Phillip Corwin

Leaving Vienna Airport for Sarajevo, 1997

The Western world stretches behind
like the wake of a battleship.
The clouds are time warps.

Sipping tea and talking sex,
we fly through the same air
as missiles and tv signals.

My grandfather, the refugee,
never would have dreamt his genes
would one day want to view such pain.

As we land, the sun burns through fog,
and the chant of a muezzin
echoes among the gutted shells

of socialist architecture;
it resonates in empty graves
where coffins were disinterred

and stuffed in carts along with goats
and hogs and guns when the vanquished fled
hugging children and fresh flowers.

Gavrilo Princip! Gavrilo Princip!
Your ghost hops from spire to minaret,
from cross to dome and back again.

Tourists with film stalk your trail
as the Austrian police once did.
But the Authorities have cleansed your roots:

removed your footprints from the walk
where you shot your way into history;
renamed the street, the bridge; deposed

The Young Bosnians who marched
in a plaque on the wall above;
transformed your angry alphabet.

Beyond, in the Olympian mountains
that surround the city, a genie
coaxed out of a brandy bottle

by songs and epic poems,
wobbly from a century
of toasts, stands on a peak.

“I have the power to grant wishes,”
he says. “But only one per victim.”
A sniper splits his spine in two.