In Bosnia by Steven Henry Madoff

BOMB 60 Summer 1997
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“Everything was on fire,
              And we saw them throwing bodies into the flames.”
    There are 200,000 deaths. There are 12,000 in the city alone,
                            And winter is coming.
The exploding shells are everywhere. People sprawl on mattresses
In basements, stairwells, woodsheds and garages, anywhere protected.
                            The cleric is crying. “Is it because we are Muslims?
    Is it because we are Muslims?”
 
“If the Christians were massacred
              Like Muslims are being killed here, then Muslims
    Would be condemned as mad Fundamentalists. And we have no one to lean on.
                            With the winter coming.
No, we are the new Jews of Europe.” There is still fresh meat, but prices,
In German marks, have gone so high, so that now the people can’t be fed.
                            And instead, smuggled Serbian cigarettes, shoes, costume
    Jewelry, comic books, old films
 
Are sold out at the flea markets
              To people who lack staples, even flour.
    A kilo of wheat is worth three times more than a gram of gold. And there isn’t wood
                            Enough, not wood to make
Enough proper coffins. In Teocak, local Croats and Muslims
Are still fighting side by side. But in Fojnica, Father Miletic says
              The Croats are the “big losers in this war.” This is where
    They came, the four Muslim soldiers,
 
Shouting in the courtyard, “Halt! Put
              Your hands up!” And Father Milicevic, near
    To one of them, said there were no weapons in the monastery. Then one shoved
                            His gun into the back
Of Brother Nikica, screaming “I’m going to kill you!” And to him
The Brother said, “Then kill,” and the man discharged his weapon. The bullets
                            Also killed Father Milicevic. And then the Father
    Migic, standing there, was injured.
 
So the gunman put two more shots
              In the back of his head. Then the soldiers left
    The monastery. Which circle of Hell is this? On an earth without mercy.
                            Is it Ugolino,
Whose teeth gnaw the skull of Archbishop Ruggieri, or the
Trees whose sap is steaming blood bleeding from the torn branches, crying out,
                            There, in the ancient woods of Europe. So that the falling
    Leaves are no different here, in
 
Stupni Do, when trucks on the dirt
              Road come up so suddenly, through the deep shafts
    Of the valley, in mid-afternoon light. They are still outside, before the snow
                            Begins. The potatoes,
Squash, and beets still being gathered when the first shouts cry up, and now they
Run, the woodlands up ahead. A glove is dropped, jackets and cigarettes,
                            Shoes in the muddy paths, a doll. But they are caught, falling,
    Or at home. In the afternoon
 
They are hiding here, a crawl space
              Where they, the three women, are shot in the face,
    Holding each other’s arms, one’s throat cut, and there, the two sisters, Amela and
                            Suvada Likic, they
Are 19 and 22, dragged out, raped and burned. A boy burned, naked,
One foot in an old army boot, the fingers of one hand chopped off. The
                            Croats are shouting for them to lie down, the man on top
    Of the small boy and the mother
 
Beside them, then stabbed, then the shots
              To the head. Burned. A girl is ten years old whose
    Skull is smashed. Six pyres are built and the bodies thrown on all night, the
              low scent
                            Of roaring flesh, yellow
Leaves rising. “Everything was on fire, and we saw the naked
Bodies thrown into the flames.” “We are being scattered like fallen leaves,”
                            The cleric says. “Survive in a reservation to chop
    Wood, the few of us left to work
 
Their gardens.” Out of nothing, earth,
              The skies and waters, seeds for planting, and the
    Brightness of mountains. Rain and the sound of birds calling in the trees, the
              deep light.
                            Now all of them have come.
And what is in them is terrible. The streets are littered with glass and
Debris torn from buildings by exploding shells. In Banja Luka, the
                            Mosques are burned. “Don’t you wish you were a Serb,” the waiter said.
    “We have the finest army in
 
Europe. Finest. With what we’re worth,
              We could make it all the way to Vienna.”
    Her 11-year-old brother, Sanel, died then in the Serb bombardment late
                            Last year, but it’s not him
She speaks of, Sabina, at the kitchen table. Seven years old and
Saying, “Look, here’s my mortar shell. My father found it. And look, here’s my
                            Turtle. His name is Peti. I found him,” Sabina said.
    “Yes. I found him in the garden.”

Steven Henry Madoff’s poems have appeared in BOMB and The Threepenny Review, among other publications. He is a deputy editor of Time Inc. New Media. His book Pop Art: A Critical History will be published by the University of California Press this fall.

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DEBUT

The suit I wore the day I was born

Originally published in

BOMB 60, Summer 1997

Featuring interviews with Barry Le Va, Jane Dickson, John Lee Anderson, Lydia Davis, Judy Davis, Peter Greenaway, Roger Guenveur Smith, David Del Tredici, Alfred Uhry, and David Armstrong.

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