Soldiers on holiday fill the outdoor café.
A young man has just jumped off the old bridge
for their money, on his chest a tattoo
of their leader, a hero hired by heroes.
These men are the same age as I am
but theirs is the age of the native-born,
drawn on their handsome faces with a dark pen.
Peasants, mechanics, farmers—I would not dare
to call them brothers. One winks. Some stare.
I pretend to look at the river.
How war makes borders glamorous,
our time brief and historic.
But this is not war, just the face of war;
not love, just faces of lovers.
Love could launch Mostar’s minarets—
love, or war—though language stops us here:
dawdling at the river’s edge
where history whispers in each soldier’s ear.
Jennifer Rose’s poems have appeared in The Nation, The Paris Review, and elsewhere, most recently in Verse’s issue on the New Formalism. (1991)