Silyan the Stork...


"Siljan the Stork Flies Over Macedonia Once Again"



The storks have
White feathers and black wings.
They also have long legs,
Like the prettiest maidens.
They always return
To their old nest
And on a house with a stork nest on its roof
A magic spell can never be cast.
They come to our parts in spring
And bring to us joy and new hopes.
Each of us has at least once believed
That it’s the storks that bring the babies.
Say, have you ever asked yourselves:
How can one turn into a stork?
I know that you know
That many philosophers are cowherds
And many cowherds have become philosophers,
But still, do you know
- How one can turn into a stork?
There are all kinds of wiles:
To dust something with powder from a stork’s egg,
Or grind stork’s egg-shells
In Kriva Vodenitsa
And play knucklebones for a while.
There’s a whole dozen of answers.
If you don’t believe it, then ask
Grandpa Marko Tsepenkov:
“Seek - and you’ll find,
Knock - and the door will open,
Demand - and you’ll be given,”
He had said once.
Don’t ever forget one thing:
We are descendants of Silyan the Stork
And as long as we have feathers, we are storks.
By Jove, that’s the way it will be!
This century is as nice as its vice.
For the stork knows the good storks
From the bad even while they are still small
And, standing on one leg, lonely
Keep click-clacking thankfully:
"May God forgive Grandpa Marko
For having written these things down
And saved them from our ancestors’ times
To ours.”


Someone has said:
Dreams don’t always come true
And you cannot escape your fate
So I, poor me, hadn’t the luck
To become a pilgrim
(Silyan Bozhinoski the Pilgrim, from Konyari -
So eager to brag around!)
But to become a stork
And fly over seas and lakes
And click, and clack
And eat snakes, lizards and locusts
Until my ears turn deaf from this constant blabbering:
“Stork, stork, you long-legged quack
You know nothing except to click and clack!”.

And it’s not a bit easy
To write down
With a stork’s feather
My real adventures
And travels.
And what I hear
From my son Velko:
Better a stork’s feather
Than a hose full of water!
Is no comfort at all
And even if it is
It is as small,
As the nail of the little finger.
Hard times have come, my friend!
It was long ago that they used to say:
Better a grave
Than to be a slave!
They used to say
Other things too
And if I happen to recall any
I will tell them to you at once.
That is if you haven’t had enough
And if you have nothing else to do
But listen to this click-clacking
And read about the daily happenings
Of an ordinary storked stork.

Well, may God give us health
And today, or tomorrow
My story will come to its end
As every river finds its mouth.
Surely, since you are learned people,
You probably already know
That my stork’s memoirs
Are nothing but the truth
- From A to Z
And the other way round.
Perhaps it seems to you to be a lie
But to me, it is God’s truth.
For not only have I been told all this
A long time ago
But I’ve also seen it with my very own eyes.
For in times of old, kids,
Our old people did not lie
As today both old
And young do.
Those times were different,
When God and the saints used to tread upon the earth
Whereas in these times
It’s rather the devil does that.

Once upon a time, before the era of the Stork,
There was no click-clacking
But only chirping
Twittering and other like sounds:
Thus, Tweety and Chirpy
Brother and sister true-born by their mother
And cursed by their father
Were turned into a white bird and a black
And used to chirrup all day long:
Chirp-chirp, tweet-tweet!
They knew nothing else
But this semiliterate chirping.
Tweety: tweet, tweet, tweet!
Chirpy: chirp, chirp, chirp!
They were heard from far away,
Thus far, you see!
So Tweety and Chirpy were chirping
Preening in the scorching heat
And years were passing by like water under the bridge.



Well, it was different
In the era of the Stork
Although, to tell the truth
We didn’t even know when and how it began
(There was no television then
To tell us we had stepped
Into the happy future).
What can I say,
There were a whole lot of enchanted people
And a whole lot of dreams were dreamt then:
Both halt and lame, both blind and bald,
Both storks and non-storks
- All to the last man took part
In the Olympiad of dreaming
And to this day it is not clear
If there was a reality at all
Just as it is not clear whether today
Anyone dreams at all.

Freud and Jung, and the other
Interpreters of dreams
Suffered from chronic migraine
They were, as it’s said, rather potty
And in the Prilep taverns
Drained wells of coffee without sugar
And unmeasured barrels of brine
But to no use: the whole thing
Came to nothing,
No beginning and no end,
No head and no tail.
They took off their lacquered shoes in vain
And greeted in Turkish manner
The Imam of Bitola.
He too knew nothing of dreams and reality
But knew that one shouldn’t poke around too much
In Christian dreams
For a single dream
Could stir up two uprisings!

Either in dreams, or in reality
As if in a photograph,
As the rainbow appears
When a bear is getting married,
Elim appears
“Famous for its wealth,
Its silver and its gold.
An there is a temple in it
Which is very rich.”
And in this temple, there are “things of gold
Armour and weapons,
Left by Alexander
The son of Philip, the Macedonian emperor,
Who first ruled over Egypt”.

Odysseus and Paris stop their game of chess
And sit down to finish the reading of Moses’ writing
They spread out a dozen maps
To find an easier way
To reach the Golden Fleece
They may either find it, or may not.

And I, a stork unfinished,
Have learned history from mistakes
And geography from pain.
All that I saw with my own eyes,
Arose from pain
Was wrapped in pain
And covered by pain:
Banitsa, Bansko, Beaz Kule,
Bistritsa, Bregalnitsa, Brezovo,
Belchishta, Vatasha, Vodocha,
Galichnik, Gramos, Dabnitsa,
Dede Agaç, Gyavato, Edi Kule,
Edirne, El Tepe, Zagorichani,
Kadino Selo, Karadak, Karaorman,
Klenoets, Klisura, Kukush,
Kumanovo, Kresna, Krushevo,
Leshok, Lopushnik, Mariovo,
Ohrid, Pelister, Pirin,
Prespa, Prilep, Razlog,
Rozhen, Salonica, Fushtani,
And even Vienna, Milan and Moscow,
Odessa, Saint Petersburg, Sofia, Istanbul,
And so on, and so on, and so on.
Which is the last map
In the Macedonian atlas of pain
And which is the last letter
In our script of rage?

Burdened by such questions
I was not astonished when I saw
Blood and tar in front of the gates of Elim
Just like in the ancient tragedies
Just like in the zone of the gods:
Herds, mills, weddings, funerals
Hunts, murders, raped women.
And I saw a foal, as white as snow,
Constantly weeping and weeping
As the mother weeps and mourns
And at night gazes at the sky
And looks for
The Sun.
Later I found that its name was Buchefalus.



There was nothing left for me to do
So I, Silyan, fondled and spoiled,
Flew over the White Sea and the Black
And came back to Prilep again
For it was nice in my old town
To go to the open market
Eat hot loaves and halvah
And relish sweet Turkish delight.
Lucky are the Prilep folks
To have such a market -
Packed with all kinds of fruit and vegetables,
And other things:
Tomatoes, green and red peppers, potatoes,
Beans, lentils, rice,
Apples, peas, plums, medlars,
Water-melons, melons, figs,
Oranges, mandarins, lemons
And certainly,
Bananas imported from Ecuador.
And on top of all this: walnuts, almonds, hazel-nuts, peanuts,
Hard cheese from Mariovo, curds, and cheddar too,
Bukovets red pepper, spices, oregano, tea,
Mushrooms, handfuls of sweet basil and camomile.
May God preserve and bless all this abundance -
You’d wear out your shoes even if they were iron
While you pass by and see all the stands
And walk home with bags full of foodstuff!
Half of Turkey, and all of Bulgaria
All the neighbouring smugglers
Had spread their goods on the Prilep stalls:
Drawers and panties, with or without lace,
Brassieres and tights,
T-shirts, jeans, Bermuda shorts,
Soaps, lavender, washing powder,
Shampoos, tooth-pastes and shaving creams,
Blades and electric razors,
Batteries of all voltages, bulbs,
Pincers, screwdrivers, bolts,
Drills, files, chain-saws,
TV dishes, tape-recorders, dictaphones,
Video and audio cassettes, computer diskettes,
You can list these until tomorrow morning,
But you’ll scarcely manage to name half of them!

Prince Marko was greatly astonished, too
At the sight of the market.
Dressed in original Levi blue jeans,
He was explaining something
(in English with a Prilep accent)
To the lady from America, a Protestant,
Like that Miss Stone from the biography
Of Yane Sandanski and Mandana,
Who had come on a goodwill mission.
Many such missions were carried out
In Macedonia before the start
Of the Third Balkan War.
If you have nothing else to do
Then try hard and explain
That our history is not short of wars
And our life - of graves.
But something else was troubling Prince Marko’s mind:
Ecstasy and dizziness had come upon him
And it wasn’t the first time he flew to the seventh heaven
And fell head over heels in love with the American
Who turned his head with her big boobs
And maybe even more with her stories about cosmonauts
And flying to the Moon.
So Prince Marko did not know
Which he wanted more: to knock up the American
Or, instead of his fur hat, stick a space helmet on his head
And become the first Macedonian cosmonaut.
The sun burned my skin
While I was staring at the market stalls
Especially at Prince Marko and the American girl
(A market-stare is a market-stare, your eyes are full but your hands - empty)
And swarms of flies landed
On the heaps of dung
(It’s not in vain they say
And Prilep-on-Shit)
So I told myself, Silyan, go away
Leave alone Prince Marko
And the American peddlar girl
(They probably don’t know the song:
Those who love each other, do not stay together)
And leave alone the man who has pinned
Decorations on his chest
And yearns for the May Day parades.
If you can’t butt into other people’s business,
And can’t have a finger in every pie,
Then at least at the Brsyaks’ café, you can
Eat sweetmeats and Bosphorus halvah.
And Bozhin, my father, from Konyari
Had better not show off
With curses and other threats
Sent to my address!
Who does he think he is to preach to me and scold me!
I’d rather cut off my nose to spite his face!



Amusement for the urban population!
Many tradesmen, revolutionaries,
Palmists, tumblers, jugglers,
Magicians, clowns and other rascals
Were staying at the inn near the Prilep promenade
Called “Linden” in honour of the first lime tree
Planted in the town:
They drank cold beer,
And had fun on their own.
The town theatre was, as usual,
In a phase of renovation,
And this was where the field
For cultural competition
Of the tobacco producers and other Prilep folks
Had been moved to as well.
First of all, there was music
- Fiddles and timbrels, a whole bunch
And they played one moment merrily, the next - plaintively,
There was a little for everyone.
And even when they didn’t play, the people still sang:
I will die for your red tie,
Hey, Macedonia, pearl of the Balkans!
You may not believe it
But this was true:
Marko Tsepenkov didn’t know the new songs
And in the breaks, was first to run to the jukebox
And play his songs:
Sick he lies in bed, Georgie the Wicked,
Or Kolyo was a poor man
And then, sip from his hip flask
Which he had brought with him from home,
And after this, he used to go out
Under the biggest lime tree -
To catch some fresh air
So that some fledgling
Wouldn’t see his tears behind the thick glasses.
As it is said: do all that you can,
To keep the dog away from the butchers’ -
For although it’s a dog, without too much brains,
It won’t drop the bone
Let alone me, who have brains and a sound mind
And won’t give up the good life in Prilep
And go back to Konyari.
No can do!
Otherwise, how would I have seen Chernodrinski
Not in the pictures, but in the flesh,
As I see you now, from only two metres away
Or felt his concern and consolation,
Or sworn at Osman
When he stole Tsveta away?
Thanks to the One who’s in heaven
And a little bit to the One who is down here
(In our parts Upper can’t exist without Lower,
That’s why we have Upper and Lower Dupeni
Upper and Lower Vranovtsi
And uptown and downtown in every city and town)
So that I stayed under the lime trees,
To run and jump,
Jump and play
To turn into a Prilep coxcomb,
Cheat doctors and sorcerers,
Thrum all day on the timbrel,
Wear bright new clothes,
Eat mixed candies
And drink cold beer!
And when you eat, and when you drink
You will surely get drunk
And you’ll forget everything -
What is yours, and what is not.
This is what we’ve always been like
When we used to sing From the Vardar to Berlin,
And now, when we are painted with different colours
Poor us!
The old song can be sung in a new voice
But you don’t know if it’s a song or a lament:
The cuckoo sits on a beech tree
The nightingale sings that Silyan should live!
You don’t say so!
There in the corner Georgie Sugarev
Rolls a cigarette
And feigns following the play in the inn
Constantly wondering:
Is the traitor
Of my traitor
My traitor as well?
There were seven against Thebes -
Georgie Sugarev recalls -
How many were those who aimed
And still aim at Macedonia?
The next morning Georgie Sugarev
Passed by the Cairn of the Undefeated
Right when the school-bus
Full of pupils stopped -
Eteocles and Polinices
Dressed in uniform clothes
Were first to get off the bus.



The Priest who had been to Christ’s grave
And had come to beg for alms
In the Prilep vilayet and others
Climbed on the chair
And stammered about his nightmare
And his passions.
He put the trivet on the table upside-down,
He put the cauldron bottom up,
He turned over the lid,
He put the sieve to sift the flour the wrong way up as well.
His magic didn’t work as it was meant to
But the Priest from Christ’s grave was persistent:
“Those of you who have ears to hear, hear -
Woe unto you, you lawgivers,
For burdening the people
With heavy burdens to bear,
While you yourselves don’t want
To lift even a finger.”
The Priest singled me out, looked me straight in the eye
And went on amazingly,
Scoldingly but sweetly:
“Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil;
Neither shalt thou speak in a cause to decline
After many
To wrest judgement”.
After this he said something about some
Floods of disorder,
Clouds of cruelty,
And chains of hell,
And I also heard
That the dog always returns to its puke.
When his nose started dripping
Doubt appeared amidst the Prilep tradesfolk
Who were sitting in the inn, smoking tobacco
And listened to the Priest’s stories.
This was either a Priest,
Or a young gentleman, a braggart from Salonica!
You’d better keep your wailings to yourself! -
Grumbled the tinker.
But the Priest was skilled
In holding meetings and speeches
And didn’t give a damn about this grumbling and mumbling.
The knaves from our ranks
Could not embarrass him so easily.
He sniffed a little,
And wiped his nose a little:
May God help all those
Who are last to understand and first to forget, he said
And I am telling you that
“A kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation;
And every city or house divided
Against itself, shall not stand”
Keep your wits about you and follow the Teacher
Who once said that our language is
The Kingdom, our motherland
Which unites us all
“The tongue is a little flame
But kindles a great fire”
I’m sick and tired of mudslingers and slanderers
It’s not brother against brother, but brother for brother! -
The Priest rebuked
(I said to myself: it’s well said
“Don’t muzzle the ox when it’s threshing”)
However, he calmed down immediately
And said that God had brought him here,
For “it had pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia
To make a certain contribution
For the poor saints which are at Jerusalem”.
You should know this - and you surely do, -
The Priest said, and knowing it,
Should act upon it.
An eagle brought a message
About the Priest’s tales
To Prince Marko
Who was showing Prilep to the American in a mini-skirt
From the terrace of the monastery of Treskavets.



Luckily the Priest from Christ’s grave
Was in our vilayet for the first time
And in Macedonia too
And somehow I made him
Take me as his guide.
Although I hadn’t taken
A course for tourist guides
I did this job perfectly
For I was very fond
Of strolling and roaming
And I would have done anything
Just to be as far as one can be from my Konyari.
I will be a loyal friend to you,
I said to the Priest,
I only wish for sunshine and no cold,
And protected by God we will go
To beg for alms together
Throughout the Prilep vilayet and others.
And, God save us from spells,
I can help you
When you’re in need.
Let us now collect our new clothes and the old
And put on new shoes.
Let us take a flask for each of us
To carry water
Or maybe even wine
And set off on foot
And let anyone dare to stop us on the road
If they are not afraid.

At the very time
There was a pipers’ contest in Dolneni
And a big fair.
Pipes were shrieking, fifes and drums were blaring
little drums, kettledrums, snare drums,
Turkish drums, shepherd’s flutes and tambourines.
Small meatballs were grilled
And they were selling plastic sausages
They called hot dogs on the stalls
Imported pop-corn and overbaked potatoes
Called crisps
Pumpkin seeds, peanuts, sesame sticks
Ray-Ban glasses were on sale too
And a whole lot of toys
And other rattles and gadgets.
You watch pictures, you grow fast -
An old man cried
And for a dime, let the children
Peep through a hole at something:
Look, this is Rome, where the Pope
Makes speeches every Sunday,
And this is Leningrad, oh I apologize,
Saint Petersburg,
And this is Moscow, with no apology,
And this is Paris, the Eiffel Tower!
Kali... Kaleidoscope... or something like that
The thing was called, I’ll get my tongue around it
In the end.
I only know it had a bit of Skopje in its name:
It probably came from there.

The Priest, as God had made him
Fond of talks and speeches,
Climbed on to the platform
And yelled like a rustic town-crier:
Brothers and sisters, bla, bla, bla -
As only he could do.
However, he started to beat about the bush
Just enough to get everybody bored
And they all began to yell: boo, boo,
No more speeches, we want pipes
No more politics, we want songs and dance!
I thought I would sink through the floor,
And as I explained to these rascals
That the man was a Priest and as such
Had nothing to do with politics,
We were deep in trouble.
You could try to explain three days and nights
Nobody believes anybody here
That they don’t care about politics -
It would sound as if
They don’t care about life or religion.
Such is the fate that has befallen my people.
Mercy, people, for God’s sake - I’d hardly got it out
When a ripe apple-shaped tomato flew
Towards the Priest and hit him
Where it shouldn’t have, at the male spot
And he, with nothing else to do, astonished,
Did a bunk, head over heels
Right to the other end of the village
(Those who have been to Dolneni
Know how far that is).
As has been said, every dark cloud has a silver lining
For the Priest wouldn’t have thought of the wise saying
That he has repeated ever since:
“You should listen to the drum from afar,
For thus it sounds much better.”

Under the hill, where we took some rest,
A real whore reached us,
So revolting you’d avoid her like the plague.
She had tons of makeup on her eyes
And birds’ nests in her unkempt hair.
She said she knew many tricks
And could heal the Priest’s tool
So that it could be hard as a corncob,
Like a keystone of a monastery arch.
The Priest went nuts, was astounded and dumbfounded
But I knew what was to be done -
Shoo, you plucked hen, you scabby frog!
For I have called the shots
Of many whores before!

After this scandal was somehow over,
We opened our flasks,
Swilled out our mouths
And left.
Behind the hill was another world
No pipes, no kettledrums, no whores
And everything was as lifeless
As high noon in the Westerns.
(If we leave out the wandering Gypsies
And their bears with rings in their noses
That are all, bar none, called Bozhana
And those two people
Who’d strayed into the swamps
To hunt for wild ducks
For who we learned afterwards in other villages
Were Don Quixote and Sancho Panza
And for years they’d been spending their summers
Here, hunting for wild duck
And, in passing, measuring the speed
Of the Pelagonian winds.
Had we known all this, we’d’ve taken a picture
Of ourselves together with them
To have it as a keepsake afterwards
And show it to our future generations.)
Thus, we crossed many dry streams and rivers,
Worn-out, weedy fields,
With barley slashed to the ground,
Dried-up mushrooms without rain,
Blown-away dandelions,
Barren brambles, raspberries and wild strawberries,
Rose hips - not boiled but dried,
And crushed onion leaves.
We fended off beetles, wasps and gnats,
Owls, magpies and blackbirds,
Vipers, snakes and lizards.
We saw scruffy bushes,
Desecrated scarecrows,
We heard muffled cowbells.
Great fear and the runs
Had befallen the people
Who on their battery tape-recorders
Played only rain songs
And couldn’t find out
Who in the hell had sent them
The drought as a guest
And who’d be brave enough
To chase the drought away
From benighted Macedonia.



As has been noted already,
“The Macedonians, despite
Their terrible poverty,
Showed great good-heartedness”
And gave willingly even more than they could
So I and the Priest did not go on our pilgrimage
With empty hands.
I begged the Priest so much
To give a hoot, do a good deed
And take me with him to Christ’s grave
And then - may God be willing!
It was hard to win him over
But, finally, we found ourselves
In the port of Salonica
Waiting for a vessel to Jerusalem
And it’s not in vain they say Salonica towers.
What houses, beautiful palaces
They swept me off my feet!
High buildings,
All higher than the Prilep tobacco factory!
Miraculous gardens with rose-beds
And other most beautiful blooms
As if an angel sits at my shoulder
And I gaze and gaze to see
How far the White Sea stretches!
Somewhat out of fear before we boarded the ship
And somewhat out of sorrow that thus had ended
The Slavonic siege of Salonica
And many of our people left their bones here
In the tavern near Beaz Kule
We drank several glasses of strong Salonica brandy
Munched the olives together with their pits.
Two or three tables away
Grigor Prlichev seemed to be sitting -
The man looked so much like our Homer
Although his hair and moustache were gray.
He had ordered ice-cream,
Big scoops, like Ohrid apples,
And was doing his crossword
And when he glared at the sea
It looked as if he measured the grief of all Macedonians
It looked as if he listened to their pulse
It looked as if he searched for his ancestral roots
And recognized the scent of the new time.
He felt I rejoiced in him
And waved with a white cloth
When, afterwards, I looked at him from the ship.
Prlichev’s cloth is to the present day
My most beautiful flag,
The flag of all my fancies and longings.

Before we boarded the ship
The Priest showed me
Another, much bigger, tavern
With billiards, dominoes, checkers on the tables
Only our people come to this pub, he said -
Anarchists, socialists, autonomists,
Federalists and other -ists, -ists, -ists
But it was getting dark
And I could not recognize anyone.
Our ship left port when it was pitch dark
In the port of Salonica
We were still on our feet
When we heard loud shooting
Coming from the tavern of our fellow country-men
It was the second assassination attempt on Yane Sandanski.

This was my first time on a vessel
And danger looks larger through the eyes of fear
Out of dread and unrest
To tell you the truth -
I spent the first night in the loo
And through a small round porthole
I counted the stars
And then I had a vision:
A lonely naked maiden dancing on the waves.
I was quiet as a mouse
That night on the ship.
Well, many days and nights had passed
When suddenly demons from the east and north
And strong winds took their turns
The youngest cyclops grew angry,
I think it was called Argos -
They had spoiled its nap after the feast
And it raged, rampaged and stormed,
Hurled great stones and rocks into the sea.
Our ship stumbled
Like a nutshell on the waves,
The demons swished, may God swish them
The cyclops went wild, may wild boars eat it!
The vision disappeared in a second
The naked girl dancing on the waves vanished
The ship keeled over and went down
Holy Moses, my dear mother,
Should I, your Silyan, fondled and spoiled
Be a bite for the fish?!
The girl who had danced upon the waves
Was in fact a plank
That I gripped tightly
And almost broke with my arms
I and she - grandchildren of Tantalus.
When I woke up,
Thank God,
I was already on shore
With the plank in my grasp.
If I had had a radio, Hey you Macedonian,
I could have heard that in some other sea
That great ship the Titanic had gone down
And in the Balkans there were wars, wars
Festering wounds
And Macedonia’s division had begun.
This is how I stepped into the era of the Stork
With a plank and no radio-news.



I was on shore,
Alone with the plank on an island.
As was the custom
And as God had said it should be,
I crossed myself and said to God:
Thank you for saving me
From drowning in the sea
As all the others did.
As I opened my eyes
I felt heartily depressed
For it seemed to me I was thrown up on a wasteland
At the back of beyond
And I said to myself: farewell Konyari, farewell Prilep
There’s no help or salvation for me,
The day has come to pay for all my sins.
I was doomed to be
The first Macedonian Crusoe
Just as we have our first Macedonian bank,
First Macedonian stamp
And even the first Macedonian prisoner!
For it is said, God makes the blind bird’s nest
And so He helped me
To find a cave on the island
And near the cave a spring
And by the spring ripe fruits -
Hazelnuts, almonds and sweet apples,
Sorrel, brambles and wild berries.
In great hunger one can even try
Pine-cones, wood and stones.
Will I spend my whole life on this lonely island?
I wondered, and started off through the shrubs,
I waded through mire and sludge
Who knows for how long
(I kept my wristwatch, an Omicron model,
Simply as a souvenir -
It was out of order, the saltwater had turned it
Into a real saltshaker.)
I waded and spoke to the butterflies
And watched out for snakes and lizards.
The scratches from the shrubs did not hurt as much,
As the pain in my soul.
In case you didn’t know, there are no public toilets
On desert islands, a dime for a pee and that’s it,
In the fields a snake might bite your arse -
Excuse my language -
And you must be very careful when you get the runs.
I’m telling you this so that you’ll know
If ever, God forbid, you land up on such an island.
I waded slowly and sadly,
And bitterly passed through the hellebores
When I saw a great wonder
And, although it was sunset, it dawned upon me
As it never had before
Because of what I saw:
A man and a woman were mowing a meadow,
They were mowing and talking -
It wasn’t proper to their age
To pinch each other like that!
I almost died of shock,
There is a God, said I to myself,
And ran to them as if blind
To see if they were real or merely apparitions.
They seemed to be of our kind,
Warm-hearted and welcoming:
What luck has brought you,
Dear son Silyan, to our land
Where no man has ever come before?
Is this real or I am dreaming
They know my name, and speak our tongue!
I was astonished,
And couldn’t say a word -
This can’t be seen either in stories,
Or in the films, where lying is allowed!
My poor Konyarian pate could not take in the sight
And the man shook my hand:
Welcome, he said, to the land
Of the stork-people.
It is getting dark
And we’ll go to my house,
Where you will be my guest,
And there we’ll explain it all to you.
Long is our story,
My dear son Silyan.
Indeed, from A to Z,
All that I’m telling you is true -
I saw it with my very own eyes.



My dear son, Silyan,
I am your destiny and they call me
Click-clack the Pilgrim,
As you have your chieftains
I am the chieftain here
And as is fit for a chieftain
I keep a diary and write memoirs.
I line up the genealogy of storks
And to you I will tell it in short:
One can never know how many times
We have flown around the world
Even before the cosmonauts were born
And since we had no appliances,
Computers or other resources
We remembered everything we saw
And we remembered you, too
For we had been to Konyari, your village,
Even before you were born
We lived on the roof of your house
And in your field
And we know everything you have in the house
Even better than you.
Silyan, we turn into storks,
And come to your village
And your parts
And why we turn into storks,
Is because of our grandfather’s curse:
“May it please God
To send you terrible measles,
And take you all,
So that none of you have a descendent,
Born here, ever,
But your mother and father
Swim across the white seas and the black
And bear their children there!”
Thank God that He isn’t so evil
And told our ancestors
In which well to take a bath
And turn into storks,
To fly over the white seas and the black
And there bear and raise their children
Come back here again
And bathe in another well
Turn into people again
But live as people only on the island.
We have been doing this for thousands of years
And we will do it, as long as this world lasts.
Tomorrow is our holiday, the Storks Day.
We celebrate it for three days.
There will be feasting, pipes and drums
There will be a stately parade of storks
There will be tournaments in many sports
And a ceremonial hunt for frogs and worms.
You, Silyan, will be our guest of honour,
You will sit next to me, on the platform
And therefore, son, take a shower
And go to bed earlier, have a good rest.
(There’s nothing interesting on TV anyway
And you can watch the satellite broadcast
Of the election campaign in your country tomorrow
Although you already know what a cutting tongue you all have).
And as for getting home
We will find a way, don’t worry -
When the time comes to return
You will bathe and turn into a stork,
You will take a bottle of water from the other well
And hang it round your neck
When we arrive in Konyari
You will pour it over yourself, turn into a man again
As you now are, safe and sound.



Many days and months had passed
And the time came to return.
I bathed in the Stork’s well
And turned into a stork.
I filled a bottle with human water
And hung it round my neck
And together with Click-clack the Pilgrim
And his large stork squadron
We flew back to our parts.
Since I hadn’t flown before
I stuck close to Click-clack the Pilgrim
Like a suckling to its mother.
We flew and flew,
God knows for how long.
The first rest we had
Was after twenty-four hours of flight
Which was the first contribution
Of the storks from Macedonia
To its introduction into the era of the cosmonauts -
For even today
The storks with steel wings
Called aeroplanes and airships
With bills, wings and behinds
Painted in various colours
And all this in Latin letters
(Lufthansa, Air France, American Airlines,
Palair Macedonia, Macedonian Airlines)
Can’t fly for more than seven or eight hours
Without pouring into their bills
Large cauldrons of broth from Arabia.
We had one or two more landings on our way
Just to regain strength with some little frog or worm
And finally we found ourselves
In the Prilep vilayet.
From the Pletvar Gorge
I first saw my homestead
With my small stork’s eyes
From high above, from a bird’s eye view,
Out of great joy and excitement
I stopped waving my wings
And landed near some large rocks
To douse myself with human water.
But since I am a true-born jinx
I was careless with the bottle
And this is exactly what happened then:
The bottle smashed to smithereens
And I just moaned,
And gathered the grief of all the world within me -
I am a stork and I’ll die as one.
As the old folks say:
Bad luck does great damage.
No one but me was to blame.
I only waved two or three times
With my left wing to Sisyphus
We became blood brothers on the rocks of Pletvar
And I was probably the first stork Sisyphus
The first Sisyphus among the fliers.

My well-wisher Click-clack the Pilgrim
Found a word of comfort again -
When one door shuts
Another door opens -
And slowly we flew off
for Konyari, I storked alive
To show up before my kith and kin.
Have you ever seen a stork cry?
It’s a very sad sight,
Like in the poems of Koneski,
I’m speaking from my own experience
For I was that weeping stork
When I saw our house
in Konyari.
And the house was very rich
With a high terrace
And a barn next to it,
A fold, stables, a pigsty,
A garden for bee-hives, and a vegetable plot
A barn for wheat, baskets for corn,
A threshing floor and a dung heap.
The hens in the yard were cackling,
And turtle-doves were cooing on the roof.
Oh, how sad and how hard it is
To be a stork in your own house,
To be a stork for six months
And you’re the only one that knows it,
To love your nearest and cry
While they chase you with sticks and clubs.
My son Velko, my dear child,
Once hit me with a stick upon my head,
The bitch Lisa bit a piece of my rump,
My father Bozhin broke my right leg with a club ‘cause I walked
behind him picking worms while he ploughed the field.
May God forgive them all,
For they didn’t know that their Silyan
Could turn into a stork.
Only Neda, my poor mistress,
Didn’t bother me at all, but felt sorry for me
And it wasn’t strange at all that once I felt
Like sticking my bill in her breast
And stroking her in the stork’s manner:
Then I let out a wondrous shriek
And really felt how magic is
The stork’s cry of love.

Click-clack the Pilgrim was a learned stork
And great admirer of art
(Besides his diary and memoirs
He also composed poems, for his own delight)
And on St. Peter’s Day
He took us to Ohrid
Not to mix with the lake swimmers
But to listen to
The Macedonian Philharmonic
At the opening of the Ohrid Summer Festival.
(This wasn’t like in Dolneni -
The band was a large one
And played songs that I didn’t know
And those who were sitting on the chairs and listening
Pretended to be greatly fascinated
And didn’t nibble pumpkin seed, or lick toffee apples,
For, God forbid, that would be a shame!)
Anyhow, three weeks after the opening
Of the Ohrid Summer Festival, at the threshing season
Real pipes from Dolneni started playing
In our house so loud
That even the soot from the ceiling started to fall down:
The wedding-day of my sister Bosilka
I spent it as a stork
With no folk dances, brandy or wine for me -
They were singing, I was crying,
They were dancing, I was mourning.
It almost broke my heart
And I’ll regret not being there until my death.
Thank Goodness, St. Panteleimon’s Day soon came
And Click-clack the Pilgrim our chieftain
Sent word
To the storks in all the country to gather
And go back to the storks’ island -
That summer we didn’t wait
For the smoke from the stills with brandy
And the pots with minced peppers.



Many dawns and sunsets
And a year had passed
On the island of the storks
When before Easter
Click-clack the Pilgrim
Gave a sign
That everyone should bathe
In the Stork’s well
And again fly over
The seven seas
And seven mountains
To our parts and some others.
With a scoop, and not a bottle round my neck
I took a flight
To try my luck.
On our way there was
A great battle
With a flock of eagles
And blood up to the knees
And Click-clack the Pilgrim
That we fly over
All of Macedonia
(For the young storks
To know it better
So that they love it more)
And that the last stop
The Prilep vilayet.
I was very happy about this
(For I feared that I might break
The scoop with human water)
But it is said
Where all the Turks go
Hassan too will go.
I had not
Visited all of Macedonia for a long time
Ever since my school days
When they took us on a trip.
What I saw -
I will tell you right away.

You see, high prices and hunger
Have ruled in our country,
The time of darkness has begun,
Pensioners standing in lines
Dying in front of post offices
And waiting for their pensions, wonder:
How much really,
Can a people endure?
The same question is asked
By villagers, workers,
And learned men.
To look for justice
Is to roam
(With a torch)
On the far side of history.
It has always been like this,
When the cat’s away
The mice will play.
I also saw satellite dishes
Interphones and intercoms
In towns and villages,
I saw discotheques
Blaring until the small hours,
I saw a whole lot of brand new cars,
Grocers and businessmen with golden necklaces
About their necks and bracelets on their wrists
With pure-bred dogs they’ll kill
If they pee on
The back sits of their cars.
I saw hicks in bath chairs
Boors in lacquered shoes
Drinking whiskey on the rocks - this is certainly so
I also saw tenderfoot hunters
Of pheasant, moufflons and game
And nude Russian girls in the taverns
(Dancers in transition)
And what is worst of all,
I saw brothers falling out,
Constantly fighting with each other
As if they had forgotten
That God created men
To live together as brothers,
And not to fret each other,
Hate each other,
Look daggers at each other
As they do.
I saw many turncoats and cowards
With enough brains to pick pears
(But the fields are destroyed by drought
And there isn’t a pear for all the tea in China).
I saw how everybody shouted each other down
In the squares
About who loved Macedonia more -
And there was no wise man to stop this
I felt like flapping my wings
A hundred times
People, have mercy
Chase away the evil from our tongues
And from our souls!
I also saw goats
Gnawing the trees
And chain-saws
Felling beeches and oaks
And groves ablaze
And hares fleeing the fire
And ruined nests of swallows
And sewers flowing
(There are no more ditches;
The mills still exist, but only in our memories)
And spittle
And rolls of fat
On the Ohrid’s beaches
If I am not mistaken
I think I also saw
Dante Alighieri
In the crowd of foreign journalists
In the snack-bars
Of the old Skopje bazaar
But my mind was set
On the brothers who’d fallen out
Let’s hope we are not a people
Cursed to hate forever
I said to comfort myself
And not that I do not know why
While I flew over
The Ohrid sunset
I constantly thought
Of the twilight of civilisation,
And I flew and wondered,
Flew and wondered,
I lost my mind!

To cut it short,
For I’ve bothered you long enough
With my adventures and experiences...
I learned enough last year
And now I’ve landed in my father’s yard
Right on the barn.
I’ve scooped up water from the scoop
And I am again
Silyan Bozhinovski from Konyari
With no wings or bill.
As soon as I entered the house
I kissed my father’s hand
And asked him for forgiveness
For the curse that had fallen upon me.
Straightway the house was full of guests
All the village of Konyari was gathered
They looked on me as at a freak
And listened to my story
That I have been telling you now
First they thought I was crazy
(Who is such a fool as to believe you,
Silyan, that you have been a stork)
But after I told them in order
About last year’s adventures
(How Velko hit me with his stick
And how my father broke my leg with a goad
And the other things I saw)
They all began to believe and said
Dear God, to turn
A man into a Stork!
Many cakes were eaten
Much brandy and wine was drunk
Many signs were made
Beyond any measure
Many feasts were held
For my home-coming
Now, with Click-clack the Pilgrim, the chieftain,
We drink coffee every morning
And discuss politics
As everybody does.
St. Panteleimon’s Day is near
And Click-clack the Pilgrim
Before he gathered his
Stork squadron
Stroked me with his bill
As my father had never done
And said:
As you see, my dear Silyan,
No one is a stork for life
And there is no wall that can’t be knocked down by a head.
Had we had no dreams, we’d have no reality either
And had we had no reality, we wouldn’t have had our dreams.
He plucked out a feather
And asked me, when I went to Prilep,
To give it to grandpa Marko Tsepenkov -
And wish him good health and many more meetings.


I can see,
I can damn well see
With these glasses of mine!
I see my stork
Waving his wings
And bless the feathers
That have written down
The new happenings
And stories of his life.
For it used to be mostly the kids
That rejoiced in my Silyan,
But now the times are different,
The kids have grown up,
And tomorrow their kids will grow up as well.
“May they all be blessed
And be wise and sage,
May angels sit on their shoulders
And guard them from all evil!
I wish them good health!
Good thoughts!
Peace and love!
May God preserve our harvest
And bless our fields!
Good health to the cattle!
May all the saints help, too!
May we have brotherly love,
Confusion to our foes,
May they drag along the ground,
Cross bridges with their bellies scraping the earth,
Run far away from here
And never come back again;
May they go to the Holy Land
And stay there forever!
May God give us
Brotherly love and good thoughts!
Good old age
And nice days!
May God forgive our Christian souls!
God bless them all!”

About the Poem

Venko Andonovski


Risto Lazarov, Silyan the Stork Flies Over Macedonia Once Again, Detska Radost, Skopje, 1995

The latest book by the poet Risto Lazarov entitled Silyan the Stork Flies Over Macedonia Once Again, offers a good opportunity to point out one of the qualities of the identity of our modern literature: the pastiche. This popular technique or, more precisely, this quality of literature which is becoming more and more popular (at least with writers) appears in Lazarov’s poem as the main generative mechanism.


This literary technique, in which the work that is being created refers to a former work in the sequence of texts called history of a literature, is this time applied to the genre of the poem: the poem establishes a special kind of inter-textual relationship with the story which can be considered as the most popular (and most original, in the sense of narrative intervention) in the writing of Marko Tsepenkov: Silyan the Stork.

This means that the subject-matter of this work is an already well-known and famous work. What most often comes to the fore in this kind of text, which Tsvetan Todorov, because of their capacity to thematise a familiar text, has named polyvalent discourses, are the functions (the effects) of parody and persiflage, because of the variations (interventions) that the author of the new work takes in his work on the already known matrix. Thus, through a parodic approach, a new form is produced from the old one. It seems as if the author “fills in” and completes those possibilities of the text which have not been elaborated before, as if supplying flourishing of the undeveloped “buds” and knots. This writing down of a new text in the margins and in the cracks of the former text can at first sight look like a limitation of the author’s freedom; however, it is perfectly clear that every freedom, and especially the author’s, has its meaning only if limited by a corps of rules. In this case it is a matter of obeying the rule of the plot present in Tsepenkov, that is respect for the syntax of narrative predicates and paradigm of attributes relating to the “main character”.

Thus, as in the work of Tsepenkov, here Silyan the Stork is a young, lazy man inclined to-wards pleasures; here too, resenting work, he runs away from home with the Priest in order to become a pilgrim and visit Christ’s Grave; here too, they suffer a shipwreck and he is thrown out on an unknown island; the episode of breaking the bottle with the miraculous water which can turn a man into a stork is present here as well. And certainly, the didactic happy ending is repeated too (“if only I listened to my father”), after Silyan is exposed to pathos and suffering because of the change of his identity (his nearest do not recognise him in the form of a stork, in spite of his great desire to be recognised).

The pastiche implies the transformation of a former textual matrix, and it is logical to expect that this transformation is present here as well. However, if the sequence of narrative predicates relating to the subject of the narration and the elementary units of the plot - the functions - are observed, then what is it that is changed?

What is changed is the time in which the complete plot of Tsepenkov is placed. This change of the chronotopos is related to the tendency to topicalise the already known matrix: Silyan the Stork flies over Macedonia now, in the present. With the relocation of the plot on a new, current temporal axis, the poet is given the opportunity to intervene in the old text in two ways:
a) to omit certain statements of the author (Tsepenkov) and comments on the objects (references) which do not exist today;
b) to fill the matrix of the old text with new objects and comments on a new time. Thus, with the procedures of omission and filling of the old text the graft of a new, interesting and fresh poem is created. The effects of these opera-tions are parody and irony. They are, if it can be said, the literary functions of the new text.


The poem by Risto Lazarov is interesting because it can be defined as a space in an “empty”, new, unfilled text open to the reader, in which there is an “old” and a “new” code; Tsepenkov’s code which is the background, and the other which is the author’s innovative projection, a code which is topicalised and another one which topicalises. Certainly, here one should not underestimate the meaning of the reconstruction of Tsepenkov’s code, for it is not true that Lazarov simply takes over the finished code of Tsepenkov. On the contrary, in many places he simulates, copies and reconstructs it. That he is very suc-cessful in this is best proven by the surface of his text full of numberless such “new” codifications and stylistic solutions in Tsepenkov’s style. Thus it can be said that the poem opens up the issue of reproduction and reanimation of clichés, of the kind: And on a house with a stork nest on its roof/ a magic spell can never be cast (7); Dreams don’t always come true/ And you cannot escape your fate (13). However, this is not so simple as it seems to be at first sight.

First, it must be stressed that such a “re-animation” of clichés is not restricted to only one type of codes. Several kinds of codes are para-phrased, starting out from the line Better a grave/Than to be a slave (15), topical up to a few years ago, through Tsepenkov’s already-mentioned code, the colloquial clichés and jokes: It’s not in vain they say/ Frankfurt-am-Main/ and Prilep-on-Shit (41), up to the code of Biblical wisdoms, such as: Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil/ Neither shalt thou speak in a cause to decline after many to wrest judgement (58-59), quoted from the Second Book of Moses (Exodus 23, 3). While these codes are taken over in the “complete form” and quoted (in which quoting as a post-modern feature becomes a differential trait of the poem), the code of Tsepenkov, in addition to the fact that it is cited, is often submitted to some kind of suspicious interpretation: But only chirping/ Twittering and other like sounds:/ Thus, Tweety and Chirpy/ Brother and sister true-born by their mother/ And cursed by their father/ Were turned into a white bird and a black/ And used to chirrup all they long:/ Chirp-chirp, tweet-tweet!(19).

This, at first sight confusing, technique has its explanation on the plane of the integration of the codes in the meaning, that is to say the idea. By intertwining these different codes, Lazarov arouses the interest of the readers; by submitting Tsepenkov’s code to ironic reconsideration, he implicates the idea of suspicion about the just outcome of the story which he presents, as well as about the happy ending which should happen to his lyric hero who, from the second chapter on, also becomes some kind of lyric narrator.

All this points to the obvious desire of the author to present a picture of a new, present-day Macedonia, where the fate of Silyan the Stork is almost endlessly pitiful (but not tragical, because tragedy is sublime!). As if the “time of wonders” is over, as if everything is boiled down to trade and there is no more room for sublime suffering because of the change of identity, for today identity can be very easily erased and changed, even without magical means such as the miraculous water. The irony towards this new time without wonders is often symbolically indicated, and its colloquial arrows are shot at several places in the text of the poem: (There was no television then/ To tell us we had stepped/ Into the happy future)(23); If there was a reality at all (in the era of the Stork - V.A.); Just as it is not clear whether today/ Anyone dreams at all (24); I was doomed to be/ The first Macedonian Crusoe/ Just as we have our first Macedonian bank/ First Macedonian stamp/ And even the first Macedonian prisoner! (96).

Generally speaking, the point of view of this new and lost Silyan the Stork is the viewpoint of the present-day reader, at this empty time of ours, time of transition of identities (the metaphor of a man-stork is here a happily chosen means of parable). The bitter irony of the poet as a sharp magnetic stylus notices a number of “real”, “real-istic”, “everyday” details which become the sym-bols of emptiness of the time full of abundance: I also saw satellite dishes/ Interphones and inter-coms/ (...)/ Grocers and businessmen with golden necklaces/ About their necks and bracelets on their wrists/ (...)/ I saw hicks in bath chairs/ Boors in lacquered shoes/ Drinking whiskey on the rocks - this is certainly so/ (...) I saw brothers fal-ling out/ Constantly fighting with each other/ As if they had forgotten/ That God created men/ To live together like brothers/ And not to fret each other... (134); I saw how everybody shouted each other down/ In the squares/ About who loved Ma-cedonia more -/ And there was no wise man to stop this/ I felt like flapping my wings/ A hundred times/ People, have mercy/ Chase away the evil from our tongues/ And from our souls! (135). Or this parody of the metrics and style of the popular poem, where a technical code (the battery tape-recorder) is intertwined with a mythological code (the rain songs), and where the drought is cer-tainly a metaphorical solution to the moral, and not a meteorological crisis: Great fear and the runs/ Had befallen the people/ Who on their battery tape-recorders/ Played only rain songs/ And couldn’t find out/ Who in hell had sent them/ The drought as a guest/ And who’d be brave enough/ To chase the drought away/ From benighted Macedonia (80).

This new Silyan is confused by the country he flies over, and so is the reader, for he sees through Silyan’s eyes and shares his horizon of expectations, known from the story by Tsepenkov. The horizon of Silyan the Stork is as betrayed, as is unexpected what the reader sees, although he sees it everyday! Thus, the banal reality appears to us as new and unexpected, in all its realistic and degrading splendour. In such conditions, the primary motivation of the hero to run away from home (again a polemic topicalisation of an everyday thought: migration from the villages to the cities and the desolation of the Macedonian village) sounds ironic: And I would have done anything/ Just to be as far as one can be from my Konyari (68).


From all that has been said so far, it turns out that the poem of Silyan the Stork Flies Over Macedonia Once Again by the modern Macedonian poet Risto Lazarov has a distinctly polemic structure. It is a polemic poetry, a kind of a committed literary writing, a kind of poetic realism which has its antecedent in Macedonian poetry, a stream which has made Macedonian modern poetry its debtor and enriched it with new visions and stylistic endeavours (e.g. Gane Todorovski, with his “urban” and “workday” motives). However, unlike in the modernist manner, here, in a not less com-petent and convincing literary way, through an interesting inter-textual attitude towards the matrix, in a lively language and through colloquial clichés, as well as through simulation of verified artistic forms and patterns as the popular songs and stories are - Lazarov manages to create a poem of quotation, a feature of literature which, following the Moderna, has very convincingly been named as post-modernism. And certainly, to show the best of his restless and curious talent: the almost polemic affinity towards a special kind of poetic writing, created by various discourse practices, a writing different from that of the family of poets which still work according to the aesthetic programme the highest ideal of which are “homogeneous” texts with dense metaphorical layers.

The latest book by the poet Risto Lazarov entitled Silyan the Stork Flies Over Macedonia Once Again, offers a good opportunity to point out one of the qualities of the identity of our modern literature: the pastiche. This popular technique or, more precisely, this quality of literature which is becoming more and more popular (at least with writers) appears in Lazarov’s poem as the main generative mechanism.