To my home. The place where my soul was brought forward to exist as a representative of this ancient people who have resisted the ages of persecution, endeavouring to protect their mortality as though they were cursed to succumb to the injustices set upon them. As this man with a future of aspiring notes, created from the sustenance of resistance. In the rich and mysterious Balkan lands, of minerals exclusive to these earths of wisdom and poets, where words and bread are the foundations of one’s mortal respectability. Where blood was never rationed but broke away from the skin as a requisite to the fertility of the pastures. I was assigned as a member of this so called tribe, to which I learned to remit the once sense of questionability of encountered sufferances. I’m aware that humanity has been fatigued and devoured by nationalistic creeds, yet beside my soul, within my fingertips, underneath all sense of rational doubt, I am drawn to the portrait of my home city. Nominated either by a deity or by cosmic fate, I shall not speculate in respect to the reader. I am a live witness of the horrors that once caused this people’s ambitions to become derelict in the prisms of ideologues, by cleansing another’s life for the opportunity of colonial expansion. I am a young dissident, writing in a land that was not deficient in empathising with the lives of thousands of others who were pawned as lifeless monopoly into the hills that never spoke of the atrocities which they forcibly housed. The wails and the bones remain a secret of which history arbitrates. By fortune – the ones who survived by wheelbarrows, tractors and God-given feet, escaped the descent into the bloodied soil of a land that was viewed so historically vital to those who would cause widespread desecration against a people perceived as their inferiors. Now, my city of birth remains as a victim of a quasi-apartheid. A stranger to the foundations of words and bread. Long ago, ancient tribesmen and warriors made claim to their homes near the River Iber whose natural wealth was denounced over the centuries into a state of bridging two sets of people apart. Both sides hailing their flags of honour. The North, the province of red, blue and white – in Christendom. The South, reddened in a black double-headed eagle, Islamised by Ottoman rule. I have walked the streets of the divided corridors and all I have ever seen in the absence of powerful and propagandist words of affirmation, are the eyes of human beings. Yes, the eyes of human beings – in the centre of their existences. Old men playing dominoes at dawn in their honorary cafes. Old women conversing along the bridge which separates the eternally entrenched. And I have come to the conclusion of the absurdity of it all. I know not who is my enemy – and the other my friend.
He glared over the city skyline that had become an evident portrayal of hate. All he can hear in his blemished conscience is the deafening yet mellow tone of the echoing of sirens that has become an anthem in a city so obsessed with crime. Some are infatuated by this cancer that infects the root of mankind. Destroying core fragments that make us human beings. Capable of discovering empathy and wisdom, in a a world that harvests the fruits of misfortune and greed. The thirst for emancipation subsides with every minute drop of blood that trickles down the ambulances who have become veterans of hosting death. For centuries have passed yet some human beings continue to be abetted by evil. Maybe our lives were written to be rehearsed. Maybe this darkness is embedded in people’s hearts and souls. They constantly yearn for its presence. To conquer their existence and replenish the voids that cannot be filled by righteousness.
Each year we would visit the graves of family members who had passed. Some would congregate beside tombstones, others picked at the overgrown plants that had risen, as bones nourished the soil in which they now reside. In the West graveyards are usually pristine, places where the eyes do not falter. But in this land death has a way of deepening senses. The art of faces, perishing into the past. In the West the dates between birth and death are not often surreal, yet here in this blood immersed land they glare below a sun that states the abrupt endings of life. 1989-1999. 1975-1999. 1980-1999. These were the years where the youth had no knowledge of what peace had to offer. They witnessed their fathers leaving their homes at noon to protest arm in arm. Marching unarmed towards militarised units and tanks with the capacity to crush their bones, sweep them to the side as if they were dust. And who would these policemen answer to, for inhumane crimes? Not a single prosecutor. They were immune to a colonial disease that eviscerated the soul of my people. The taste of teargas was food in which they offered; bullets were the currency of the state. Professors, doctors, intellectuals were all assigned as criminals, in their eyes. Neighbourhoods turned into secret havens, where men risked their lives to teach language that God had bestowed upon them. The human right to express a DNA, an identity, their lineage. Women and men wandered the curfew streets like spies in order to sustain an existence. Children traumatised before they had even learned to read or write. Maybe this was their plan all along, to silence us by ways of illiteracy and dependence. Yet we defied. Professors, activists, civilians and students became unarmed soldiers, their intellect was the armour of silent warfare. The regime’s archives will have you believe that guerrillas were responsible for the commencement of the war. In truth, this war had begun decades before. When they suppressed our language, fearing that words were the power to encapsulate wisdom. When they removed intellectual men from their positions of work and degraded them into becoming second-class citizens, knowing that their honour and obstinance would leave trails of sweat on bedsheets, along with terrors of the night. They carefully alienated an entire generation that had lived in peace during the years of Josip Tito. Albanians and Serbs had lived as one until ultra-nationalism became a serpent within the empire. My evidence is in experiences faced during the war. My father’s life was spared, by a Serb who had recognised him during the years in which they played professional football in the Yugoslav leagues. Those who profess of an intractable history, do not see or recognise or even acknowledge these instances of heart and flesh. They do not see the surface of human connection from their high castles where they plot and sharpen their philosophies of division as they plan the arraignment of innocent men. We cannot claim that every Serb was a warmonger, seeking to devour all that stood in his path. Just as we cannot forget the atrocities carried out by paramilitary forces as they ransacked villages, like Roman barbarians; burning houses and lining men and young boys across brick walls to massacre them without reason, nor reflection. Throughout human history powerful men with a lust for dominion have altered the fates of innocent people as if they were Gods. What they cannot see: is their ultimate destruction, their time usually comes. Either by guillotine or human justice. It surely comes. And the agency is returned to the intellects, the professors and the doctors, to the farmers and village-men who have worked the lands and terrain for centuries. They know a wild animal with a thirst for blood when they see one. The tyrants mistook their hospitality, respect and honour; for weakness. Within their creation is the will to protect their lands and their neighbours from hostile and murderous men, who speak nothing but the literature of violence and death.
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.
Have you ever looked,
at a woman,
so cordial in her essence?
You feel as though,
could hinder her sunlit portrait.
continues to play;
where you inevitably taint this pristine brush.
that has never truly been held,
in an artists soft,
and passionate grip.
that has yet to absorb,
every coloured emotion,
under the dynastic sun.
that has never loved,
until the principles of sanity,
have been brought under question.
And I have finally come to realise,
why intimacy is a burden,
upon my soul.
The first steps,
towards an intimate bond,
are the most arduous,
I will ever have to take.
Give me war.
Give me hardship.
Give me pain.
But do not give me the power,
to decide her fate.
that her perfected perceptions,
may eventually break.
For I have tainted,
too many pristine brushes,
in my wake.
So I remain an artist,
without a brush to paint.
I remember the days when I used to hold her in arms. A fragile flower surrendering her eyes to my heart. Yet in truth, we were really worlds apart. The mind how it tricks the most sweetest of loves and doubt becomes the general that crushes the soul. Unable to picture our romance ever growing old. At the embryonic stage of every relationship, is a power you believe will resist any struggle. Those were the days where love was blind and guidance was lacking. If time could be reversed my name would be first on that list. As I walk through the city I feel the wind cutting my skin. Nature has a way of inflicting the most minor of pains. We would walk along the river bed, the birds reciting their hymns. I would fall back to admire this beauty in all of her sins.
Trees bemoan the season of autumn. Every time it comes around. A of its existence, falls to the ground. Leaving it vulnerable, cold and dazed. Like a broken soul, when the heart breaks. Slowly as the seasons change. The tree begins to breathe again. So when you’re left, exposed by love. remember the naked tree, in the winter sun.
unbeknown, to the destiny of ways. two souls, part. down roads, never made. the lavender night, in its implacable essence. greets two lovers, on the border, between separate paths. her weighted head, rests, against his tiring shoulders. in silence they breathe, as the commotion, of the city fades. if only they could see, their own reflection. in the winter’s haze, by towers of glass. see how their bodies mould, into inconceivable art. Maybe then, would their hearts, conceive intention. a modern tale, where romance withers. with no resistance, from either side. they make their way, down different roads. too endless, and alien. for both their sights.
Her forced smiles were intrinsic. Forged lips, enslaved by her thoughts. Hollow cheeks, strained by continuous contractions. Deep dimples, as if two bullets had left eternal wounds on her mellow face. Eye contact became redundant. Admiring stares, turned into glares of hopelessness. It was as though she was scarred of the future. For she could envision happiness, a far dream to her. Afraid. So, so, afraid. There remained an ample resistance behind her retina. Distorted visions, induced her will, to erode. Along with her heart. Her mind built barriers, so that the soul would stay. Yet the waves of uncertainty and bitterness obliterated them over night. We would awake from stillness. Witnessing our world, weeping in its ruins.