The First Time

by | Feb 11, 2009 | Poetry | 0 comments

She looked just like me, but I wore a uniform and she was in rags

Take my baby she said, you look well fed.

I turned away, thoughts of my son in my head.
Back home 30 clicks away.
He was safe, happy, chubby, and waiting for Mum.

Gospoda, I can’t. That’s not my mandate and I walked up the line.

I found what I had been sent to find,
the young men with their weapons and the friends they had hidden,
Bleeding in the cars,
away from the eyes that were there to report
On the men of fighting age

But I saw them
And the other things too

The stream of refugees running from the terror
They looked just like me in their cars full of stuff

Not so easy to ignore
When they look like the guy next door

They weren’t from some place I’d have to check on the map
Two hours from London, that’s all it took

Three kilometres of despair in the hot summer sun, they waited and hoped
That the Croats would show pity and let them in.

They lived on that road and did what they could
To exist in a world
Where kids played in fields full of poppies edged with the red flags that no one understood

I walked up and down that line, watching, listening, taking notes, doing my job.

When I got back to my truck and she was still there.

She grabbed me and screamed
“dama , ti si majka Ja mogu reći pomoć mene ugoditi ili dijete htijenje kocka”

’terp! What’s she saying?
Ma’am its nothing its time to go
But we knew.

I’m sorry I said there’s nothing I can do. I’ll call for the Medic,
He’ll do what he can

We got in the truck, flags flying, another job done.
I went home to my nice safe house and my lovely blonde son

Days later, I was back again. She was there
Alone now, with death in her eyes.
She found me and thanked me for what I had done

I look at my son now, fifteen, handsome, clever and witty
Secure and happy, in his posh public school, a future in front of him
And I see that other boy,
Who comes to me in the night, he sits on my pillow and whispers
Hvala Gospoda Hvala and reminds me of things I should have done


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