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Sarajevo Blues



1. Viva Orduenya
2. Si Veriash La Rana

3. War
4. The Tunnel
5. Imam Bey's Mosque
6. Expulsion
7. Exodus
8. What Will You Remember
9. Grbavica
10. Death Is A Job
11. A Relatively Calm Day
12. Zenica Blues

13. Open Dialogue
14. Adam
15. Aish Ye K’dish



Dance for Jewish brides in Tangiers—the movements teach of the labor that goes into bread

Viva Orduena, She is sifting in her sandy yard
CHORUS: She puts her feet in the sea, and I am learning the dance
Viva Orduena, She is sowing in her sandy yard
She is planting…She is harvesting…She is carrying…She is grounding…She is kneading…She is eating…


Song to keep Bulgarian Jewish girls in line

If you could see the little frog sitting on the oven, frying her fritas and sharing with her sisters! If you could see the little mouse sitting in the corner, shelling walnuts and sharing with her sisters! If you could see the little camel sitting on the dough-board, rolling out filo thinner than hair! I love you so much!





War/ And nothing is going on—I go into town to beg for cigarettes
I’ve always known your scent/but you’ve never been closer—
It’s cold in the morning, you/put my underwear on
Your joy / at the packets of humanitarian aid/ makes me happy and sad at the same time. And I ask myself: where on earth do you find us coffee every night
I was young and I didn’t know/ that death’s something a lot more common than is seems/so plain/ that anything you say about it sounds trite.




I was coming back to the Sarajevo the only way you could: through the tunnel. Water seeped in everywhere through the narrow passageway; the mud made it even harder to get through. Since there wasn’t enough air, I became so exhausted that I had to stop halfway. I was ready to lay down and die right where I was till I found a spot that was a little wider, made to put aside the dead, so the living could pass
I just stayed right there, for hours, underground, and thought of Radovan.



Imam Efendi Spahic had three children and a grandchild that were killed by the shells that fell on Dairam. Before that, his wife too; as if God had taken her to Him, to protect her. So she wouldn’t see.

Here’s what I think: There are neither major nor minor tragedies. Tragedies exist. Some can be described. There are others for which every heart is too small. Those kind cannot fit in the heart.



The Chetniks banished the mental patients from Jagomir to the city. That day, one of them—holding the body of a dead sparrow by its claws—cam up to someone walking along King Tomislav Street and said: “You’ll be dead too, when my army gets here.”


Number 6705, Sarajevo, 1947, Yugoslav Communist Party local committee, Mostar:
Call Mida C>adro in and inform her that the Party is of the opinion that she must cut off all intimate relations with Tom Vikic’, since the aformentioned has a wife and 3 children and the C.P. cannot agree to him divorcing his wife, meaning that a marriage between herself and Vikic’ will not come to pass.



In Sarajevo, it only makes sense to remember the day that’s just passed. It’s snowing, like it’s supposed to in January. I’m watching kids sledding. They can be divided into those who are in love with their sleds and those who just love sledding. I saw this today and I am very happy as I write about my discovery. I know that, when everything passes, I’ll remember this too…



The snipers, at least those aiming at Sniper Alley, shoot from the Jewish cemetery. Covered by the gravestones, they’re safe. Dear Lord. Punish all those who desecrate Jewish graves. And punish me, if it was a sin that I picked violets there as a child.



I’m running across and intersection to avoid the bullet of a sniper from the hill when I walk straight into some photographers: they’re doing their job, in deep cover. If a bullet hit me they’d get a shot worth so much more than my life that I’m not even sure whom to hate: the Chetnik sniper or these monkeys with Nikons. For the Chetniks I’m just a simple target but those others confirm my utter helplessness and even want to take advantage of it. In Sarajevo, death is a job for all of them. Life has been narrowed down completely, reduced to gestures…a man covering his head with a newspaper as he runs across the same street, scared of a sniper’s bullet.



1. In the daily reports—when dozen of shells hit downtown, when snipers are in action and only a few have been killed or wounded—we are informed that a relatively calm day has passed.
2. A flustered young man begs to cut into the water line. He shoes his plastic canister. The line twists to make a place for him.
Since he’s already loaded his canister, he hurries to the end of the street and gets hit by a grenade. All that’s left of him is a bloody trail on the pavement that’s like sap but is easier to clean. Just then it starts raining and everything gets washed away: not even a trace of the young guy is left, nor a trace of the canister. Just water. As if nothing on the street changed, except everyone got just a bit quieter.



The woman in a seat near you is talking to herself. Fine—she says—All right. Just don’t touch. All eyes turn to you and you also turn to see who’s at fault. Ashamed, you turn back, biting your shoulder. You feel the weight of the girl sitting next to you, the warmth of her shoulder. You find yourself in the toilet with a Sarajevo rocker—Jewish—and while you take a leak together you bond in perfect male solidarity: That’s how it is, says the Jewish guy. And you nod even though it isn’t like that. Nothing’s for sure except 2 circumcisions by the flushing bowl. Without you everything in this town will still be the same. Or almost—you reassure yourself. So remember a few details, and all the instances that mercilessly surround your awkwardness: the clash of teeth in a kiss, for instance…





“What are you reading?”
“Poems by Rumi, a poet born in Afghanistan”
“Where are you from?”
“Serbs and Croats, right? Is anyone else there?”
“There are others”
“What color are your eyes”
“Green in Colorado, blue in the New Mexico light”
“So then what kind of Muslim are you?”



Spoiled , fondled by the hands of many women, I came upon you by chance, young Adam. And before I could lay my mouth on yours, you begged me, with the pale tender face of the tenderest lily:
don’t bite me , don’t bite me
I saw that your body was completely covered with teeth marks. Trembling, I bit into you. You flared your thin nostrils, and edged close to me like a burning horizon against a field.



Live on, work-horse. Relief comes while you are unaware. Your condition is bad—I see you have no money, and you tell me, “To hell with it all!
The gates of mercy are overcrowded. We need water, we need bread. If it would only rain money!” Live on, work-horse. Your country is green, full of water and pasture—but not for the poor simpleton, accepting just what God gives. Ask, demand to know! Don’t just dream—how often have dreams betrayed you? Haven’t we told you? Ask how! But everything happens while you are unaware. You remain a work-horse, unaware.

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Copyright 2006 Charming Hostess

Last updated November 17, 2006 Charming Hostess