Saturday, March 6, 2010
What to Make of Such Beauty? Straight from THE ALCHEMIST'S KITCHEN
I fell in love with Sarajevo and by extension, Bosnia Herzegovina in 1996 and 1997 when I worked there as an electoral supervisor for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). In 2007, I returned to Sarajevo and Mostar to give a series of readings and learn first hand of the changes in the country in the ten years since the war. My belief in the people and culture of this small country continues. I very much hope to return again. Lejla, who is quoted in the poem, was my interpreter in 1996 and continues to live in Sarajevo today with her husband and daughter.
This poem takes as its subject the burning of the National Library. Above is a photograph taken during the war. Below, an image of the building today.
What to Make of Such Beauty?
The attack lasted less than half an hour. Approximately 1,200,000 books and 600 sets of periodicals were destroyed,
---- Kemal Bakarsic, Librarian
The next day along the streets of Sarajevo
scorched pieces of paper
fluttered like a strange snow.
Peel one scrap from the sky
call it hope and an urgent message
appears ---and for one moment ---
a new form of God pentimento.
Turkish, Hebrew, and Bosnian texts ...
Desire lit in the arabesque of black, besotted alphabets ---
until the warmth of the lines
recede and the magic letters fall like trash ~
fingers chalked in the floating literatures of grief.
Yet, the hardest part Lejla says
is to not live within such burning,
not breathe in the pages of our indestructible history.