Monday, 19 April 2004


This much I remember:
       A wooden boat, upturned on the beach,
       Its blue hull resting quietly
       On the soft, pale sand,
       Wavelets lapping the shore
       As the sun slipped down
       Across the mouth of the estuary
       As, on the far shore,
       The lighthouse winked slowly.

Thursday, 8 April 2004

Eggs for Sale, Serbia

The sign read "Eggs for Sale, "
(I offer it here in translation; the original
Serbian momentarily escapes me)
"This way -->".

So I followed, this way -->, and 
On arrival, at the end of a track, at
A cluster of white-painted farm buildings,
Enquiring as to the possibility
Of an egg or two, I was greeted
By some men (who, as I recall, were mending a pump)
With a curious mixture of amusement and bemusement,
And was directed to Goran, who said,
No, we do not have any eggs, but
You are welcome to stay the night,
If you would like.

We sat outside together and drank beer
As evening slipped over the hill behind the Danube
And talked a little of the war.
His cousin had been in Novi Sad
When we bombed the bridges there.
And he had watched the bombarding of Belgrade
From his farmhouse, white on the hilltop,
With no eggs for sale, but a place for the night, if you'd like to stay.
And I said I was sorry, for what it was worth,
I had been against it from the start,
Another country up which we had messed
It's the politicians who are mad,
And Goran said Forget it, it's the best
Firework display we ever had.

Wednesday, 7 April 2004

Vukovar, Croatia, 2004

Across the border, the road divides
Still-wintry forest from un-sprung marsh.
Cold; April the seventh -
My mother's birthday tomorrow.
The forest, and the marshes, both are mined.

On the road Bosnian truckers drive hard,
Barrelling diretissimo from die-hard habit, I imagine,
Of running Sarajevo snipers. Cyclist: make way.

From the border-guards, a stamp and a smile:
Welcome to Croatia. Good luck on your journey.
And then across the border
On the road that divides forest from marsh.
Marshes and forest, both are mined.

Good Christ, mined! Not in some far distant land, but
Here on our back door-step, mined.

And the fields of Beli Manastir - mined.
Mined, and marked by neat small signs: red triangles,
And a skull: danger, death, mines.
Land mines,
Anti-personnel devices.

Area denial?

Good Christ, ten years on, these people
Cannot work their god-damned
Man-damned fields.

Cannot graze their god-damned
Man-damned cattle.

Cannot walk the path to visit their god-damned
Man-damned neighbour.

On the road from Osijek to Vukovar
Dark rain lashes.

Road? A causeway,
This-only-we-have-made-safe ugly ribbon
In a sea of god-damned land-mines.

Dark futile fury lashes within me on the road to Vukovar,
Raging in the rain against the god-damned men who...

And when the road reaches Vukovar,
I am gut-shot-wrenching full
I keep my head down, trying, as much as possible,
Not to see the burnt-out, shelled-out, bulleted,
Smashed place, and the people who I think
Try, as much as possible, not to see me,
As dark rain lashes.

       You need not travel very far
       To sample the delight of war:
       It fills the air in Vukovar.