Costs of War

Scribbled on the margin of the longest list:

Empty streets are cobbled,
cold without the vital touch of tourists,
the Siege of Dubrovnik has ended,
but the echo of war is loud
and not too distant.

Where are the pockets full of cash and curiosity?
Who will splash out on beautiful blown glass
objet d’art
and banquets from the abundant Adriatic?

Takings are meagre,
eyes of restaurateurs and souvenir sellers
feast of lobster and squid,
remains in the sea.

Heavy shelling and sniper gunshot
have bombed and cracked thick walls,
this city is cloaked in sturdy armour,
but there are reverberations,
rattling hearts and nerves
which have felt the heat of close fire.

A tourist destination without tourists,
their love is conditional,
they mutter from afar
‘may peace be with you’.


Note: I travelled to Bosnia-Herzegovina with my Mum in 1995 (with a side trip to Dubrovnik in Croatia). You can read about my trip here. You can read about the Siege of Dubrovnik here.

Note: Photo of Dubrovnik is free stock from here.

23 thoughts on “Costs of War

  1. Having now read your post on which this emotive poem is based, I can sense the silence and sadness with a whisper of hope. You have painted such a vivid picture Gabrielle.

  2. Reminded me of my visit to Tunisia the year before the turmoil there…the real cost of war can be found in the eyes of childrern…a very strong poem Gabrielle.

  3. A superb poem Gabe… such a cost. I remember traveling to Bali the year after the bombing and the streets were deserted. The people there were so disheartened and deeply concerned that the tourist population, on which their economy depended on, would never come back. It is an eerie feeling to be in a tourist destination with very few tourists…

  4. The fighting in that part of the world at that time was particularly brutal. It must have been very sobering to see it, Gabe. This is such a haunting poem. How does a place that is a tourist destination survive when the tourists do not come? There are huge reverberations with regard to war. So well said!

  5. It’s hard to reconcile the depth of desolation expressed in your poem with such a picture-perfect place – so many unspeakable things happened there

    1. It is such a contrast and that is what makes it seem worse in a way – reminds me of the aftermath of the Bandah Aceh tsunami, where the beautiful beaches were the scenes of such devastation – our minds find it hard to reconcile the incongruity between beauty and destruction – how can this be – an irrational belief of sorts that the world should be just and good and that beautiful things should be protected.

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