A Completely Ordinary Man  

By Tanja Bakić


Yesterday I bumped into you in the street

Under that same bridge

Where we used to hide together

From the rain and kissed

Twenty-five years ago.

You were carrying an umbrella

Which dropped out of your hand

When you saw my face appear

From nowhere before you,



You hadn’t changed much.

You were still beautiful, as you had been back then

When you would read Prévert aloud to me

Or when, upon the creaky sofa

In my small rented flat,

You would sit next to me and catch my hand

Telling me how much you adore morning smells

Telling me how much you adore coffee.

But I would just let you talk

And ask you to close your eyes

So that I could descend the steps,

Leave the building

And purchase a sour cherry

Ice cream for you

Because you told me

You liked it best.


You haven’t changed much, Danijela.

Except that the dreams you dreamt

About the big city lights

Took you straight

Towards them.

Tokyo, Rio, New York, Hong Kong,

Sydney, Colombo, New Delhi,

Casablanca, Moscow, London,

Cape Town, Toronto, Beijing.

The years you decided not

to spend with me

In my shabby, rented flat

On one dead-end street

In a small quarter in Podgorica

You decided instead to stretch out

On the streets of the world’s metropolises.

You met new people,

Had conversations with them

Different to the ones

You had with me.

You wore new high heels

Put on trendy jewellery

You looked into another sun

Every morning when you woke up.


But I was left making ends meet

In that same small flat

In a dead-end street,

Waking up early in the morning,

Going to work,

Getting back late in the evening

After having some wine

In a local pub.

Once a month

Paying my bills.

Once a month

Splashing out on

A train ticket

To the next town.


And so the snowfalls would come and go,

The winds, rains, storms and fogs,

Although my impression was

That for years everything stood in the same place

Except that you weren’t here.

I had no idea where you might be,

Nor what you might be doing

But I knew you were a dreamer,

And that your dreams led you far away.


I still cannot forget visiting

Those packed cinema auditoriums

Together with you

I cannot forget

How back then you would tell me

How much you adored films starring Alain Delon

No, I cannot forget even that little gypsy girl

Who would approach us in the cinema

And tell us that were both good looking…

Twenty-five years ago.


I myself have never planted

A foot on another continent.

I have never seen

The big city lights.

I don’t know important people.

I don’t speak

Any foreign languages.


I am just a

Completely ordinary man,

With a modest

View of the world.

A man who can give you

Nothing but his

Small rented flat

In a dead-end street

In a poor quarter of Podgorica,

And the occasional night out,

An occasional nice word,

An occasional bowl

Of sour cherry ice cream.


You haven’t changed much, Danijela.

Feel free to pick up

That umbrella which dropped out of

Your hand to the ground

When you saw my face appear out of nowhere.

Take it in your hands

Open it back up

And just carry on walking

Wherever you were going.

And I will pretend that

I didn’t bump into you just now.

I will pretend that I never knew you.

Oh, Danijela.

You haven’t changed much.




Tanja Bakić, born in 1981 in Montenegro, is the author of four highly-praised poetry collections, her debut being published when she was only 15, and the last one, Sjeme i druge pjesme (The Seed and Other Poems), in 2013. She is also a translator, has an MA in English language and literature, and also writes as a music and literary critic. Her poetry has been translated into 15 foreign languages, presented at festivals abroad, published in international magazines and anthologies.  She has been awarded fellowships several times, including Central European Initiative Fellowship for Writers Award (Vilenica Festival Slovenia), International Haus Des Autoren Graz, Slovenian Public Fund for Cultural Activities, etc. The lecture she presented at the Tate Britain in London, entitled “William Blake in the Former Yugoslavia” will be published by Bloomsbury in 2019. Her poetry translations include the works of William Blake, Yeats, Byron, Eliot… and most recently Don Paterson.