Life is everything that happens
between tomorrow and yesterday.
My grandmother with big pans of water
opening the door with her elbow
and closing it with her knee,
so the room, the bread, the hope don’t get cold.
My grandfather curled up like a baby on the bed
after a day as long as a year in barren fields
in stifling heats which freeze his blood.
My uncle carrying on his black bicycle
the small suitcase with its historical -isms
on which I draw seductive girls
to spur him on to finish his studies sooner.
One of my aunts working three shifts in the mill
grinding away the work hours
with bags under her eyes like the little coffee cups
she bought me to play with on my own,
the other aunt hurrying towards the shoe factory
with plastic bags over her boots in the Skopje winters,
measuring the bankruptcy of her body with a broken boot zipper
and the bankruptcy of her soul with her broken boot strap.
My mother at her typewriter archiving
my little poems along with the car tires,
while someone adds “doesn’t” to the slogan
written on the city underpass entrance
saying that her company Auto Tire wishes us welcome.
My father, his face stuck to the window
of the factory bus like a child in an orphanage,
curses, to hell with this life,
but even with the odd quiet moment, hell is still hell.
My sister, jaundice in the whites of her eyes,
throws up the herbal medicine the neighbour
pressed into my hands on my way back from school,
now crammed with people flooded out
by 980 cubic meters of river water per second.
I water the flowers on the balcony,
wipe the lemon and ficus tree leaves
resolutely whispering to them “One day I’m going to leave this place.”
Now their life is at zero distance
from today to today. I’m no longer its witness,
and neither is it mine.
When I hear someone’s died
I ask what happened to them.
Nothing happens to the others in my presence anymore,
in my absence everything happens to them.
And now even the most ordinary present tense for me
Is nothing but past indefinite.