By Slavko Mihalić
Translated from Croatian by Dasha C. Nisula
The eye comes out of its drawer, it’s in a good mood, well rested, calming powder worked well.
It flies out the window, not quickly as insects do, not even the slowest ones, but slowly, stately, at first almost half closed.
Because, the eye is aware of its powers. It is hard for the ear, for example, to prevent piercing sounds from penetrating to its core.
Of course, a person may press palms over ear lobes, and the ear will not go to court for it. The same person may, after all, also cover the eye with a black rag. However, we are talking about free organs.
So among them the freest is precisely the eye: it can look but not see.
We follow exactly how it does this. It says to itself: look, but don’t see anything. Once assured it can still do this, it says: and now things very far and vertical. Clearly it observes a poplar tree on the horizon. Then it tries again: and now the nearest things, those that are unclear, and that flicker.
You probably know the eye can change color, lengthen and shorten the human form, indeed, see what someone else sees, look behind a wall, contemplate what does not exist.
Sometimes my eye asks me anxiously: does the eye have the right to choose, to look only at the particular, each small grain itself, perhaps only a piece of one, or is it its duty to combine all into the whole?
The same questions also torment me: the whole confused world or only the particulars.
Duty and enjoyment. I side with my eye: for a small seed of dust. For imagination which supplements.
The eye returns to its tower, into its delicate drawer.
What is important everything is still in its place.
Oko izlazi iz svojeg pretinca, dobre je volje, dosta se naspavalo, prašak za smirenje izvrsno je radio.
Izlijeće kroz prozor, ne hitro kao što to čine kukci, čak i oni najsporiji, nego polako, otmjeno, najprije skoro žmireći.
Jer, oko je svjesno svojih moći. Uho, na primjer, teško može spriječiti da mu nasilni zvukovi prodru u srž.
Naravno, čovjek može pritisnuti dlanove na ušne školjke, ali uho za to neće na sud. Može taj isti čovjek, uostalom, i oko
prekriti crnom krpom. Mi međutim ovdje govorimo o slobodnim organima.
E pa među njima je upravo oko najslobodnije: ono može gledati a da ne vidi.
Upravo pratimo kako to ono čini. Kaže samome sebi: gledaj, ali nemoj ništa vidjeti. Kad se uvjerilo da to još uvijek može, ono kaže: a sada stvari vrlo daleke i okomite. Jasno uočava jablan na obzorju. Onda pokušava iznova: a sada stvari najbliže, i da su nejasne, i da trepere.
Valjda znate da oko može mijenjati boje, produžavati i skraćivati ljudske spodobe, dapače, vidjeti što netko drugi vidi, gledati iza zida, motriti ono što ne postoji.
Ponekad me moje oko zabrinuto pita: ima li oko pravo birati, da gleda samo potankost, svako zrnce za sebe, možda djelić jednog jedinog, ili mu je dužnost da povezuje u cjelinu?
Ista pitanja muče i mene: čitav taj zbrkani svijet ili samo podrobnost?
Dužnost i užitak. Opredjeljujem se kao i moje oko: za djelić zrnca prašine. Za maštu koja dopunjuje.
Vraća se oko u svoju kulu, u svoj nježni pretinac.
Glavno da je još uvijek sve na mjestu.
Slavko Mihalić – 1928-2007
One of the giants in Croatian literature of the second half of the Twentieth century, Slavko Mihalić was born in 1928 in Karlovac, Croatia, where he finished high school. He then moved to Zagreb where he worked for a newspaper and published his first book of poetry, Komorna muzika ( Chamber Music ) in 1954. During the course of his life, he worked as an anthologist, publisher, editor, critic, writer for children, authored over twenty books of poetry, and established several literary journals and the literary review Most ( Bridge ), which brought Croatian literature to international readers. In this endeavor he attracted translators and himself translated from several Slavic languages, as well as from the Italian, English, and German. His main goal has always been to promote literature. Translated into major world languages, Slavko Mihalić is a recipient of numerous literary awards, among them Tin Ujević, City of Zagreb, Matica Hrvatska, Miroslav Krleža, Goranov Vjenac, Vladimir Nazor and others.
Dasha C. Nisula completed her Ph.D. degree in Comparative Literature at the University of Southern California. She began teaching at USC, then at Baylor University, and at Western Michigan University, where she obtained full Professorship with a Distinguished Teaching Award. For most of her career she has been teaching Russian and Croatian languages, literature, and culture, as well as translating poetry and short stories from these languages. She is author of four books, numerous articles, reviews, and translations which have appeared in An Anthology of South Slavic Literatures , and in literary journals as Modern Poetry in Translation , Southwestern Review , International Poetry Review , and Colorado Review among others. A member of the American Literary Translators Association, she lives and works in Kalamazoo, Michigan.