The Nice Thing About Strangers

Creative Non-Fiction Short Stories. :) Travel, Oldsters, Love, and Compassion.

Hana and Sarajevo

I hope you won’t mind a poem. This tale is attached to the photo from Wednesday’s post, but I couldn’t find a better way to explain the scene than in this poem that I wrote a few years ago.

Hana was trying to tell me something,
speaking quickly, lighting up, focusing in, rushing words together.
She saw my uncertain face and began again, again
more deliberate,
and I leaned over and in,
as though the closer I got to a 45 degree angle the closer I was to comprehension,
but I still couldn’t follow, and went scrambling through my options to find
the one word I could say to her that would make any difference:
I’m sorry.
She covered her mouth in gratitude and nodded.
The one Bosnian word that managed to make it to my mouth,
the one perfect word that meant her story made sense
even if, technically,
I couldn’t understand the slightest phrase.

My hostess was stout and beautiful, hair to match her red felt bathrobe,
pointing me into white leather house shoes with wobbly heels.
Surprised by my excessive habit of smiling
she pinched my cheeks,
said something about my green eyes,
poured my second coffee cup too full,
modeled how I should drink spoonfuls out before picking it up.
Then after I lowered the level, as I lifted it to my mouth,
she traded saucers with me–hers now gritty and mine sparkling clean.

She wanted then to give me proper nouns for details,
and these even I could repeat:
Milošević. Karadžić. Serb. Croat. Bosniak. Boom boom. Sarajevo.
Boom boom.
Her eyes met mine over and under
and I gathered what she gave.
With me she could offer all her large and small wonders,
her uncertain statements of fact,
her story under siege.
How freeing, in practice, to say anything, everything, and be heard
for the depths, the feelings below your words.

Anything I remembered from the Bosnian phrasebook–
how to order lamb or cheese, though I just pointed,
how to say my wife likes the city, though I have no wife,
how to say I am from Mostar, though I hadn’t seen it yet–
would have been insufficient to express what I needed, what I wanted to learn.

–Sarajevo, Bosnia-Hercegovina.

Full poem in liminalities.

sarajevo, bosnia

6 comments on “Hana and Sarajevo

  1. joannerambling
    March 13, 2015

    Bloody awesome…………………just saying

  2. thatssojacob
    March 13, 2015

    Hello Sarajevo!

  3. davecenker
    March 14, 2015

    Breathtaking. There are two lines in this poem that really gave me goose bumps:

    “How freeing, in practice, to say anything, everything, and be heard for the depths, the feelings below your words”

    It’s why I speak, why I write, why we all communicate – I think. To get our point across, to explain ourselves, to convince someone we are right, to convince someone else they are wrong, to tell a story – but most of all, to evoke feeling below the words.

    Beautiful poem Paige, and a simply wonderful and perfect format to express that feeling below the words, thank you for sharing and best wishes for an inspired day 😉

    • Thank you so much, Dave! I appreciate the comment so much. I’ve been thinking more and more about poems these days. After 3 years of writing almost exclusively creative non-fiction, I’ve missed poetry. 🙂

      All my best,

  4. ChristineR
    March 25, 2015

    Wow! Wonderful poem, Paige. Thanks for sharing.

    • ChristineR
      March 25, 2015

      You would be good at writing poems with feeling, methinks. ❤

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This entry was posted on March 13, 2015 by in Blogging, Happiness, Travel, Writing and tagged , .

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