By Mallory Nygard
1st Place, Poetry, Create | Encounter 2021
Best In Show
When Gavrilo shot the Archduke
as he rode unknowingly in his funereal motorcade,
the heir’s blood a blooming poppy on his chest,
he surely did not anticipate
that the trigger pulled on the pale gray morning
would induce me to sit shaking
in my linen closet,
door closed and lights off,
wrapped in a worn comforter
trying to dredge my soul back into my bones,
one bitter February evening a hundred years later.
An unbroken line of broken fathers
was born from the bullet
fired that Sunday in June.
Did Gavrilo know that the shot would echo
echo every day in the hearts of men
as they wrestled with their bloodied shoulders and short-
I hold his bullet in my hand
and carry it with me through four moves,
never quite losing it among the packing tape and boxes.
Until one afternoon, in a different darkened closet,
I sit knee-to-knee with a man
whose power I resent but cannot dismiss
who asks me to release my clenched fist.
At his end, the damp and the rats
had made sure Gavrilo didn’t even
have a fist to unclench.
On my way out the door
I dip my opening hand in the water
to be blessed, and with the softest slump,
the steel weight of my father’s unhappiness
settles at the bottom of the basin
to wait and to rust.
I wrote “The Song of Sarajevo” to reckon with the generational trauma that results from war. My family history played out in the path of the First and Second World Wars, and the more I looked into my own life, the more I saw how I am still paying the cost of a war that I never chose to be a part of.