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We are Exotica, We are Political Scandal

Andrea Jurjević

It’s raining bullwhips when I wake to the click of a cigarette lighter and this campy American. 

So, where’d you say you were from? he asks looking up at the unfurling petals of smoke.


The shadow of the oak outside the window is a dark river flowing into the tattoo inked across his chest. 

I've seen the Slavs, he goes on, they don't smile much. A primitive race. 

His room is crowded with Circassian artifacts, kindjals, Cossack mouton hats, airless antiquarian 

texts on semiotics and esoteric principles of rhythm. 

Days bleed like wet charcoal. Every so often he barks, Where do your people even come from? 

What's your 

urheimat? The words tumble out of his mouth like crazy cats. I spin around and say, Where I 

come from, the birds fly for the winter and men are danced to death, 

and I dive into the dark river of the oak. 

Andrea Jurjević is a Croatian poet and literary translator. She is the author of Small Crimes, winner of the 2015 Philip Levine Prize, and the chapbook Nightcall (Willow Springs Editions, 2021). Her book-length translations from Croatian include Mamasafari (Diálogos Press, 2018) and Dead Letter Office (The Word Works, 2020), which was shortlisted for the 2021 National Translation Award in Poetry.

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