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Jano Duso and Drinking the Kool-Aid
by Tanja Pajevic

About the author
A 2001-2002 Fulbright Fellow to Slovenia, Tanja holds an M.F.A. from Indiana University, where she was a Hemingway Fellow. She writes fiction, creative nonfiction and poetry, has published her work in magazines such as Crab Orchard Review and Orchid, and has taught at Indiana University, the University of Colorado at Denver and in independent writing workshops. She is currently working on a memoir about her year traveling through post-war Yugoslavia, and can be reached at

Jano Duso

Dancing was what brought me to my god, not church or any other form of prayer. Monday nights were reserved for the group and practice, scratchy old records circling round and round as we beat out words with our feet, planted our hearts on the soil of this new and improved country. Jano Duso was my favorite, and while Marko, red-faced and sweating, shouted corrections (Left! Right, now right!), we laughed, heads high, and leaned inward, quickened our steps. We were young, children brought together by parents and obligations, friendships vague and forming, easily broken. Beneath our feet, mothers chain-smoked and gossiped in corners while younger kids raced around the room. Outside, girls old enough to wear make-up waited their turn, flirting with boys I wanted for myself.

On stage it was just us, strong. Lights raining down on our heads and the distance, melting away. Come, Jana, let's dance the kolo, and we were off. Eyelids lowered and it was one of the only times I can remember not wanting, aching for something. Three times was the repetition and we circled, fiercely believing. Jana, my heart, my spirit. Sell the horse, Jana, let's dance. My heart, Jana, sell the horse, sell it all, so that we can dance. Dance, spirit, sell it all so that we can, so that we can so that we can dance.

We were breaking free now, learning something I would never again understand in such a whole and complete form. Leading back then, too young not to, only knowing the rhythm and the repetition and the beat, wailing of voice. Ajde, Jano, kolo da igramo/ Ajde Jano, kucu da prodamo/ Da prodamo, Jano duso, samo da igramo. Dancing and the circle and the selling of it all. For that's how it was back then. Sell the house, Jana of my heart, we must dance. Before we were taught to recognize our mistakes.

Drinking the Kool-Aid

   for Ken

Jim Jones had nothing on you,
I say as we spin south, taster
wines competing with childhood
tales gone awry. I always dream

of homes, I tell you; apartments,
dorm rooms, hotels where I do not belong.
You nod, caipirinhas melting into winter
sun. Nights, I hear you dreaming. Listen:
you'll find your own stories back there.

Goggles filling up with salt water
as we swim toward the ocean, laugh.
Shark dog circling beneath us, the turtle
I was so sure was a snapper. My first
fatal dusk, flash of color. House of
worship, places we never would have

pathed. Back home, you'll humor me,
play Beastie Boys as we move furniture,
build forts against the sand. Spring
becomes summer; coral, then cavern.
This house, a church of algae and sand.

©2006 Mental Contagion • Making Space for Visual Artists & Writers