Memories of Beograd

Of bulky ramparts, lit up, commanding
a Danube in flood;
Of communist concrete dirty and drab;
Of boulevards spacious and rubbished streets;
Of luxuriant marble and metalled glass
amidst filthy beauties from an Icarus past.

Of teeming bus stations and trolleys grunting
humphing hot from distant eras
packed with old Australians eking out their welfare checks, dinar by dinar;
Of lawnmower Yugos scooting round sleek Mercedes;
Of an empty airport
graveyarding remnants of heroic fighters
glorying in American bits and pieces,
trophies from a war of lost pride.

Of scungy hotels with threadbare carpets
reeking of smoke;
Of veal with a view
and paprika peppers with cream cheese -
drinking M beers, cherry yoghurts and raspberry frappes
so fresh you can taste this morning's market.

Of toothless toilet minders in stinking holes;
Of wrinkled medieval peasants blackscarfed carting their vegetables;
Of Albanian beggars clutching babies to the breast;
Of longlegged Nike lads cool in their sweats,
their swarthy uncles oozing a well-groomed masculinity:
burnished stubble and impeccable hair.

Of an unreadable Cyrillic script
distancing one empire, drawing another -
named for her evangelist
whose hope is history
archived with Roman relics,
museumed for the tourist trade.

Of a National Theatre young and alive
producing classics, searching to make sense,
reinventing, wondering
who and where we are;
Of borders in fertile fields
so new even the guards use builders' huts;
Of war graves in no man's land
so no man owns;
Or is it so both own, and watch,
and neither will dare dig up pretending
others have never tilled this soil
which longs for a settled future
and tries to forget its past.

April 2006

Click here to download a Windows Media file of Adrian Lane reading this poem (approx. 4.8 MB)

Text and audio copyright © Adrian Lane 2006

 

 

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