Letters from Sarajvo

August, 1992

Dear Daughter,

Our windows are gone. The street glitters.
Glass is in the bread and in the pillows.

The shells come every night now.
Jovan says he can hear them
from half a mile away. Your brother
is trying so hard to be brave. He stands
between the window and my bed,
thinks I do not notice.

Sometimes shells do not explode.
I picture metal poised above our roof
as if waiting for a signal from the hills
Yes, take this house. No, move on.
We do not sleep until the sun
swings above the eastern ridge.
It warms the men who feed the guns
before it reaches us.

I close my eyes and there is no
ocean between us. I see you.
You're wearing a blue sweater,
sitting in that college library wrapped
in such marvelous silence. No sirens,
no flames. I do not understand
why our neighbors sweat in the hills,
drag heavy boxes, load the shells.
Is there an answer in those books?


October, 1992

Dear Daughter,

Last week Serb soldiers took Grbavica,
went from house to house with rifles.
They pulled out Asila's gold earrings
then shot at her as she ran toward the bridge.
Eighty years old! She won't stop shaking.

Your brother talked to a man from Bratunic
who saw the Imam Mojkanovic tortured.
Thousands of people had been forced
to go to the stadium and watch.

Today a cloud the color of honey
filled the western sky. It was hard
to breathe. They say silos at the flour mill
were hit. All that wheat in the air!
Our bread for the winter.

January, 1993

Dear Daughter,

Each morning the city is smaller,
more subtracted from the map.
Buildings vanish leaving nothing
but smoke and charred roots.

Kosevo cemetery can hold no more.
Yesterday Nadira was buried
in the soccer field, one of fifty
lowered into frozen earth.
We stood in the falling snow
unable to speak. It seemed that our language
and all that connects us to this place
was also being buried.

March, 1993

Dear Daughter,

We are not coming.
When we went to the convoy departure point
our own soldiers stopped Jovan.
They want my fourteen year old boy
to stand on a bridge with a rifle.
Exposed to the sky he'll feel
what's left of his childhood slide
into the darkness of the Miljacka.

Jovan told me to leave without him.
He tried to lift me into the truck.
I could not go.

May, 1993

Dear Daughter,

I am thinking of willows,
the trailing green that announces spring,
how sunlight floods through the leaves,
how roots push down,
curl around boulders and paving stones.

Of course, there are no trees in Sarajevo.
We burned them all last winter.
When the wood was gone, we pulled
brittle leaves from under the snow,
colored our nights with brief flames.

I have not left the apartment
since the day I sent that telegram
about your brother. I stand
by the window. Asila brings me soup.

I dreamed of you again last night.
You carried sea water in a silver bowl.
How beautiful you were.


Poems by Sharon Fain:

Snowy Owl
Getting It Right
A Birth
Waiting for the Bear
Screen Saver
Losing the Drought
Isla Mujeres: Weeks Before the Breakdown
On Hearing Jack Gilbert Talk About Death
One Month at Casa Sotovento
Out on the Deck at Sirens
Waiting to Hear About the Biopsy
Elvis at Chiang Mai
High Desert
Letters From Sarajevo
On Seeing the Place Where I First Made Love

TIMES TEN: An Anthology of Northern California Poets