Summer grass is shoulder high once more,
higher than my sons will ever be.
How could it grow again after what it saw?
Did its million seed-head eyes close tight
on next year’s crop, at the first scent of blood?
Didn’t it see what I saw, the jerk
of young shoulder blades, naked as plucked wings
at the gun barrels’ thrust? I’d felt those bones
slide from my hips like baby clam shells
to their estuary of light – that push you knew
would be the last – once the shoulders were out –
the rest was easy.
But July has been a hard birth every year –
his shadow stalking the calendar, that man,
still out there, somewhere, breathing –
since the day those buses growled,
hungry to fill their bellies for the death run,
bus-load after bus-load of wrist-bound sons,
brothers, husbands, frail old grandfathers
weeping through glaucoma clouds, filing past
the laden plum trees – how could they bloom
and fruit again, those branches, drop their blind eyes
at my feet? As if I could ever make sweetness in July,
that month when pollen on the breeze will always
be the stench of fear and petrol fumes;
when the football field’s mown grass reeked
of blood, July that tips the year’s balance, knives
in its cry so sharp they cut summer’s artery and bleed us
straight into winter;
until today, today, when July held its breath,
and winked to another hungry bus, just one
this time, that grumbled through Belgrade
on its peacetime daily run, wheezed to a halt
and swallowed the morsel he’d become, the man
whose shoulders once banked high as thunder clouds
above us, draped in that black gangster coat,
dressed for the opera, you’d have thought,
his coiffed plume cocked in obscene vanity.
And now the pollen has a hint of honey
in its stench; perhaps I’ll try to cut the grass again,
smell its green juice instead of blood, pick the plums
and let my face sweat in their sweet condensation,
hold the jar to the light, and might
even taste the season’s possibility.