The Clenched Jaw and Bursting Tongue


I’m sliding my nail on my finger looking for blood – Hassan a survivor of the Srebrenica genocide had ended his story a few 30 min ago, escaping through the death march leaving both his father and twin brother behind, surviving Serb ambushes along the way, three years in the enclave watching his village die – we are now watching a documentary of testimonials from the Hague tribunal describing the events between the 8th and 19th of July 1995 made exclusively of images filmed by the Serbs and inhabitants of the area, the last images are several bodies dug up from mass graves, one body’s face is half decomposed its jaws clenched, stuck in a silent eternal scream – agony – the other has its tongue bursting out of his mouth – strangulation.

I feel a cell sickness of a flame throughout myself – I am a blaze of anger and frustration – I walk haggard towards my seat on the bus, put my headphones close my eyes, grab three tic tacs, clench my jaw and push my tongue against my teeth – I don’t want to but I’m reproducing those two deaths – and let Joan Baez’s mass voice take over. Donna Donna – a song on the holocaust – thinking it would help me process what I saw – not a good idea – quickly images of the camps and Warsaw’s ghetto come about, close my eyes and switch to Pavement’s Wowee Zowee – a bit of dad rock and post punk – that’ll change the mindset – quickly I am humming to the music but soon turn it off, we have just gone past the white house where men were parked to be moved towards their execution and Serb flags are flying out of some houses – this town must have one the highest rate of war criminals there is. My body is convulsing, sweat dripping down and the flame devours me entirely.

The bus stops, to lunch we go, a massive buffet is waiting for us, I fill my plate with few foods but cannot touch the chicken thighs – gnawing on some bones after the skeletons? – that thought pushes me head first into the flame and slide down a long abysmal hole, I hear someone say “the vegetables are amazing” – bodies make for good compost eh? – start eating my steak – I’m eating human flesh – the desert is a crimson paste of cherries and raspberries – blood. I eat nervously trying to fill myself with something.  Every movement of the teeth and I see the scream. Every slip of the tongue and I see the strangulation. Suddenly someone reaches out a hand and pats mine says “you’ve got very soft hands”, a wave goes through me and extinguish the flame – while they were still alive, the two bodies must also have had someone touch their hands and noted their softness. Leaving the restaurant I see a hibiscus in full bloom, flowers splintering out, blushing their colors for the world to see, if bodies underneath created this, then maybe life goes in cycle.

Later on we reach the Srebrenica cemetery an ocean of white tombstones with names dates of birth and death and a sourat, death here has name a life an identity, it is not a faceless horror anymore, the bodies have been put to rest, grief can be processed. The death of these two cadavers do not define their lives, they are not their deaths, they existed, loved, hated, ate, danced, lived. The flame is gone now, I am swimming in the ocean at night, swimming in a feeling I can manage – sadness.


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