Home > children's literature, Music, Poetry > The End of 2011 – Jambalaya in My Head

The End of 2011 – Jambalaya in My Head

This morning, once again, my son told me, in a very serious voice, that he had a bear sleeping in his bellybutton. A few days ago, he had a bear sleeping in his belly. A week before that he had a fly in his ear. When I asked what the fly was doing in his ear, he just repeated,  A fly in my ear, a fly in my ear, like there was no reason to ask any questions, For God’s sake, woman, can’t you understand, a fly is in my ear, isn’t that enough information? (OK, this was my interpretation of his refusal to offer more information). But when I asked if the fly was maybe dancing in his ear, he said, The fly is dancing, the fly is dancing (he loves to repeat things) and based on his intonation, it sounded like he allowed the possibility of the fly dancing in his ear, although he wasn’t totally convinced the fly was really dancing in his ear. But what he said was enough of an answer to my question.

The library that my son, my husband, and I currently share includes, among other characters, one charming little llama (from Llama Llama Misses Mama)  on the first day of school (when on a Saturday or Sunday morning my husband gets up with Andrei to allow me some extra sleep time, Andrei always at some point runs to the bed where I am sleeping and screams, Wakey, wakey, Sleepy Head, the exact same words Mama Llama from the book uses to wake up little Llama Llama ). In our world, Duck also rides a bike (Duck on a Bike), and the Bear sings Do-Be-Do-Be-Doo in Bear’s Day Out,  a book about a bear who leaves his beautiful home in a cave by the sea to visit a noisy city for a day. And then we have Papa, Please get the Moon for Me,  my son’s current favorite, where Papa gets a long ladder that he puts on top of a very big mountain to get a moon for his daughter Monica. Norman in Not Norman: A Goldfish Story learns how to love his pet goldfish that is so boring compared to other fun and exotic pets, such as dogs, turtles and the rest. And then there is Welcome to My Neighborhood!, this lovely nostalgic book about a city neighborhood, a neighborhood of broken bottles, abandoned cars and fire hydrants rains that I feel is almost a poem in prose.

And then we have the classics that we read in Serbian (my mother’s presents to Andrei), the good old Brothers Grimm, Snow-white, Hansel and Gretel, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, etc. And then the fables such as The Ant and the Grasshopper and The Fox and the Crow. Yes, some of them include mentions of violent acts (such as cutting someone’s belly open), but nothing explicit, and I feel the stories themselves are strong enough to be able to carry the mentions of violence gracefully.

My husband and my evenings are currently full of Roman Polanski just because in some random moment weeks ago I accessed our Netflix account (I still feel guilty for abandoning our lovely local video store) and selected everything I could find directed by or related to Roman Polanski. The other night we watched a documentary about Polanski’s life, Wanted and Desired, and I still keep thinking about a human surviving a ghetto, the death of both parents while still a child, the brutal murder of his wife and unborn child, and still living to experience a legal-system- /tabloid-circus related to his alleged rape of a 13-year-old girl. The magnitude of one’s suffering and the indestructibility and resilience of human spirit and creativity.

I am currently working on three stories where the images range from necklaces (sixty-three, around a woman’s neck), lives driven by dreams that include pigs and women, and the long, very long and very black, hair of a Gypsy woman.

Then, Christmas, shopping, mania. Not necessarily in our house, but around us, which is enough for me to feel overwhelmed by it. And our efforts to get that tree that we’d like to have (although we don’t like to  call it a Christmas tree). And my efforts to find the few tree decorations that I put in some box that I can’t find. And flashy neighborhood decorations that I see everywhere. The Christmas cards I don’t send any more. And good things: Get-togethers with friends and family. Seeing people we haven’t seen for a while. My new adventures with phyllo dough in an effort to recreate the pies of my childhood.

The Serbian poem I can’t get out of my head. Ne daj se Ines. Maybe because it’s winter. Here is the translation I found on the Internet, not too good and not bad.

Don’t Give Up Ines

Don’t give up Ines
Don’t give in to years my Ines
to different moves and habits
Because your room is still warm
Cosy setup and rarities
You had better taste than me
Your room splendor
Your landlady in the hospital
You were always distinctive
by the colour of your letters, by the gifts
She walked me, the next morning around nine, to the station
And a green bus chased by autumn wind is going down
Like a leaf down a Belgrade slope
Wearing my evening suit I am surrounded by looks

Don’t give up my youth, don’t give up Ines
our acquaintance has been prepared for a long time
and then accidentally with hot rakija
and with just a few lines, a wish badly hidden
Your way is ladylike and your cheeks rustic
My bumpkin and my gentlewoman
Then your breasts, bed
And my room hanging in the air like orange
Like an orange lamp under green and blue water of Zagreb
in Proleterskih brigada 39. beside Grković
Wet street further from the window and evening trolleys buzzing
Beautiful moments of nostalgia, love and poverty
Using communal bathroom
and “Please if someone looks for me”
Do not give up Ines

Here I am getting up only to turn the record over
Is that rude at a moment like this
Mozart Requiem Agnus Dei
I still prefer the beginning
I have access to another one million of hers
and naughty data from our youth
That, right there in front of our eyes, deceives us, and robs us, and leaves us
Don’t give up Ines

Tear up the invitation, cancel the dinner, cheat on your husband
on your way for a hairdo in some better hotel
Touch me under the table with your knee
My generation, lover

I know that there will still be youths
But not another one like this one – on average 1938
I won’t have anyone to stay young with if all of you get old
And that youth will be difficult for me
But in the end you must be right
Because I am on this shore
that you’ve left and surrendered half-heartedly
And the rain is starting again
the way it rains in November in the islands
Lead sea and pine sky
Distant voices mixing
Voice of friend’s mother, daughter, lover, boat, brother
rapidly picked up clothes before the rain
And the light disappeared with the whiteness
A bit more of walking by the sea and that’s it

Do not give up Ines

(Ne daj se Ines
Ne daj se godinama moja Ines
Drukčijim pokretima i navikama
Jer još ti je soba topla
Prijatan raspored i rijetki predmeti
Imala si više ukusa od mene
Tvoja soba divota
Gazdarica ti je u bolnici
Uvijek si se razlikovala
Po boji papira svojih pisama, po poklonima
Pratila me sljedećeg jutra oko devet do stanice
I ruši se zeleni autobus tjeran jesenjim vjetrom
Kao list niz jednu beogradsku padinu
u večernjem sam odijelu i opkoljen pogledima

Ne daj se mladosti moja, ne daj se Ines
dugo je pripremano naše poznanstvo
I onda slučajno uz vruću rakiju
I sa svega nekoliko rečenica, loše prikrivena želja
Tvoj je način gospođe i obrazi seljanke
Prostakušo i plemkinjo moja
Pa tvoje grudi, krevet
I moja soba obješena u zraku kao naranča
Kao narančasta svjetiljka nad zelenom i modrom vodom Zagreba
Proleterskih brigada 39. kod Grković
Pokisla ulica od prozora dalje i šum predvečernjih tramvaja
Lijepi trenuci nostalgije, ljubavi i siromaštva
Upotreba zajedničke kupaonice
I “Molim Vas ako me tko traži”
Ne daj se Ines

Evo me ustajem tek da okrenem ploču
Da li je to nepristojno u ovakvom času
Mozart Requiem Agnus Dei
Meni je ipak najdraži početak
Raspolažem s jos milion njeznih
I bezobraznih podataka naše mladosti
Koja nas pred vlastitim očima vara, i krade, i napušta
Ne daj se Ines

Poderi pozivnicu, otkaži večeru, prevari muža
Odlazeći da se počesljaš u nekom boljem hotelu
Dodirni me ispod stola koljenom
Generacijo moja, ljubavnice

Znam da će jos biti mladosti,
Ali ne više ovakve – u prosjeku 1938
Ja neću imati s kim ostati mlad ako svi ostarite
I ta će mi mladost teško pasti
A bit će ipak da ste vi u pravu
Jer sam sam na ovoj obali
Koju ste napustili i predali bezvoljno
A ponovo počinje kiša,
Kao sto već kiši u listopadu na otocima
More od olova i nebo od borova
Udaljeni glasovi koji se miješaju
Glas majke prijatelja, kćeri, ljubavnice, broda, brata
Na brzinu pokupljeno rublje pred kišu
I nestalo je svjetla s tom bjelinom
Još malo šetnje uz more i gotovo)

And at the end of this year (my fourteenth in the US), we are listening to a lot of Goran Bregovic, maybe too much, but both my husband and my son love him. Andrei is starting to sing, and he is in love with the drums, flute recorder, and the piano. And I love all the music that is around us on these winter days, when it’s cold and we go out less. Andrei and I keep singing as we are dressing, de-cluttering, playing, marching through the house, and we dance a few steps every now and then, especially when we hear Daddy knock on the door around 5pm. We are happy, happy, happy to see him! And to the sounds of flute recorders and horns, we all step into another winter night.

  1. Carole Lindes
    December 14, 2011 at 12:44 pm

    Thank you…You write so well that I could feel the love and beauty as you write about everyday things…More please..

    • December 14, 2011 at 8:59 pm

      Thanks for taking the journey with me!

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