EVERY DEAD BABY IS A BABY CROATIAN
‘It isn’t a tank, it’s an ambulance.’
In the Information Centre of Bosnia-Herzegovina in London, we know We are losing the war as we have no heavy weapons and no tanks.
Haris’ family disappeared when his house was burned down by Arkan Militiamen.
We sometimes see him high upstairs through the office window, A miserable wartime Pole Star: separate, aloft, unreachable.
In the papers, there are reports of rape camps and starvation; Pictures of Bosnians behind camp barbed wires, half-naked, Impaled on the war like oysters on a knife.
Tom, calm as a sniper, has a plan to buy a tank for Bosnia in Kaliningrad, Paint it white, remove its guns and say it is an ambulance.
Haris looks through the doorway as everyone listens.
To him we are a choir of noises like the shredders. We can see him. But he seems lost where no-one can find him, Trapped in a solitary unswept darkness, a deep mine air shaft.
He shrugs then says he wants to leave. His brother has found him a job in a shoe shop in Oxford Street. But we know is going to sit in a flat and brood alone; and smoke and drink forever.
Khaled, second in charge, the press attaché, tries to talk him out of it but gets nowhere. Khaled is kindly but too busy to talk. In the press room, The fax paper unrolls news of death like a bloody Cleopatra. In Mostar there is street fighting, close combat.
Tom’s tank idea has become more realistic: He plans on buying an armoured personnel carrier. It can be painted white and have its guns removed, red crosses on the sides. Once into Bosnia it can be rearmed and repainted. Haris clears his desk. It does not take long. He says he doesn’t want a farewell do at the pub.
Tom flies to Kaliningrad with Saudi money. He buys an armoured personnel carrier. He arranges delivery. It is painted white and, amazingly-a miracle- the Croats let it through. He sees the front. In the Krajena, he says, Serb houses are burning With Croatian graffiti on the walls: ‘Serves you right you right. You started this.’
The war seems to be ending but the weird racism doesn’t. In Tudjman’s Croatia, anti-abortion posters beside the road say ‘Every dead baby is a baby Croatian.’ But we have a tank. Suddenly Haris returns. When we go home at night, he ransacks all the rooms, the cleaning cupboards, even desks.
He is searching for his family we think.
Michael Brett attended Adrian Henri's Arvon class in 1976. He won the Iolaire Poetry Prize in 1983 and is one of the 2010 Winners of the Sampad (South Asian Arts) International Writing Competition (his two poems, London, Bangladesh and London- from Aqaba to Zem Zem will be published in the Sampad anthology Journeys, October 2010). His poem "The Sunken Cathedral" is in the May 31st edition of America magazine. Random House USA and UK are including some of his poems in the Ebury Book 'Heroes: 100 Poems from the New Generation of War Poets,' edited by Carol Ann Duffy among others. It is due to be published in September. A selection of his poems is included in the new poetry anthology 'Enduring Freedom' edited by former Poet Laureate Andrew Motion. It is due out in October. All proceeds will go to the UK Armed Services mental welfare charity, 'Combat Stress.' During the Civil War in the Former Yugoslavia, Michael worked in the Press Section of the Information Centre of Bosnia-Herzegovina in London, promoting US and NATO military intervention in the Civil War in the Former Yugoslavia. He believed in the ideal of a multi ethnic Bosnian state and that it would stop the widespread massacres of civilians that were taking placing at the time. Michael was born in Accra, Ghana in 1955. He was educated in England at Cranbrook School and the University of Reading, where he read English. He worked n the City of London for over ten years, has a background in financial journalism, and continued to write throughout that period. He is currently Head of English at a school in South London. Tomorrow It Will All Run Backwards: Modern War Poetry https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1549970372/ref=cm_sw_r_apa_7cj7zbDKT8WK9
Image of tank couyrtesy of TheDigitalArtist
Image of burning house courtesy of Kolyaeg