Song of Sarajevo

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-

sightedness?

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.



Artist Statement:

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.

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