Every Dead Baby is Baby Croatian
by Michael Brett

"It isn't a tank it's an ambulance." (shortlisted for the Wilfred Owen Poetry Competition and included in the Wilfred Owen Association 2015 Anthology)

In the Information Centre of Bosnia-Herzegovina in London, we know
We are losing the war as we have no heavy weapons and no tanks.

Haris' family disappeared when his house was burned down by Arkan Militiamen.

We sometimes see him high upstairs through the office window,
A miserable wartime Pole Star: separate, aloft, unreachable.

In the papers, there are reports of rape camps and starvation;
Pictures of Bosnians behind camp barbed wires, half-naked,
Impaled on the war like oysters on a knife.

Tom, calm as a sniper, has a plan to buy a tank for Bosnia in Kaliningrad,
Paint it white, remove its guns and say it is an ambulance.

Haris looks through the doorway as everyone listens.

To him we are a choir of noises like the shredders. We can see him.
But he seems lost where no-one can find him,
Trapped in a solitary unswept darkness, a deep mine air shaft.

He shrugs then says he wants to leave.
His brother has found him a job in a shoe shop in Oxford Street.
But we know is going to sit in a flat and brood alone; and smoke and drink forever.

Khaled, second in charge, the press attaché, tries to talk him out of it but gets nowhere.
Khaled is kindly but too busy to talk. In the press room,
The fax paper unrolls news of death like a bloody Cleopatra.
In Mostar there is street fighting, close combat.

Tom's tank idea has become more realistic:
He plans on buying an armoured personnel carrier.
It can be painted white and have its guns removed, red crosses on the sides.
Once into Bosnia it can be rearmed and repainted.
Haris clears his desk. It does not take long. He says he doesn't want a farewell do at the pub.

Tom flies to Kaliningrad with Saudi money. He buys an armoured personnel carrier.
He arranges delivery. It is painted white and, amazingly-a miracle- the Croats let it through. He sees the front. In the Krajena, he says, Serb houses are burning
With Croatian graffiti on the walls: 'Serves you right you right. You started this.'

The war seems to be ending but the weird racism doesn't.
In Tudjman's Croatia, anti-abortion posters beside the road say
'Every dead baby is a baby Croatian.' But we have a tank. Suddenly Haris returns.
When we go home at night, he ransacks all the rooms, the cleaning cupboards, even desks.

He is searching for his family we think.

Copyright © 2015 - Michael Brett
Published: 11/28/15   ·  Author's Page   ·  Next Poem