Sarajevo Thornbush

After passing broken bridges and gap-toothed towns
A verdigris river and black mountainous grandeur
The bus stops in Sarajevo – a city pockmarked
With gunshots and jaundiced by shellshock.

I know no one here and speak strangely
I’ve got a backpack, a sleeping bag, almost no money,
An outdated guidebook I got from the library,
A bag of granola and a knife at the ready.

Wandering these streets, a ghost afraid of a mirror,
I cross over red cement swirls formed from
Explosions and deemed Sarajevo Roses by locals;
I stare in wonder but for only a second,

As I get guilty for thinking it something sublime.
My feet take me past buildings and houses
With trees growing out of them and yellow ribbons
Wrapped around them warning of mines being in them.

Guidebooks can only tell us so much
And the rest we must make up on our own.
So far away from home, uncertain where I’m going
I know only what I can tell myself and as of lately I feel mute,

And not just because my voice may be seen
As an enemy flag, but because I’m afraid
Of walking into a meadow alone, even in fatigues,
Even if Gyges ring was soldered to my skin.

Maybe this truly is a lonely planet; humanity is just
Grimy drifters stumbling around continents looking
For food, shelter, lovers – ready to steal whatever we’re after
Then dissemble to cover our skin with a glowing sheen.

And we’ve done it so much that we’ve blinded
Ourselves to the red dirt that makes us up
And we’ve done it so much that we believe
Our alibis and, even worse, those of our tribes.

All the time we raise our aspirations like Babel and at each
Reformation our falls become higher and harder so that now
We wander around with fly-inviting, blood-crusted bandages,
We limp and moan in pain but still desire the same.

But these thoughts will get me nowhere
So I keep walking along scarred buildings
And what was once, as the guidebook says, a beautiful river
But is now just a debris ridden brown trickle.

And though I’ve yet to figure out where tonight
I’ll lay my head down and offer myself to Sleep
For sweet dreams and needed energy, I’m not worried
As my will is hard and sharp as the steel in my pocket.