Agim from the KLA arrived.
Safe to return to the village, he said.
The villagers who had stayed high in the hills
knew what to expect.
They talked mostly of other things as they walked
slowly along stony paths, descending.
Hashim was with them. And not with them.
On the edge of the quiet group.
His thoughts were for his son.
He said nothing.
A haze of heat shimmered on burning stones.
Fierce light burned down upon the peasant group
descending through the trees,
through orchards, past fields of waiting corn.
Flies buzzed on fallen fruit.
from time to time the neighbours stopped.
They could see the village below them
at some distance:
a collection of blackened ruins,
ghostly in the glare of day.
how he had tried to restrain hot-head neighbours
who had set out to kill Serbs.
Angry, they would not listen.
They would not listen.
He was the last to enter the village.
Others, ahead were entering ruins
keen to know the worst.
Their voices rang out.
This is Halim.
This is Halim, look.
They shot him.
He fell in the fire.
This must be Ismet.
You know he had six children.
Did they escape?
Where is their mother?
We haven’t found her.
This is Mehmet’s son.
Here is poor Rahim.
He was seventy. Such a kind man!
We’ll start digging graves
for the fifteen we’ve found so far.
Hashim’s quest ion was not answered.
In the next house
he looked in
his friend Fehmi stood
staring at charred remains.
He was speechless.
Hashim, too. What could he say?
Beyond the village
a grassy track led into a wood.
Here were more bodes, fallen headlong,
smelling in the noonday heat,
flies busy on ghastly faces.
And here was his answer,
Poor Azem. My poor Azem.
for good intentions.
24 July, 15 September, 13 November 1999
Copyright © 1999 David Roberts