Leaving Sarajevo and Ghazal for the Woman from Vitez, two poems by Susan Rich

      Leaving Sarajevo

      The bus driver stops to pick plums
      from an abandoned late summer garden,

      the pale blue carrier bags pulled from his bed
      where he sleeps underneath the bus.

      All night we watch movies,
      drink beer in the dark, cross borders

      where Bosnians, Croats and Serbs
      will read and re-read our passports,

      our papers: the litmus test of war.
      We travel Prijedor, Banja Luka, Tuzla,

      toward an airport light of home;
      past mine fields and orchards

      fueled by sweet Sarajevan plums
      our hearts are no longer our own.

      Ghazal for the Woman
      from Vitez, Bosnia

      It's the best watermelon in the world
      but there's no way to say it in words.

      She had squatted in the space for apples and pears
      under the staircase, a year, beyond the place of words.

      Now she comes back with tea, examines me closely,
      my out-of-date phrase book, my mispronounced words.

      I ask for the toilet and she shows me the bedrooms, bombed
      by neighbors who should have known how to use words.

      We walk out to her garden in late afternoon light,
      survey squash plants and corn stalks, we re-enter words.

      In Bosnian the tomato is called paradise, sweetness
      transferred from some other country's words.

      We drink rounds of whisky, call her sons on the phone
      laughing because we have found a way out through words.

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