The children of Bosnia are on again tonight,
though this performance is the last, I think,
to trouble their mortal sleep. But the man
with the bad toupee draws deep on his filterless
cigarette, leans into history, and in hoarse
torrents of Greek tells us what we must do,
what numbers to call. Then the montage
of twisted limbs and blood, by now the standard
images of ruin I will never understand.
A tiny waif in her pink tutu floats past
the television monitors, arms coupled
in the arch of peace and friendship. It’s
to the angels now, he
it’s true. But by now, I’ve had enough. I turn
away and Gaia turns to me for explanation.
I wish I knew. The
Caravan of Hope, with the orphans
of Sarajevo on board, had come to Salonica for seven nights
at Christmas. And tonight the Epiphany arrives,
when the three men were guided by the star, when
the angel spoke to them and they understood.
But for the children of Bosnia, it’s not so simple.
Tomorrow they return to Sarajevo, to all that
madness. No one here will take them.
Already there are tales of breaking loose, Byzantine
whispers that the Caravan of Hope is heading south
to the wine-dark Aegean and will not stop
until they arrive in Crete or head farther south,
to Libya, Land of Lotus Eaters, until they find
someone who will understand, someone who will take them in,
tell them it no longer matters, that here is a place
to let you grow and a time that wants you.
What seems so simple … how nothing ever is.
And then the ring at the door,
outside in the street, beyond the walls of our locked gate.
The Children of Bosnia are here and we have to
let them in, have to give them something warm
and lasting while they tell the story of their lives.
Gaia and Donna and I will move among them,
bring them to a house grown suddenly large,
where room after room appears we never knew
existed. And Gaia, who speaks with the voice of an angel,
all music and light, will hold each one
in her embrace, and proclaim You
are my best friend …
Here is Gjoko, son of Danko—who was my first Croatian
teacher and who is now no longer, another
martyr of Mostar. The boy has his father’s eyes,
dark and luminous, that question everyone.
Here is Slobodna, whose name means freedom,
who cannot speak and will not make a sound for months.
Naпma, Branko, Goran … they stretch off like a hall of mirrors.
Suddenly, around the fire, we converse in a tongue none
of us seems sure of. But we believe it could happen.
This is the night when miracles occur. They say
the animals knelt before the power that they felt,
and the three ancient men were blinded by the star
yet followed because there was something in the voice
that spoke to them, something that seemed true.
So it could be. Donna has placed a blanket on the shoulders
of those who still shiver and are afraid. No
need to worry.
give them a drink named Apatph qanatou
The Trick of Death—that comes from villages high on
the slopes of Taпyetos. And it seems true, since tricking death
and life are the only things to get us by, when we have to
believe what’s here, as we fall through this universe
together, at the same eternal speed, this same blinding fury.
Somewhere an angel has opened her wings.
Somewhere a country true enough to hold.
Somewhere a hearth that has always been waiting,
with a fire warmed by the victims of chance, where
the goddess of mourning bends to her loom, weaving
a myth about mystery and fate in the language of loss.
Somebody loves us all.