Poems from war

From Kosova, written around June 1999

The following poem was sent to us by Valon Veliqui, who was kind enough to share his home with a convoy of no less than 20 of us when we first travelled to Kosova in July and August of 1999, just as the NATO bombing campaign ended.

Valon was forced to hide underground, in a tiny pit concealed beneath his woodshed. He and a friend, fearing for their lives, hid for almost a week while the Serb militia could be heard killing his neighbours, in the garden above. They had no light, and just 6 litres of water.

Later, visiting his home, I was unable even to fit through the entrance to the hidden underground pit. I am not much bigger than Valon, and I could tell the problem was partly my dread of the small space and its significance, and partly my lack of desperation to squeeze in. As you may have guessed, you may find this poem disturbing.

“Buried Alive”

We entered the grave
Why should I lie, it wasn’t so bad
Maybe it was a solution to crave for
It was too tight and we were two
I couldn’t percept if anybody
welcomed us, on the first day
On the second day, the death was under my toenails
Already filled with rotten bones
On the third day,
my friend somehow whispered to me
about walking amusements that happened once
I long to drink something
said my friend on the fourth day,
while I was “longing to piss standing on foot,” I replied
I admit that this was something
that he was craving for too
“I am hungry,” my friend said
On the fifth day
I had a feeling that he was browsing a cookbook
Constantly I was chewing bits of a broken tooth
Oh I am thirsty
“Only thirsty?” my friend was loathing
On the sixth day
with all my strength I was forming the last circles of spittle for my burnt throat
“Let’s go out,” my friend said
On the seventh day
“Let’s wait until the dark
It’s a night, too dark
they can’t kill us”
We were looking at the sky
Accidentally I learned that we were alive
then I understood the grave’s prayer
I covered it
Anyway the inscription was missing too