In Pristina, a green vase sings from a table left standing

A white chaliced tulip, orange-
crowned daffodils butter and honey
cupped, the perfume of narcissus
petal fanned, these are vowels in God's own language. In such sounds
love tenders itself to nearly a million
refugees, the children, and echoes back
among the rocks and camouflage as a voice asking, What have you done?
A lone cellist's bow gently drawn
on and over a world's heart still sings
a song with no clash, no consonants.

Amid rubble flowers want to bloom.
It rains. Gardens obey and grow.

Note: The siege of Sarajevo took place in 1992–93. The image of lone cellist Vedran Smailovic playing in a square in Sarajevo for 22 days, his moving response to an attack on a breadline that had killed 22 of his fellow Sarajevans, left an indelible impression in many hearts, mine included. I wrote this poem in the spring of 1999 during the crisis in Kosovo, feeling that the people of Pristina, the Kosovar capital, needed to hear at that moment refrains of love's harmonizing power. They needed the defiant spirituality of Vedran Smailovic, whose answer to the jarring blast of a mortar shell was the harmonies of Albinoni's Adagio in G minor. Today, you could substitute Kabul or Ramallah for Pristina—wherever the citizens of devastated cities cry out for rebirth and restoration.

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April 15, 2002

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