A Bosnian Black and White Film

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The air is light,
a dangubica* sings,
Darkness does not fight,
While the curtain recedes,
Black and white,
The images form,
Of Bosnian streets,
Before the war,
Muslims read Marx,
Christians read Sartre,
Dervishes cannot stop,
Whirling to Johann Bach,
Amidst the ground beans,
In cafes to numerous,
Seen in scene after scene,
Tell me dear friend,
Where can I breathe?

-Richard Bryant

*dangubica-a small Serbian and Croatian stringed instrument

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Food for Thought-The Priest in Priština (The Ninth Letter)

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2 May 1957
Belgrade, The Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia
Between the arrival of the post and watering of the three dying plants

Dear Friend and Colleague,

Though only chronological hours have elapsed, I feel there has been a long silence between us. If I cannot read, I cannot know. It will be a great delight to me to receive your next letter. I do wonder what transpires of your life and affairs beyond breakfast. Does the toast linger with you through lunch? Are the consumption snacks and chocolates part of your afternoon as well? These are facts I can no longer remember or recall.

The unaccustomed joy to which I was moved in recalling the legend of the Grand Vizier* brought fragments of the tale of the Picus Viridius* closer to forefront of my own mind. In the south, closer to Pristina*, the bird was said to fly from tree to tree. To the amazement of one village priest, the startled creature would simply stop pecking upon one tree in one location and move to another, without any warning at all. This pattern would continue hours at a time. It is my belief that the day, in the place, by the road, adjacent to the restaurant, where we saw the brown horse turning left, may have been in the path of one such quest to find a new and better tree. Како то може бити?*

Until tomorrow, when more questions await.

Yours truly,

V

*Grand Vizier a title of Ottoman Turkish authority
*Picus Virdius the common European Woodpecker
*Pristina the capital of Kosovo
* Како то може бити?* Serbian expression, left in the original, “How can this be?”

Food for Thought-The Sarajevo Treatise (The Eighth Letter)

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1 May 1957
Belgrade, The Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia
Late Evening of the Great Workers Holiday

Dear Hero, Colleague, and Friend,

Travel was made difficult today! Do you remember the time I was forced to dismount my bicycle because the Slovene* himself was approaching? It is hard enough to move when he is about in person, let alone when everyone is carrying his picture. I am a simple person in search of a walk. Having asked hard questions of Mr. Broz* face to face, I see little value worshiping his image.

As you are aware, I was denied the opportunity to seek breakfast beyond my home. I drank coffee which I prepared. Coffee, when made for one, is such a solitary affair. I remember a Turkish treatise, catalogued under a similar title, once available in the library in Sarajevo*. The author, a Grand Vizier* for Beans and Espresso Beverages (BA Kenya, MA Zanzibar, DPhil Istanbul)*, described the immense sense of interior isolation at preparing coffee for himself after having prepared drinks for the Sultan and his retinue. The utter hopeless of a single cup for one could not compare to the grand spectacle of hundreds of cups dispersed throughout the palace. His challenge, as he once told, was to imbue his own actions with a sense of ritual and purpose. His water was sacred, his spoons were of exquisite value, the finely ground coffee which slept behind the doors of his cupboard waited for his expert touch. These realizations saved him from insanity; so say the residents of the French mental asylum who knew him in later years.

Perhaps, when the noise of the parades begins to fades I may again listen to the small sounds behind the sounds, where the Picus Viridus* continues to hide. Like the Grand Vizier, are there simple steps we must retrace or habits we have easily forgotten that keep us from hearing what is outside our windows?

Until tomorrow, my friend.

Yours truly,
M

*Slovene Josip Broz Tito dictator of Yugoslavia
*Mr.Broz the same said dictator of Yugoslavia
*National Library of Bosnia was once a great repository of Ottoman Texts
*Grand Vizier A Title of Ottoman Turkish Authority
*BA Kenya, MA Zanzibar, DPhil Istanbul Degrees and Universities with well-known undergraduate and graduate programs in coffee studies
*Picus Viridius The Common European Woodpecke
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Food for Thought-Meeting Einstein at the Manjez (The Fourth Letter)

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27 April 1957
Belgrade
Federal Republic of Yugoslavia

The time between tea and slivovitz*

Dearest Friend, Mentor, and Fellow Collector of Sounds,

Was breakfast not a grand meal? The Manjez was an excellent choice as always. The splendid eggs from the Dalmatian* birds made up for the poor service we received from the man in the rumpled waistcoat. I do believe we knew him. He was tall, with hair, two eyes, possessed ten fingers, and held a wistful gaze always toward the north northeast. I fear his ambivalence in the rapid return to our table with water might be accounted for his membership in one of the Novi Beograd Cricket Clubs*.

I thought much, last evening, about the trees along the road in the place. You are right. The man gave us clear directions where to turn when we were lost. The trees surrounded most things where places and buildings were not. If there were not buildings, there were trees. By the buildings, there were shrubs. We seemed to be in a forest where the occasional seed of concrete grew, like hope, from unseen places. Was this not where we stood? My fear is this. Much like light traveling through space and time*, perhaps sound makes the same journey. Did the wood pecker sing on an earlier day and we simply encounter the sound in the instant we arrived to consume our meal? Do the pecks of the Picus Viridis travel at the speed of light? Did Professor Einstein consider this? Oh, we have much to consider.

Until tomorrow, we think on these things.

Yours truly,

M

*the time between tea and slivovitz late afternoon when one switches from tea to drinking a traditional plum brandy
*The Manjez is a historic restaurant and hotel in downtown Belgrade
*Dalmatian chickens lay wonderful eggs
*In the late 1950’s there was an upswing in cricket collection and identification. Clubs of cricket collectors sprang up across Belgrade identifying crickets; some based on sounds while others relied on Genus and Species. Records indicate the Novi Beograd club were of the anti-sound/pro-Genus and Species faction
*space and time refers to Einstein’s Theory of Relativity E = mc2

Food for Thought-The Search for A Bosnian Dentist (The Second Letter)

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26 April 1957
3:12 pm
Belgrade, Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia

Dear Friend and Vaunted Colleague,

I received your letter in the morning post. The verdant glories of spring also fall fresh around my daily walks through the old city. Yesterday, as we passed the man with two legs and coffee, I realized the trees along Kralja Petra* were growing again toward the sky; each leaf reaching toward some unseen cloud. Upon further examination, I realized no clouds were present. In the meantime, you had turned left along Gospodar Jovanova*, determined to see the famous Bosnian dentist*. How was the cleaning?

Now, dear neighbor, to your query. Do I remember this day? How can I not? To me it seems as today. The buildings, of which you speak, were tall and grand; were they not? I remember each room possessed a window. Do you remember the morning, the sun shone, and we went into the building via a door? I also recall the horse. It was brown and turning right; for did you not face me? How can you not, with such fondness, recall the green grass? I remember, in places where grass did not grow, the black soil stared into our souls.

I remember that we rode in a car and turned right twice before stopping beside a malformed shrub. The shrub, while lacking the permanence of a true socialist road marker*, announced the entrance to the place we had arrived. Perhaps this bird, of which you speak, made its home in the malformed shrub?

Until tomorrow, I bid you farewell. Think upon these things.

Yours truly,
M


*Kralja Petra is a street in the old city of Belgrade
*Gospodar Jovanova is a street adjacent to Kralja Petra in the old city of Belgrade
*Bosnian dentistry was known for its precision, particularly in the late 1950’s

*road markers in the former Yugoslavia were known for their sturdiness

Food for Thought-Late Easter Evening

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As I Looked Outside, Late Easter Evening

By Richard Bryant

As I looked outside, late this evening

I saw Easter wasn’t ready to flee.

As the sun drew down, the light was lingering

and people as far I could see.

Here was Easter, undocumented, asylum seeking

newly arrived from the Middle East.

Only wanting a place for sleeping

and to find a lasting peace.