They didn’t know she was Bosnian,
Miss Craig, who stood before the group
hands held in front of her. Eight
when the Conflict started, her mother
ushered her away from the news.
Years later in The Sunday Times
there were photographs: a young girl
hanged in a cherry orchard,
a father’s hand touching the glass
of a shadowy railway carriage.
It forced me to think, she said,
about my father the day we left,
about the hole in my childhood
I’m filling with facts. She wiped
down her cheeks to tell us
Srebrenica is in the new Serbia.
They jeer the Bosnian women
visiting the salt mine in Tuzla
where the recovered bodies
are washed and stored in bags.
You often pass a Radovan Karadzic
country guest house. Someone
cleared their throat and Miss
blinked and looked around the room,
surprised we were all still there.
One person might be found
in several places in the mortuary,
bones different shades of brown,
as they dug up graves with bulldozers
to hide the ethnic cleansing.
Before, I’d kept to a script.
I’ll pull myself together,
she smiled. I’m teaching soon —
some of this group. Biology.
I don’t know what I’ll say.
Stuart Pickford is the recipient of an Eric Gregory award. His first and only full collection, The Basics, was published by Redbeck Press (2002) and shortlisted for the Forward Best First Collection prize. Stuart lives in Harrogate, England, and teaches in a local comprehensive school.