“I wonder what astronauts see”: Three poems by Branka Petrovic

Butterfly Sanctuary

After a World Press Photograph by Jaime Rojo: A carpet of monarch butterflies covers the forest floor of El Rosario Butterfly Sanctuary in Michoacan, Mexico, after a snowstorm.


Common tiger,
Wanderer. Black veined brown.

Whatever we’ve named you,
or tried,

we failed to baptize the ecosystem
a sacred nuisance.


You are grotesque except
for the trace of your black veins.


The pattern of human fuckup
laid out across a carpet of snow;

royal spots of orange.


Death is quasi-beautiful
when it’s you;

it’s ugly when it’s us
looking at this bloodbath from afar.


Masses follow other masses,
even to death.


Mental Illness

After a World Press Photograph by Robin Hammond: Hellen Alfred (41) lives with a mental health condition in Juba, South Sudan. She says she fell ill after the birth of her sixth child. Mental Illness in South Sudan is often attributed to witchcraft.

Hammond saw soul where they saw
witchcraft. Yours perforates
out of the print, into
joint gloom.


When you reach the bottom
of mind,

there is nowhere to go
but awe. Thread patiently

please. This galaxy
is energies playing ping pong

with our opinions. Telepathy
is non scientific

truth. I’ve verified it.
Many times.


The universe’s infinity
is at the root
of most of our problems.


I prefer to iron in the morning
when the sun enters the bedroom.

When your corporate shirt’s corners
are my biggest concern;

the way they fold so neatly
under the steam and stay there.


I wonder what astronauts see
when they see beyond
the planet,
an incredible new likelihood.

Astonishment times a trillion.



After a World Press Photograph by Valery Melnikov: Raisa Shipulya, one of the last residents of the devastated village of Zhelobok, stands in her house.

Bullet holes reflected in mirrors, reflected
in babushkas are twice
the murder, twice
the shell shock.


Wrinkles on Slavic faces.


Some women spend
hundreds of dollars
on Chanel anti-aging products.


In Sarajevo, I once saw 151 bullet
holes perforate a building, park poles;
the foreheads

of certain passersby. I touched one
on a wall and wondered
what body, bone,

if any, did it cross to get there.


Scarves make for silky gifts.


In Belgrade, my grandmother
never wore pants.

Even when the war erupted,
she kept putting on

her nude nylon stockings
every morning.


Pink embroidered wallpapers
are the stuff of
Paris tearooms, last residents
of Zhelobok.


Branka Petrovic is an author living and writing in Montreal, Canada. She holds a Master’s degree in English Literature and Creative Writing from Concordia University. Her writing has appeared in various literary magazines and her poetry collection, Mechanics of a Gaze, was published by Mansfield Press in 2017. 

Read more poetry on Bengaluru Review:

In Pictures: When poets asserted their freedom of expression: Part 2

“And you will know me by my very tips”: Four poems by Amy Louise Wyatt

“You must be proud of the scars”: Four poems by Cat Dixon



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