at play in the Sarajevo snow

unsure

children say nothing out loud
the soldiers escort them
wind-driven in a line past sniper alley
clothes ragges & overgrown
loose as laundry on a line
child after child after child after child
strung out as if to scare away birds
past an artificial leg left standing in the street

say nothing out loud
as if the rainy season lasted year round
it is the end of the world & there is still rain
or as if winter were four full seasons
years of cold augusts & frigid julys

as if voices were magnets
for mortar shells lobbed into open markets
where clear days invite autumn snipers

late leaving birds feeding on windfall fruit
to assassinate women collecting water & rust from broken pipes
for six boys gathering sticks & bomb debris
amid plastic land mines designed to look like toys
for three sisters dancing in their cellar
school is out for the war

on their television a boy with gauze
bandaging half his head
says matter-of-factly "my friend Daniel died instantly
shrapnel cut his head off"
when the war draws back

too much winter in the hills
farmers play chess in the streets
tractors stilled
nothing to churn another season into growth
they listen to the radios
deciphering where is the centre of Sarajevo
followed by the shelling of funerals
the war so greedy
they have to kill the previous day's dead

but in the middle of the bicycle cemeteries
& the hospital for the mentally insane left standing
forty-five hundred dancers in olympic celebration
rise above four full seasons of snow
spin brilliant among a circus of soldiers
painted to match the vegetation

though the children

unsure say nothing out loud
they step out & mold new-fallen snow into wings
celebrate the recent rarity of something gentle
falling from the sky
& sing finally out loud their brittle hymns
sing through their slaughter
six boys three sisters july august Daniel
the previous day's dead & forty-five hundred dancers
brilliant & snow-spun
only legend to them

Brian Burke