Summers spent back home taught me childhood by Milica Mijatović

Parent-less from June to September, Ivana and I
lived a thousand lives America didn’t have for us.

We were grandkids and nieces and cousins;
we were explorers of green hills on our bikes,

out all day but back in time for dinner; we were kids
playing izmedju dvije vatre in the street with neighbors

who became our friends for life; we were sisters walking
to the store for Baka’s groceries all by ourselves;

we were village girls hanging out with chickens
and pigs; we were understood, and we were missed.

We’d talk to Mama and Tata on the phone, chirping
about bike rides to Grbavica, downtown strolls with Tetka,

finding seemingly real Nike shoes for cheap at the pijaca,
collecting snails after rain for Baka to cook; we’d talk

about making friends, having family. We’d only
complain about naps Baka and Deda made us take

or about the wild dogs that were cute but scary.
We can all live here together, we’d say. Why can’t we stay forever?


A long pause, a heavy silence on the other end
of the line. Two young parents huddled around the phone

somewhere in Ohio in the first house they’ve ever
owned, far from anyone or anything they’ve ever known,

grasping for something to say and always failing
as Baka would take the phone, ask about the weather

over there, and Deda would ask us if we’d like to play
dominoes. With that, we’d place our collective longing

back into its box, pretend each time that summer
wouldn’t end, that we’d all be home together for dinner.

Milica Mijatović is a Serb poet and translator. Born in Brčko, Bosnia and Hercegovina, she relocated to the United States where she earned a BA in Creative Writing and English Literature from Capital University. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from Boston University and is a recipient of a Robert Pinsky Global Fellowship in Poetry. Her chapbook War Food won the Fool for Poetry International Chapbook Competition and was published in May 2023 by Southword Editions in Cork, Ireland. Her poetry appears or is forthcoming in Rattle, Salamander, Plume, The Louisville Review, Collateral, Santa Clara Review, Poet Lore, and elsewhere. Her poems have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, and she serves as Assistant Poetry Editor for Consequence.