Girls of Sarajevo


   by Arnold Jansen op de Haar

the city where children
play their ebony war
their mothers cut wood
   too tired to die

in rebuilt churches the faltering
faith in progress slumbers
in the ruined ice stadium
old applause hangs like cobwebs
but in the suburbs the tanks
still lie
like tortoises on their backs

and in the evening sky there are
dream stockades of nameless girls
their high heels catch
in the gaps in the pavements
sometimes they take money in alarm
and embrace the man passing by
   with their dimmed bird’s eyes
   with the broken wings of their words
   with a sudden glance that strikes home
   with peroxide hair flaming like straw
 – for their fuming fathers are dead –

listlessly they eat their bread of charity
a rose of barbed wire twists in a womb
when the miss election jury asks
   are you a virgin

they say the prettiest girls have disappeared
into the nights they go careless and charming
with their ripe summer lips
but the dead bridegroom’s scent pervades their hair

Poem orginally published at Holland Park Press

© Arnold Jansen op de Haar 2002
© Translation: Paul Vincent 2009
Photography by kaldur

About the Author:

Arnold Jansen op de Haar is a dutch poet and writer, born in Nijmegen, The Netherlands, in 1962. Also, as a Captain in the Dutch Armed Forces he was commanding officer of the unit that secured Tuzla Airbase in Bosnia for incoming UN aid in 1994, one year before the overthrow of the enclave Srebrenica in the former Yugoslavia. His most recent book of poetry is Yugoslav Requiem.