Jasmina Hanjalic is my high school friend, the author of several books of poetry and short stories, and an ER doctor.
This poem is based on a true event, and it’s Jasmina’s intimate reaction to its absurdity. I had the pleasure of translating it, and I just hope I’ve caught some of its power and essence. A big thank to Kristin Muraki for her valuable inputs.
TO THE MOTHER OF THE ONLY SON
A story has been broadcast
about a mother–and the wife of a prime minister at that–
who has, proudly and with joy, seen her only son
off to the war to give his life for the homeland.
If I could talk to her, just for a half an hour,
I would ask her: Mother of the only son,
do you know what the homeland is?
If you think it’s the country you were born in, think again:
the Roman Empire, the Ottoman Empire,
the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Russian Empire…
they all perished.
Do you know, Mother of the only son,
that the country of my birth is no more,
wiped out at the whim of those in power?
I would tell her about another mother,
Nazija from Klisa, near Zvornik,
and her six dead sons,
six sunken graves in the homeland soil.
Do not offer to any army your son, to whom you gave life.
From time immemorial,
the homelands have been thirsting for the blood of our children.
Mother of the only son, I would say at the end,
my homeland is my two sons,
and all the sons of this accursed world.