No 8 - Winter 2001
The Balkans (Part Two)
The terrible war has just begun. Macedonia and Kosovo are waiting their turn for the slaughterhouse.
Thousands of children, women and men are walking, like seeds tossed in the wind, towards the four corners of the Earth.
They are walking towards those imaginary lines that frequently tattoo the conscience of man and make them feel different.
They walk and are rejected.
Who wants the losers, the poor, the homeless?
Differences seen as folklore, now they are lethal.
I get up and hear the rumour of the sea and while the cat cleans herself I look in my desk, among my things.
Yes, here it is...
Venice. January 1992.
It's a poster, a message that screamed out urgently,
with a megaphone, the reality of the situation.
Even in the cemetery of memory, where innumerable conspiracies sleep among the canals...
Where in the thick fog the home of that joker Marco Polo is crumbling...
Even there, where everything is past, the war arrived.
I recall myself walking through the streets and seeing children begging.
They were all Yugoslavian, now probably stateless
I remember how the people gave them money. And that woman who, in front of the big church, everyday gave a plate of food to a freckle-faced girl.
Yes. Historical ties...
And the ties of the oppressed, ties of tenderness, of love, of fraternity
Just a hundred kilometres away the fathers of those children were killing
the fathers of other children...
Mallorca is only an hour and a half’s flight away from Sarajevo.
that want to be as naked as the bullets that penetrate tender flesh...
and smashing veins and lungs, taking life away from the victim’s hands, who
puzzled, doesn’t understand that he’s dead.
One life less...One number more for the statistics.
One corpse (will anyone cry for it?) more in the cemetery.
Hades will end up speaking Serbo-Croatian
Numbers...figures...they are nothing, like vaccines...
Figures...They don’t speak of intimacy, of illusions, of self...
And hundred of years later, like Troy sacked by the Achaeans, Sarajevo
will have no song to recall civilian suffering.
It’s true that despite war, death and the Fall of the Roman Empire,
the almond trees will blossom in winter.
September will awaken to vines laden with juicy grapes
and the Sun will rise in the East.
It’s also true that he who doesn’t drink in the present moment
and doesn’t take part in it, like a statue in the square before the argument,
is neither dead nor alive.
Is simply not there.
Why this silence?
Why are you so silent, Europe?
One must take sides given the events in the Balkans.
One must have an opinion on the genocide of the Muslims.
Or is everything over?
Are there no more roads to Tolerance?
We are not brave, like the lion of Oz?
Is everything over?
DREAM ON EUROPE
forget the suffering which surrounds you
demolish the edifice of the French Revolution
and upon the bones of Bosnia construct a new building,
a splendid palace.
Pay armed mercenaries to guard your innocence
and sleep the dream of selfishness and opulence
that the strange signs dying men’s hands scratch,
the strange words the tortured cry out
the raped at your very door
and the strange words that arrive in naked letters
through decorated letter-boxes, all say the same thing:
LIFE IS FOR FREEDOM
and you’ve forgotten.
But don’t worry madam...
Dance on Europe...
dance on blindly.
The world was full of wars before the Balkans:
in South Africa, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbajan, Somalia...
humanity’s endemic enemy rears up.
Bosnia could have been a dream of tolerance but has ended up as the opposite.
It seems that in the Dalmatian lands there is not enough room for the three races, neither for reason before gunpowder and flags.
There is not a stone left standing and civilians have no right to live.
They have to choose between life and death, to bury all sharing and conscience to leave room for fear and hate.
Who will judge the legalised assassins, the map-tracers, the carriers of atavistic hate?
And a few women in Belgrade, the white city, dress in black, and come together,
because they want the war to end,
the slaughter of their men and their dignity to end.
While Europe tries to ignore it, the Storm grows, and in the centre
of the continent grows a strong-rooted tree.
It is not the tree of hope the tree of death, or even the tree of misfortune.
It is the tree of fear.
That terrible fear that keeps man from man.
Palma de Mallorca, 1994
Translated by Simon Malone
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