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.

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