Madiba in "Top Gear"
by Damir Šodan (translated from Croatian by the author and Majda Šodan)

  1. "Have you ever had a lap-dance?"
  2. Roared from the doorway
  3. The former traveling salesman
  1. Of plush Paddington bears,
  2. Mr Jeremy Clarkson, nowadays a slightly arrogant
  3. And supposedly humorous
  1. British TV-star;
  2. The host of an automobile show
  3. Viewed devotedly all across Europe.
  1. Upon hearing that, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela
  2. (Whose life and work need no discussion here)
  3. Simply raised his eyebrows gently
  1. And directed his gaze towards the ceiling fan
  2. As if the answer to such an unexpected
  3. And ludicrous question could drop down
  1. From somewhere above.
  2. "Madiba, you don't have to answer that!"
  3. The ever-considerate and attentive Zelda
  1. Quickly jumped in, but in his thoughts
  2. He was already racing back to
  3. Robben Island during that fatal 1964
  1. Trying to remember if back then
  2. Anyone around him had been shaking
  3. Their ass except maybe when stung
  1. By Apartheid's eel-like baton
  2. Slippery and hard
  3. That always unmistakably found its way
  1. To a piece of black flesh
  2. Classified as "class D"
  3. And locked in an eight-by-seven foot cell
  1. Or maybe later in 1982
  2. In that "comfy" maximum security facility Pollsmoor
  3. Where those upgraded into a lighter category
  1. Were allowed to receive and send
  2. As many as fifty-two letters a year!
  3. No, he could not remember if anyone had
  1. Merrily wriggled his behind
  2. Unless plagued by a case of bloody dysentery
  3. Or tortured by a sneaky pubic crab or two...
  1. But maybe later in 1988 somebody
  2. Had done it at that quite permissible establishment Victor Verster
  3. But Nelson had hardly been aware of anything then
  1. As he was recovering from a mean case of TBC...
  2. "You don't have to answer, Madiba"!
  3. Repeated Ms La Grange
  1. And Nelson just smiled
  2. As if watching a kid walking towards him
  3. With a rare specimen of turtle in his hand...
  1. "No!" he finally replied succinctly
  2. So that the conversation might continue
  3. With the expected civility and finesse.
  1. Yet, at the end of the meeting
  2. He looked Clarkson in the eye and asked:
  3. "Have you ever been on the Moon, Jeremy?"
  1. For it is only from there perhaps
  2. That the dry British humor could hit the even drier
  3. Heart of black Africa - in the right place.
Packingtown Review – Vol.9, Fall 2017

Damir Šodan is a poet, playwright, translator and editor whose work has been anthologised both in Croatia, his home country, and abroad. He is one of the editors of Poezija and Quorum magazines in Zagreb, Croatia, and has published a number of books in Croatian, including his translations of Charles Simic, Charles Bukowski, Raymond Carver, Leonard Cohen, and Frank O'Hara. Having worked for over twenty years as a translator for the United Nations, he is now a freelance writer and translator splitting his time between The Hague, Netherlands, and Split, Croatia.

Majda Šodan has translated various Croatian poets into English and edited literary publications from Croatian into English. She holds a Diploma in Translation (French-English) from the UK Chartered Institute of Linguists, a BA in Political Science from McGill University (Montreal, Canada) and an MA in Development Studies from the Institute of Social Studies (The Hague, Netherlands).

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