One Thousand, Nine Hundred and One Cafés of Zagreb Are Brewing

The one where I hid amongst pillars.
Where Roman statues with eyes of stone, watched me crack
the tiny packs of sugar, deliberating what it might taste like
to be human.

The one with Cuban cigars on the wall and a large clock
over the doorway, where my best friend and I sipped our first big gulps
of blackness, feeling even the lip-gloss that smeared on the cups
understood our relevance.

The one in the lobby of a four star hotel, with glass walls facing the street —
oh, the pilgrimage I took to see you there: your back in the chair, your eyes on thick
of the book, this image propelling my bones into forward; I would have swum
the Atlantic to reach you — and turns out I will…

Finally, the one whose terrace I’d frequent the August I thought life
had crumbled — yet brushed off the crumbs from soft cushion to sit in the heat
leafing through poorly bound pages I took out on loan, with a longing
as palpably certain as sweat.


Vegas, revisited


I still think of this sometimes and maybe now I’ve waited too long
to express it. But there was a hotel in Las Vegas where once
I got lost, looking for ice. Looking for ice in Las Vegas, it is no wonder
that I should get lost. I was so young and I pushed past so much. I pushed
the button of the vending machine and the ice cubes went plop
but when I turned around, it was the 26th floor and I’d lost
my way through the maze and my door had no sign, except for a number
which I could no longer remember.



These things that excite me come down to distance and awe. In a dream
that I had, Vegas revealed itself as suspended in mid-air. I couldn’t make this up
if I tried. But in my dream, it was the edge
of a cliff, a rollercoaster ride. I held my breath, screamed my lungs, joined
the fun. The zeppelin hissed and I jumped from its balloon top onto the wing
of a magnificent airplane. I never said
this did make sense. A lit up neon sign beckoned from the heavens:
“Welcome to the fabulous kingdom”



When thinking of Vegas, there is this feeling that I’m trying to mimic,
and I don’t think that it has a name, not a human one anyway,
not one made of language inherited
from the mouth sounds — already existing. But that feeling
like you cannot yet have to look down
off the top of the highest Tower. The sheer fear, the unadulterated
excitement of such Joie de vivre not even the smallest hair on your back
can stay nonchalant. Your spine itself is spinning and it’s a life-altering thing,
as unpleasant as frenziedly longed for.



The name of it means fertile plains. Such fertility in multitude
of sand. But I like to think it was named after Vega. After all, it had felt like
another planet, like I had arrived at the end — of the unambiguous world
and came to where all things were beautifully fake. The jangly music of slot machines
in the smoky air, the howling song of gondoliers in their fake canals and the splashing
from the rooftop pools — at least the sunburn had proven to be real.
In this City of Sin —

Such beautiful forgeries!

It’s been a pleasure, really —

Lying in air-conditioned rooms, feeling the silky sheets on burnt skin,
while 26 stories beneath you — a glorious carnival continues.



The Winter Solstice

The sun comes down at 4:48
and we all feel as if we are running

out of time. I shop for presents — mostly clothes, H&M
last minute discounts, consumerism echoing the chink

of the cash register. Dusk amasses, the same kind you might see
at 9.15 if this were June, and our hands were sticky

from peaches and nectarines, instead of the charcoal
marks of roasted chestnuts we are covered in

presently. None of this matters as much as the 5
o’clock moon. It is full and large and the clouds

can barely dodge it. So I grin at it
like a small fool — beaming at a large planet.

It is easier to smile at that which overwhelms you
than to look away and weep over its solemnity.

On this day of darkness, we embody both:
the grinning clowns and those

who stay up all night, waiting
for something – to shift.



The Warning

New York City, 2014


There is death in the August air.

It hasn’t been the kind of summer
where sweat ripens on skin.

Instead, the cool breeze carries
its warning. It is in everything —

Peter Pan has killed himself,
and in the Holy Land a young boy holds
a soldier’s head by sagging hair.

Last Sunday as the day outside
the stained glass windows rustled,
slowly extinguishing towards evening,
the priest inside announced:

Let us be the peace
in a world deeply troubled and divided.

And do you know; it meant something to me,
what he said —
All this sadness on the news
and he articulated it
so precisely to a prayer.

Ever since then and since the deaths,
I have wanted to sit — by the water.

Let us be the peace, the ocean
keeps reverberating.




/or What to do when New York turns to Amphibian land/


1. Look Left and Right before Entering the City

There are maps everywhere in Manhattan.
The street vendors sell them alongside the peanuts,
and at Times Square they come printed on cheap mugs,
shot glasses and coasters for the wayward tourists.
The subway platforms also, show you exactly
where the arrow of your presence resides.

This way you can never get lost, when the place is always
trying to find you.


2. Learn to Breathe Underwater

On the week of the Great Storm,
everything made out of paper dampened,
beginning to tango with wind.
The maps followed too, in becoming inverted —
so that the water slid out of the corners
like leftover liquid muck.

Ever since then there’s been something so off
but it isn’t New York’s fault.
When geography altered, no one was ready
to step over or make room for oxygen masks.

Instead, people would walk into newly formed lakes
in their work suits, holding their breath
on the subway, snorkeling
through their commute, stepping over
the overflow.


3. Zig-Zag through Brooklyn and Disappear

In the steps that I have taken to be here
I couldn’t, didn’t know how to
prepare for breathing underwater.

The storm clears but the debris
has piled on the sidewalks: the tree trunks,
the twisted branches, in neighborhoods usually
so straightforward. Like tangled, laid down whips,
they dare me to sidestep
their smooth wetness.

A young woman and her boyfriend walked out to walk
their dog — and died. A fallen wet tree and yellow tape
mark the spot. The brownstones echo:

It could have been you.


Iva Ticic

Iva Ticic

Iva Ticic is an internationally published bilingual poet who lived in Brooklyn for three years before returning to her homeland of Croatia. She received her MFA in poetry from Sarah Lawrence College, New York. Her book of poems, Alice in Greenpoint, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2015. Currently, she lives and teaches in Guangzhou, China.

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