Mad Old Witch: the War in the Former Yugoslavia
by Michael Brett

The war is old, senile: it is a sullen sustained fury that cannot find itself
Or make sense of things, has no longer a narrative
Or shape to give events. It wanders, helplessly,
Through days that are twisted sharp
And broken things that won't do what you want anymore;

There are rumours of the Americans and Iranians flying in weapons:
The attack already is a kind of giant music
That plays on the strings of us:
Home and rumour, puppy dogs, climb off planes,
Bark in boxes of weapons, congressmen's speeches;

We decipher television like pharaonic script,
Guessing at meanings, filling in gaps,
And the private clocks of myself and the world
Begin to converge in a kind of artist's diagram of perspective:

Time is a camping giant packing us up,
Finishing his holiday, pulling up tent pegs:

All will be interrupted. Lives are half-eaten sandwiches
Left in bars: education, jobs-lives.

And World War memories come back to life,
Like walking on bombed windows;

And fear too is a vast cathedral,
But changed by the young people into something
Modern. It is no longer a dark Catholic or Orthodox welcoming fug
But something bright, noisy that the young people made of glass
Containing everything and everyone.

Outside it, gunners yawn next to besieging guns
And the casual shells are sown next to apartments;
Another Sarajevo day.

In the Bosnia-Herzegovina offices, in London,
45 minutes flying time away
Everything is the same but different, senile, uncomprehending, baffling:
Our homes are burgled but nothing is stolen.

Men in leather jackets are FSB/KGB, not rock fans.
The retired English major with a Terry-Thomas moustache
Who says he has converted to Islam is, I think, MI6.

But somewhere between all the death threats and spies
And the gun runners making deals in airport toilets,
There is a miracle here:

Scruffy Saint Michaels and working class Henry Vs in jeans ride out of London
In vans to fight for people they don't know,
In places they've never been
And talk about the front line as if it were the pub

And a battle, a game of dominoes, a casual win at cards.

Copyright © 2013 - Michael Brett
Published: 1/10/13   ·  Author's Page   ·  Next Poem