people won’t see, won’t wonder, won’t judge. We order. “An espresso for me,” I say to the waitress, while Mya is in the mood for tea.

The day has descended heavily on the city today. We walked for only fifteen minutes to get here, no more, and yet, we’re drained.

The grim day follows us through the window. The lights on the upper floor are lit, giving our surroundings the sweet mellow hue of an almost ripe peach. A soft cloud of cigarette smoke hovers, squeezing through the railing. I spot a pinch of cinnamon with the tobacco. I should have ordered something with cinnamon.

A couple is positioned in the booth across from us. They’re like ghosts; they’re made into bland shadows by the light throwing itself in from behind their backs. They sit apart, she on the sofa, he on a recliner. Two cups and a sugar shaker rest on the table between their legs.

I notice the God-awful, Macedonian pop music in the background. This used to be a classier place. Smooth jazz, world music, gigs in the evenings. Today, we’re surrounded by guys with the same haircuts, sporting the same striped sweaters and ray-bans on a day with no sun at all. Almost all the girls have their hair in a bun. That’s one trend I’ve missed out on lately, I guess.

She flips through the menu as one would do at a dentist’s waiting room. His eyes are lifted towards the flat-screen, but do not meet it. The air between the two of them seems thicker than the rest of it.

In all my eagerness to get warm, I take a sip from my coffee. I burn my tongue. I set the cup down while my face twists in a knot.

Mya cracks up. “Rash!” She smiles and dips the tea bag in her cup. I cringe and look away again.

He’s playing with a lighter. His elbows are on his knees, his head in a bow. She sits there with her hands joined on the side of her hip. They share no words.

Mya speaks about her summer vacation; about her studies; about her boyfriend’s studies. They’ve been together for ages. I listen with only one ear. She talks about the last party I missed, about a semi-known singer and her lover who is her neighbor, about another friend’s feud with one of her professors. I scribble in my notebook.

He adds some sugar to his coffee and twirls the spoon in it with a lightness of wrist often met in men whose only physical activity in the day is this circular aerobic workout. He lifts the sugar halfway towards her, not looking. Her head, as in a twitch, shakes to say no. He pulls it back softly.

Mya starts talking about the time her boyfriend and she were pulled over by a police officer for speeding and they cheated out of it by pretending she had appendicitis and he was rushing her to the hospital. She says it would have been pretty nasty if they hadn’t found a way out, since they were pretty much intoxicated and ever so slightly high, at least he was. She sees I’m amused, so she becomes even more animated in telling. Her hands are flying around. It’s not the story I’m so entertained by -- this is the fourth time I’ve heard it -- but I had never heard it from her. I laugh because I notice how the story has morphed from one gossip’s mouth to the next. Or maybe she is just spicing it up for me. She does that sometimes. Now, I’m not saying she is a liar or anything of the sort; she just likes things a little bit over the top. Like that shirt she is wearing. Too… pink. My glance strays from her once again.

The waitress places a bill on their table, joining their vow of silence and walks away, as with people she knows, people she trusts. He places two bills on top of it without looking at it. She is already in her coat and extends a step towards the door.

Mya asks how I’ve been doing these last few months. I sigh. I start speaking of meaningless things, minor endeavors, bumps on the road. Mya listens as if I’m relating the truth about the origin of the Universe. It’s always been baffling to me; I never managed to develop that keen interest in other people’s affairs. Still, I babble on.

She pushes the heavy glass door and is out of the café, while he’s still battling with one of the sleeves of his jacket. He catches up with her and his arm goes dryly around her hip, like two tree trunks fighting for territory. They walk out of sight. The crisp air from when she opened the door arrives in our corner. They’re replaced by a solitary, pale statue of a pained woman wrapped around a guitar on the promenade.

It’s one of those new, ugly ones, completely ridiculous. They haunt this city. It’s like Skopje doesn’t need its mortal citizens anymore. It has its new, sound-proof, marble and gypsum ones.


Ana Lakaliska is a student of English language and literature at the Ss. Cyril and Methodius University in Skopje, Macedonia. She has been writing from an early age and has won a number of local and national awards for her poetry. Some of her poems have appeared in collections and publications from competitions, as well as Macedonian newspapers and periodicals.


“People with Burnt Tongues” is copyright 2010, by Ana Lakaliska. All rights are reserved. This story may not be reprinted or reposted without permission from the author.

The Skopje images/artwork are copyright 2010, by Jennifer Semple Siegel and may not be reprinted or reposted without permission.



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