Swans Commentary » swans.com May 21, 2012  



Sarajevo Market, 1987


by Glenn Reed





(Swans - May 21, 2012)  

The woman's head is turned slightly in my photo
as if she had been pondering something important said by her companion
He a man of thirty-five or so, crinkle of a mustache, acorn brown eyes
that angled a stare, like late day sun rays over the market produce
spread before him, rolling and clustered in the crates and boxes
stacked, laid out under translucent, pastel-colored, plastic roofs

I was standing somewhere by a crate-burst of ripe tomatoes
sweet, more like melons, as I recall their flavor
cut and sliding across a plate, with onions and a sprinkle of oregano
I'd bought a bag of them after snapping a picture of the couple
seated together, the woman with raised brows, apparent surprise, her face
hinged on the words forming in her companion's mouth

Tomatoes, maybe brought from the villages in the hills
constricting Sarajevo, towns deposited in valleys, their produce carted
to the city by rattling trucks, some horse-drawn wagons, with the melons
pink and bursting with juice, the onions and tomatoes sprung from
the pockets of soil freckled between the jagged mountains
the produce, to be bartered in the commotion of this market

Balkan faces etched, this couple, not clear to me if they're Muslim, Croat or
Serb, nor what his coming statement or exhalation could portend nor her
reactive expression, written in centuries of hues as discordant as the voices
that lapped like waves around me I know that I'd stood facing north, looking
past the frame of the viewfinder, towards where instinct, perhaps, drove my

The resulting photo is square, an inflexible shape, unforgiving
not encompassing the minaret that punctured the sky nearby
or the space of concrete, asphalt and still air where
a series of shots once ripped through a carriage, igniting the world
not including the hillside street, crumbled like broken bread
where children played games in high-pitched frenzy on the brittle crust

The limitations of the frame, roll of film, shutter release, poised finger and
of the iris's swirl, attaching the woman's surge of thought to silver,
chemical reactions, processes, her friend's one word detonating its
enunciation and syntax penetrating the confines of such snapshots and gyrating
through the black aftermath of the camera blink painting a mural of watercolor
before an inner cloudburst

I wonder if, somewhere, in my traverse from the hairline fractured sidewalks
to dust-proofed imagery, if the woman's shriek cast shards into the man's
searching gaze, much as the cacophony of melons with soft pulp, tomatoes,
juicy and spilling, transparent plastic roofing and flesh, excised and
dissolved in the brown plumes, if her shriek was a whisper or an echo or a
question down hallways raining plaster

But now I can't remember, now I wonder if she turned all the way to face me
after the beckon of my finger prick on the volcanic pulse, the coursing of
something cold through the bowels of Sarajevo, did her companion direct her
inner pleadings and some festering awareness to the safety of the frame where
on a warm, August day in the this market my ignorance sought to balance them
with distant dinner conversations, echoes of prayer calls, a placid picture of
tomato, melon, onion and safe harbor beneath that thin, plastic roof


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About the Author

Glenn Reed is a freelance writer who has worked in the non-profit world for nearly 30 years, both as paid staff and volunteer. He is also a lifelong activist for social, economic, and environmental justice. He currently resides in Fair Haven, Vermont.   (back)


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Swans -- ISSN: 1554-4915
URL for this work: http://www.swans.com/library/art18/glennr03.html
Published May 21, 2012