The Danube

The year is 2021. We have been greeted by a plague. Many did not see it coming. This, the vulnerability of man. We are simple creations. Otherwise we would not be warring. Men amongst men. Turning against their own brothers – and for what? What have we ever accomplished through war, televised images of constant bombardment that haunts cities and changes the perspective of men? What have we been aspiring to claim? To oust? Only ourselves. We will return to the soil but we forget that we came from the stars. We send armies into regions and only skeletal matter remains. Some are found and they are given honourable funerals where pain can never be omitted. Yet there are tens of thousands of stories that remain unarchived in the soil. They have returned to the earth and the perpetrators who live in the presence of their crimes will never be at peace. In this life nor the next. Sniper fire from city roofs. Ricocheting off buildings. The melody of the city night. The accustomed national anthem of mourning. Here they have bled. It is seen on their flags as a red treasure. The dead are the blood symbols of martyrdom. Murdered for who they were and who they would become. The love for your own nation can be often seen as damaging to a population, but how can we not have love for a country we were born in? Where as children we saw the visual representation of what it is to be human. The surrounding beauty of what has been created. And we continue to disintegrate cities into rubble. Violence has a way of creating its own worlds. Its effects are innumerable, to the point where it continues to replicate form. We created our own cities, first in the image of the sun. Then came the spiritual renaissance, the birth of an orator who spoke in the language of the divine. So we created metropolises in the image of God. Men who once hid behind the presence of the sun found refuge and sanctity in something greater. They became perilous. False prophets emerged as witnesses testified to the crucifixion of a man who translated the poetry of God. Where do you think our words emerge from, if not the inner light? From the prophets, to the philosophers. From the poets to the people. I never studied literature. I was a commendable student at best. Yet these words flow through me as though I am a soul in the Danube River – escaping from the sound of artillery; from the lakes where bodies of war submerge. 

War part I

Mothers were baking corn bread in traditional kitchens. On antique stoves, when word of the Cetniks presence was made known to the village elders. War had erupted in clusters months before. Guerrilla fighters appeared from their enclaves in the hills. An army appeared from the regime’s capital Belgrade and other Yugoslav cities; as men emerged and were assigned to darkness. I was all but a boy when a special forces officer took reign of our home. As if it were his body and soul that had spent nights in the Balkan snow, chauffeuring replicas of the same faces in a city entangled by the art of separatism. The officers body to my recollection grew inch by inch as he made his way into the living area where our grandfather’s used to philosophise and smoke. His command was that we all sit and not be afraid. But how can one control their emotional state, when a trio of six feet 6 men walk through a door that exemplifies safety, armed in government prescribed signatures, whose ink is inscribed in bullets? An image that will stay with me until the day of my death is the sight of a soldier’s left eye that I could see emerging from his black balaclava. I was told years later when my understanding of the war had matured, that they had demanded dinar, jewellery and passports that would ensure safety for our family of eight. We were accompanied by our aunt and her family, whose sons, my cousins, were at the age where the military would commit their murder. In the blink of an eye. So we hid our sons and our cousins. We prayed to God for our sisters and our mothers. We knew that our home would be burned to a ground that had raised us through sources of nutrition and pride. Yet these men were acting in direct retribution for a sin we had never committed. Faces that we had never seen, would be imprinted in the occurring thoughts of all those who were of age to witness. I remember the war in frames. A polaroid memory. If I exert enough energy in retaining clarity I am taken to the moments of entering a bus in the night; where the light was evidence to a picture of progressive pain. Faces, half way between content and grief.