bosnia report
New Series No: 53-54 August - December 2006
'Knin Eclogue' and 'In Prvo Selo'
by Chris Agee

K N I N   E C L O G U E


Out of the ten-kilometre tunnel, I was gradually

Spooked when we rose and rose into the high Lika

After its moonscape barrens: karst and mists, desolate

Woods infracted with burnt glades of spring pasture;

A thin line of gold foil threading the land’s dark mirror

To dunes of a blood-orange sundown.   The houses

Everywhere boarded-up but untouched, no beasts

Or ricks in the fields, no house-lights or vehicles,

Only a dimly lit neighbour in the emptied hamlet  

Where the horsemen passed by. Dark Orthodox

Domes, pockmarked, inhabiting a fairy-tale desolation

Unleashed by Croatian armour; here and there

One returnee’s outpost of entrepreneurial neon

New-shafting the gloom along Europa’s fresh tarmac.

Someday, grief-struck, a world-after-us might look like this.


April 2005, Knin Region, Croatia                             

(Operation Storm, led by the Croatian General Ante Gotovina, now in custody in The Hague, took place in August 1995)

First published in Studies (Dublin, Volume 95: Autumn  2006).



I N  P R V O  S E L O


In the tradition of the place, once or more a summer,

We return to our evergreen Žrnovo door

And find hung, leant or left round the bronzed handle

Or smoothed limestone threshold, some ghost-token

Of a visitor – a bow of straw, or sheer headscarf,

Or terrace cushion, or wildflower or bough plucked

Nearby at a moment’s notice. Sometimes, too, a gift

Materializes. Some tomatoes perhaps, or grappa

In a second-hand bottle, maybe a book or compote,

Lavender and oregano out of the adjacent fields,

Small cakes from a neighbour’s kitchen. And if

Merely a folded piece of paper, always with neither

Name nor note. Thus out of this village silence

Immemorial as Anonymous, you come to realise

You’re expected to intuit whoever it might have been   

Who wished or needed seeing you at the dog day’s

Missed periphery. Though once in a blue moon too,

The gift-giver or visit, like a ghost guested all summer,

Asked after, stays unknown despite the guesswork.


Croatia, August 2005 

First Published in The Irish Times, 10 September 2005




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