Vesna Maric is the author of the debut novel The President Shop (Sandorf Passage).


Maric was born in Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina, in 1976. She left the country at sixteen as part of a convoy of refugees bound for the Lake District in England. She attended University College London and later went on to work for the BBC World Service. She now writes Lonely Planet travel guides, translates literary fiction and non-fiction from Croatian into English, and writes a variety of journalism for publications including the Guardian. Vesna has collaborated with various artists, including Jane and Louise Wilson, and art projects at the Tate Modern’s Who Are We? project. Her memoir, Bluebird, was published by Granta in 2009, and was longlisted for The Orwell Prize. She lives in Madrid.


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By Ocean Vuong


            photograph (circa 1989)

Refugee camp in the Philippines.
I sit, flanked by mother and aunt: my saviors.
Here, they are young again,
their bodies smooth and unscarred
beneath the white garments illuminating
from the shack’s interior.
No. This is not a metaphor
for angels—but there are halo shards
locked in their mouths. Do not believe
the light in their eyes, the grins stretched
so wide, there is no room for joy.
Do not say our names. These faces
cannot belong to the ruin they became.
Do not say our names as this flame grows
from the edge of the photo, the women’s smiles
peeling into grimaces, the boy spreading
into black smudge, filaments of fire
dissolving into wind. No, do not say our names.
Let us burn quietly into the lives
                                                                 we never were.