Reading: Singidunum by Nina Stojkovic

Nina Stojkovic is a Serbian-American poet. I had the honor to welcome her in my place here in Seoul. Today I read from her 2013 poetry book ‘Three words: foreign’.

Hugging the dirt under the fortress
Two rivers marry again and again
Witnessed by our virginity and ideals

Rain cascades over crosses and chimneys
Undermining sacred tenets of our ancestors
Deflating compliant artistic notions

Cobble stone sounds off her heels
She grabs my arm firmly
Ripeness overflows forecasting a fresher dawn

Adorned in fragrance of a marketplace
Cherries and melons map out our corporal passage
She stays silent, undetached

Blinded by the imminent pleasures
Our racing hearts declare the anticipated
Forgetting that nature amends her seasons

Bells play off beat
It’s 9
It’s 10
It’s almost midnight, magic will wear off soon

Embracing the imminent past
August sings
Of a town where we left our youth

I see a young couple in the opening lines. The metaphors are dense. I see an old castle and cobble stones and how from the ripeness of old things emerges something fresh that overcomes ‘artistic compliance’. The word is water: two rivers that keep flowing together, the rain, the ripe of a fresher dawn.

As the poem continues, we learn more about the relationship. A key term is ‘undetached’: a double movement of finding to each other in a silent moment between immininent pleasure and imminent past. There is the anticipation of pleasure, the confusion about time. The night is almost over, the summer is almost over. In August, we become aware of our transition from youth into adulthood.

I wish I could offer some more analysis here, but I feel that I can’t get a firm hold of it. Perhaps I have overlooked some aspect of the poem?

Arwork by Ian Bourgeot.

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