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Poem of the Week - “An ordinary man” by Goran Simic

I am an ordinary man with ears of ordinary silk
and I speak only with a voice I’ve heard somewhere,
a voice like an echo.
I’ve given up blunders:
that leg of mine intact in the sky was
an ordinary crutch made of rosewood
and when I talk about flowers
my voice smells of earth
in which blind moles delve.

I’ve given up blunders.
I know that rifle ranges, crowded at night with sad people,
were invented only because of the law
by which they protect somebody
from my gunpowder dreams.

I admit I sometimes start to cry at night 
but so do the others.
I’ve met many people and that all resembled me.
Some hid in the bodies already used as corpses,
the others hid in corpses in which
an attentive ear can recognise a breath.
But they all had obedient eyes. And they liked dogs. 
I’ve entered maiden’s rooms filled with snow, 
I’ve sniffed empty bedclothes and imagined
black stockings removed from maiden legs
only for me.
But so did the others.

Sometimes from the window I notice breadcrumbs
in the hair of women I once loved. 
But they are now someone else’s women
and now that’s somebody else’s bread.
I am an ordinary man and it’s clear to me:
whenever I was born I’ll die young.
I die every day and I’m not afraid anymore
when in passing I notice my pale face
going by the other way.
That is why I sleep slowly.

Only sometimes
I am sad and begin to cry 
though I don’t know why.
And I feel sorry I am crying 
and sorry I don’t know why.

But so do the others.


Goran Simić was born in Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1952. A major literary figure in the former Yugoslavia, during the Bosnian War he was caught in the siege of Sarajevo. After the war he moved under the auspices of PEN to Canada, where he taught at the University of Toronto and was writer-in-exile at the Banff Centre for the Arts. Goran Simić’s books have been published in a dozen languages. He currently lives in Sarajevo.

This poem comes from New and Selected Sorrows, which is available on the Inpress website.

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