Jugoslavia 1969

Jugoslavia 1969

A Poem by JohnL

This has been written as a short story (possibly the better medium -http://www.writerscafe.org/writing/JohnL/304856/ ) but is written as a poem for Fabian' Franklin's Contest) I would be very interested to hear from anyone who reads both and will give me



Jugoslavia 1969
Blue skies over
 Holland, Germany, Austria, Italy
    Pink Dolomites,
     New heights
        Gone the flat polder;
German autobahns, pierce dark forest;
  southward we fly
      through ordered farms – no rest.
        before Trieste
Sky now as grey-grimaced as
    Eastern border guards’ faces.
Enter Jugoslavia,
Still united under Tito; Josip Broz.
Don’t feel welcome – you’re not!
Go down to the harbour. Eat!
Why is this place so sad?
 Eat, drink and be glad - -
    to escape.
A threatening sky bodes rain.
 Next day, it comes, and how –
   but we reach Zadar.
       and sleep in a hut now..
Beyond?  Split, – Dubrovnik,  where
 red white and blue clad children march –
    Tools of State, reflecting from
        polished marble streets.
At night, seen from our old tent,
   waves, darken as the sun sets behind us,
Blue no longer blue,
 white mountains no longer white.
Dinner cooked, under thunder-rumble,
 eaten to lightning-crack.
Skin-beaten timpani deluge-rattle.
 air recaptures oppressiveness
     in moments of twixt-flash black;
sound crashes upon thunder-sound,
Lightning bounces back
 from crystal white of coast-long mountains
     and rain – such rain
 sweeps under our ground sheet,
     Corners up – we are a pudding
        afloat – held, - top-untied.
Crash! – “Did the earth move for you?”
  “Not how I like it to!”
Look out – mountains white,
crystalline even, flash-glitter for an instant,
  then black, Black – BLACK - Crash, tent-light, -
     prisms of  spray-splatter;
       sound upon thundersound –
          Thrumm, dumm kettledrum,
             In-tent spray from rain-batter.
Crash – is the country tearing apart?
 A million tiny lenses
    on lightning lit canvas
        light up with every flash.
 Head pokes from tent to seek
    Coastal ballet.
      Light dance, peak to peak;
         Miles of coastline,
            rocks, mountains pirouette,
              on fleet flicker-feet.
        Sea is aflame. 
           Is this Hell?
              I can’t tell.
Morning, sheet-wrapped, mud-undered,
Sleep-starved -  to see
 Blue sea
    Grey for the first half mile,
      Land plundered.
        Erosion of a nation?
Jugoslavia by the ton
 flows into the sea,
     It’s time under threat, it seems
From brooding days and dramatic nights.
We dig a trench for tomorrow
 And tomorrow
    And tomorrow.
       And wonder – what is ahead?
Tomorrow dawns, bright instead
   after the third night;
      but still with a sense of Balkan gloom.
What,  we wonder, is yet to come?
Could it be a nation’s doom?
John L Berry   6 June 2009
Shortly after the storms, we drove over the spine of the country on unmade mountain roads to Banja Luca.  Ten days later we were home and watching TV - see below.
Saturday, June 6, 2009
On October 27th 1969, a devastating earthquake (magnitude of 6.4) damaged many buildings in Banja Luka and the surrounding area. The severe earthquake in the wider Banja Luka area of Yugoslavia killed 20, seriously injured 150, and left 65,000 homeless. Banja Luka, then a city of about 50,000 inhabitants, located about 240 miles west of Belgrade, had about 60 percent of the dwellings razed.
If you would like to read the story and background to this poem, please read my entry at

© 2009 JohnL

My Review

Would you like to review this Poem?
Login | Register


I liked this John...there's so many good pieces in this competition, it's going to be tough to choose but I will try my best to pick the best. I have my work cut out for me. lol

Posted 11 Years Ago

Wow! This is absolutely amazing and I usually don't like poetry. My dad is Albanian, so this totally hit home for me. This line felt like it interrupted the flow:

Why is this place so sad?
Eat, drink and be glad - -
to escape.

Other than that, please tell me you're having this published?

Posted 11 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

What an incredible post! The atmosphere you've created truly touches this reader.

The sadness, gloom and despondency of the people are very distinct, the country itself - wrapped in one sentence (all that's necessary when written by you) ' Why is this place so sad? ' . The outsider, you and your lady looking in, visitors, aware of your surroundings but not, not enjoying them.

But, then you add your touches of sharp, ripe natural happenings: 'Lightning bounces back from crystal white of coast-long mountains' and continue into the storm, with the most glorious of descriptions: ' ... prisms of spray-splatter; sound upon thundersound � Thrumm, dumm kettledrum, In-tent spray from rain-batter. ' and more... so 'eloquently' put.

And, you continue on, unknowing of what's about to happen: 'What, we wonder, is yet to come? Could it be a nation's doom? If only you'd known, if only anyone had known about the forthcoming tragedy.

John, you never fail to enthral and interest me when you write about your travels. Thank you, thank you for sharing.

Posted 11 Years Ago

very interesting like it alot

Posted 11 Years Ago

Request Read Request
Add to Library My Library
Subscribe Subscribe


4 Reviews
Added on August 18, 2009



Wirral Peninsula, United Kingdom

I live in England, and love the English countryside, the music of Elgar and Holst which describes it so beautifully and the poetry of John Clare, the 'peasant poet' and Gerard Manley Hopkins, which d.. more..


Related Writing

People who liked this story also liked..