–for Goran Simic
I dropped into sleep while reading a book of poems
by the Bosnian friend I write for here. They’re brilliant,
full of red flowers and graves and wrenching accounts
of his homeland during the 90s. They lend some perspective
on our COVID-19 scourge, which I don’t mean to downplay,
much less to discount the unforgivable part
in worsening it of our leader, jackass and villain.
Goran’s a Serb, and his wife was a Muslim woman:
during the troubles, he really had nowhere to turn.
His poetry makes my guts knot; it’s not a sort
you’d think of as soporific, but being so anxious
for three generations of family has made me restless
almost each night, and so of course I was tired.
I’d been sitting in my wife’s dear grandfather’s rocker,
handsome but sternly wooden. I still nodded off,
and when I came to, I noticed I had drooled
on my shirtfront, like any old fool might do; and yet
the sun of afternoon through the kitchen window
turned even the spot of spittle to something lovely.
Unlikely enough, and the next things to snare my attention
were a once-vivid mum in a glass and a reddish balloon
left from my wondrous partner’s 64th birthday,
back before we knew what the world was in for–
though that contemptible leader had been forewarned.
Our grandchildren’s eyes turned bright as my wife blew out candles,
the smaller kids batting balloons like that one up
into air… All that before some weeks unraveled
and people got sick, many died, and that balloon
and that flower, sole survivors, puckered and shrank
to half their old sizes and somehow looked so sad
that I went back– it makes no sense, I know–
to those agonizing poems of plunder and murder.