My son has grown
and is asking questions
about Bosnia now,
he wants to know what the country
he was born in
was really like
during the time of war.
He is reading Zlata’s Diaries
and is determined to write about Bosnian war
for his History Day project.
He barely started and is already finding contradictions,
unlike Ana Frank
Zlata is well and lives happily
from the proceeds of the book sales.
He is reading other books too
but they don’t answer his questions
and neither can I
although my memory
is clear about
the day our neighborhood
as when a house catches fire,
nobody repairs it for a long time,
blackened windows stand an omen
of worse things to come.
Dad, why didn’t you write your own book,
my son insists,
at least you were there.
Too many books were written,
publishers are looking for
new diaries now
backed by free commercials
camouflaged as evening news.
My silence is long, but not deliberate,
and my son starts regretting
that he chose Bosnian War for his
History Day project.
He thought he could get insider information,
first rate stuff,
eye witness testimony,
but all he gets are long silences,
by someone who stood by
on that warm
tiny green birds migrate north.
That poem from last night about
the colonel somewhere in Panama
entertaining two guests at dinner
in his cozy home,
the scene so mundane
that we easily overlook a pistol on the pillow,
broken glass sticking out of the walls
as signs of something extraordinary to
take place. It starts when
he yells at the parrot to shut up,
goes somewhere, and the silence
for a moment
becomes so thick so heated
you could fry eggplant in it.
The colonel comes back, a sack
In his hand.
He says: “Fuck the human rights,”
and spills a handful of human ears
out of the sack, he takes one ear
and puts it into a glass of water where it expands,
the others lie on the floor
as if listening.
“You know what to do,” says
the silver hair man
in green uniform and a voice
they could barely hear.
Used to loud commands,
makes their bellies tingle
their spines stiff. They enter the
school where they learned geography
years ago and
history, that stallion they couldn’t tame.
Oh, school, the place
of murmur, house filled with faded footprints.
The rustle becomes louder
while they are walking down the hallway
their heads down
as if going to math class, anticipation,
anxiety mixed together, he
enters the classroom,
sees the shadow huddled
in the corner,
seizes hair the way
sailor grabs rope and holds it tight,
the worn out cloth gives way to thorny fingers,
he hesitates for a moment
which never ends and is brief
her face like a violin on the wall
his soul filled with whisper,
will not remember afterwards,
years later he will
hold tight his son’s little hand
on first day of school.
Two families seated
in a cozy home in Italy.
After dinner, they sit on the terrace,
gobble up desserts and listen
to the gentle Adriatic hugging the shore
dotted with olive groves
while the war is raging in distant lands,
cold ones and warm ones alike.
Two little girls in long dresses
are chasing each other on the terrace.
Fathers are worried they may trip,
fall, and get hurt. They warn them to slow down and
watch their steps.
They are responsible men,
high-ranking officials with
a thousand year empire under their watch.
Men withdraw to the study
leaving wives to their gossip,
and daughters to their giggle.
The host, a short man with an oiled mustache,
opens the refrigerator,
the invisible kind, camouflaged as a bookshelf,
and takes a bowl out.
“Have you seen my oysters,” he says,
“my oysters from the Balkans?”
Carefully, he puts the bowl on the table,
holding it with both hands.
removes the lid,
steps back to admire the insides
there it is,
like peeled grapes,
the jelly made of human eyes.