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Eternity on Hold by Mario Susko
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Eternity on Hold

by Mario Susko

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Recently added byLinda92007, echenberg, deckla

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the end is not where we want it
to be, the eyes playing tricks on us,
moving the horizon endlessly away

it is not what we imagine it
to be, the mind unable to lift
the weight of memory off the ground (Susko, 1-6)

---excerpt from “Death”


Mario Susko, a survivor of the Bosnian War, bears personal witness to the horror of that conflict in Eternity on Hold. The recipient of three Fulbright scholarships, Susko attended college at SUNY Stony Brook during the 1970s and returned to the United States in 1993, after war broke out in his home country. Susko is a prize-winning poet, translator and editor, has published prolifically, and is the recipient of the 1997 and 2006 Nassau Review Poetry Awards, the 1998 Nuove Lettere Premio Internazionale di Poesia e Letteratura, the 2000 Tin Ujevic Award for the best book of poems published in Croatia, and the 2003 SUNY Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Scholarship and Creative Activities.

Although published more than a decade following Susko’s return to the United States, the poems in this collection mostly look back at his life in Bosnia. The collection begins with remembrances of parents and grandparents, and a child’s uncomprehending pain of their loss.

My grandfather died
sitting on a stone bench. Sent down
to fetch him, I walked around and stood
in front of him, but he still gazed
at the sea, his mouth half open
as if he wanted to tell me something. (1-6)

---excerpt from “Inheritance”


These youthful memories give way to highly personal images of wartime terror and death, and their lingering permeation of post-war life. The realism of the moments Susko captures is arresting and frightening. I sometimes found myself holding my breath in anticipation, as in “Beyond”, where a man seeks to learn if his lover has safely escaped a city’s checkpoint.

Eternity is God’s oblivion, you said,
a faint smile crossing your lips.
That’s why we are left with history,
not to forget what we cannot be. (1-4)

---excerpt from “Beyond”


At other times I was simply overcome with sadness at Susko’s portrayal of man’s capacity for cruelty and violence, and the burden borne by those who have survived. “Conversion”, short-listed for the 2004 Guardian Forward Poetry Prize, is a powerful poem that finds a distraught father in an encounter with a heavily armed man, while seeking his son in a field of dead bodies and grazing sheep.

I came upon a man in black who sat on a tank,
tending his sheep that grazed impassively
around the craters and among dead bodies.

I am looking for my son, I said squinting.
The bullets in his cartridge belt slung
over his shoulder shone in the sun like teeth. (1-6)

---excerpt from “Conversion”


I highly recommend this outstanding collection, both for its literary value and its importance as testimony to events that should not be forgotten. ( )
2 vote Linda92007 | Jun 21, 2012 |
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