Dogs and Bones

June 8, 2014

dogs and bones

After a few days of war
the Sarajevo streets were a catwalk for dogs:
perfumed dogs, well-groomed dogs, dogs
with cut-glass collars
and not a flea between them.  Their owners
had left them as they left
the burning city.

The trash-heaps became
a battlefield where the lapdogs lost
to an army of strays, lean-limbed
and mangy with hate.
Cowering and cleansed, the back-alley refugees
retreated to the doorways
of locked apartments, barking in answer
to each unearthly whistle
as the morning shells came in.


…one of those locked apartments
where we kicked down the door, searching
for a bastard sniper and found
the skeleton of an old woman fused
to a kitchen chair, yes, merged with the wood.
She had starved to death
sitting next to a pantry crammed with cans of food.

We spent a long time debating the crucial issue
of her religion.  Yackety-yack.  We could get no clue
from the photos that littered the place,
or the needlepoint of a knight
and castle, or the hundred
bottles of perfume placed around her bed.
Her piously folded hands remained a secret.

It was dawn before the argument died out
and we carred her into the street where dogs
were fighting amid the garbage–
nothing they wouldn’t risk,
nothing they wouldn’t eat.  Who cares,
anyway?  Who knows
whether she even believed in God?  ‘By God,
God will find his hands full
after this war,” someone said, and we fell
silent, pretending not to see
her silly grin, and the sudden silver glint
of the can-opener on its chain
around her neck.

By Goran Simic

Read by Alan Rickman

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