The Boneyards of Srebrenica

One of the news articles that gave me nightmares this week was a report by AP’s Aida Cerkez-Robinson, where forensic scientists are hard at work identifying the bones from mass graves of Ratko Mladic, the remains of the Srebrenica Massacre.  I can’t say I know the history of Srebrenica well, or the Yugoslav conflict, but I do know that it was a low point in the history of humanity.

I am not a poet – or if I am, I’m not a very good one – but the story of the efforts at identifying the bones of Srebrenica made me think of the boneyards.  It would be grief-porn to console ourselves with the events of 14 years ago, and say we feel their pain.  We can only be thankful that it never happened to us, but at the same time, we can only be saddened by the pain of seeing your own men or boys shot and dumped into mass graves.  Or waiting for them to be identified… every bone of them, just so that you can bury them properly and have your peace of mind.  I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone to have a nightmare about ethnic cleansing.

Please read on; this is a poem – or what passes for one – to Srebrenica.

The Boneyards of Srebrenica

Bones in a pit, without a name
A war from a previous era
These are the things you will find in
The boneyards of Srebrenica.

Skulls, scattered on the earthen pit
Them bones, like yellowing pages
What was once white in the body
Turning brittle as it ages.

Bones of one’s hand buried in one
Vertebrae sown like seeds of death
Segments of feet in another
With ribcages piled underneath.

The cruel stench of death rises
And conquers the air with its smell
They dig up the bones of the dead
From a war we never knew well.

Without grace or ceremony
Like garbage, the corpses are piled
Are they bones of a man who fought,
Or bones of an innocent child?

Stories of defeat and despair
Many ways to tell how they died
Waiting for the bones of their dead
Going mad, and dying inside.

Them bones, mutilated, destroyed
From that one impossible crime
Stripped of respect, even in death
And buried a bone at a time.

Bones in a tray, and given names
Genocide and its miasma
A happy end, you’ll not find in
The boneyards of Srebrenica.

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