“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
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
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.”