Modern television murder mysteries nearly always feature a stock character, the nimble-fingered Computer Guy (because this character is almost always male). After mere seconds of clacking away at his keyboard, Computer Guy can track down addresses, hospital records, relevant CCTV footage, bank statements, and wartime photographs that link the killer to the victim.
I’m pleased to announce that Poem Elf has its own Computer Guy. I recently posted an unfinished poem by an unknown poet and asked for help in tracking both down. Reader Thomas Lee Tavis dove into the research and delivered.
Thomas discovered that “Curses” is by Serbian poet Ljubomir Simovic. Turns out I had previously posted one of Simovic’s poems. Link here for “Breakfast.”
What was left out in the version I published is the reversal of the curse in part 4.
Here is the poem in its entirety.
by Lubomir Simonic
May the wind extinguish everything for you
except the candle on your grave.
May you not run away from the ax,
or the cannon.
May you not have fish in Fishville,
a bull in Bullsville,
nor a single sheep in Sheepsville.
May you be afraid to meet your brother
without a knife.
May you move from your house to the cemetery.
May you find neither a root nor a leaf.
May you stir with a right hand
the soup made with the left hand.
May you buy a hat
and have nothing to put it on.
May your wife knead dust,
rain’s bread dough.
May your hair give you the slip,
your flesh too.
May you raise in vain your chin
above the flood.
May you breathe only as much
as your suffering requires.
May a man in armor await you
wherever you go.
May he ride into your wheat,
into your bed,
into your church.
May your kin rise against you.
All hounds on your trail!
All evils on what you hold dear!
May evil not touch you
until you raise your knife.
If in a stranger’s eye
you didn’t put the sun out.
If in the hour of the wolf
you didn’t call out like a wolf.
May sun shine for you out of the wind,
out of your brother,
and a fish in the brook,
the oak tree, the unexpected guest.
With wheat up to your waist
and clear sky spreading,
with your arm around your wife
may you watch the back
of the flood
Let’s hope 2021 brings a reversal of the multiple curses that afflict us, and finds us
With wheat up to your waist
and clear sky spreading
I asked Thomas Lee Tavis to explain why he took up the “Curses” challenge and how he found the answer.
Here’s what he said:
First thing. I enjoy your project—the poems you post and the places you put them. Several stretches of this poem appealed to me, and I was of course intrigued by the authorship mystery.
At first, I played around with searching quotes from ” Curses” on the web. Then I resorted to databases available via my local library, San Francisco Public. Alas, they no longer subscribe to Granger’s online and I can’t access the print indexes while they are closed. Searches in other databases were inconclusive.
Still curious, yet perplexed, I went back to the world wide web and started searching the poem’s more unique keywords in clusters of 3. Voila! At least as of this morning if you search “curses bullsville sheepsville” you [Poem Elf] are the author of the first 2 results, Tan Vien’s (Tin Van’s) site is third.
Now I’m curious as to who Tan Vien (Tin Van?) is. They certainly post some great poems.
‘ Hope you are enjoying a fine, fine holiday.
Peace, Thomas Lee Tavis
The website he’s referring to, Tin Van, is here, and features poems translated into Vietnamese. English versions are alongside. It’s worth poking around in—so many wonderful poems—lots of Borges, Bolanos, Szymborska, even an interview with Marianne Pearl, wife of murdered journalist Daniel Pearl (also translated into Vietnamese).
It’s an older website and there are no recent posts. Tin Van is clearly a labor of love, and like Thomas, I wish I could know more about the people/person behind it.
Thank you, Thomas! I appreciate your cleverness and doggedness so much!