Big City, Little


Lynn Veach Sadler

The Tiles War

We know. We know.
What are red tiles alongside
so much red blood?
Call us one of War's attendant losses.
Shake your heads and say,
looking sorrowfully at us,
"Another legacy of shells
from Yugoslavia's civil wars.
Why, two thousand shells struck
the red-roofed buildings of Dubrovnik.
There came great rains of shells upon their tiles."
Shrug and try to let us go.
You can't.
We were Dubrovnik.
Was ever tourist come-on snapped without us?
"Dubrovnik: City of Terracotta Tiles."
Was, you mean.
You can make the claim today, of course.
Claim worth as much as unbaked clay.
You call in UNESCO and the world
to rehabilitate
"Dubrovnik of The Terracotta Tiles."

The factory that birthed us died long since
of natural causes.
These old Kupari tiles,
we tiles speaking now,
we who do not hold our peace--
when did mankind ever?--
are a shade subtle and subdued (color, not spirit).
Our creation? Lengthy.
Were we not each shaped
to curve upon our maker's thigh
and all that before our baking?
We were made by artisans.
Today you'd worship them as
"folk artists," us as "folk art."
Look what mankind has done to folk!
Forgive us for breaking out--
we are tiles; baked clay rises.
(We are "needed," too,
as you have come to see.)

Oh, those alien brick-reds of
Slovenia and Agen, France,
even those false reds from that factory near Zagreb
your Rehabilitation Team has jump-started,
blend badly with the color
born and bred in blessed Kupari.
We understand--we do--your haste
to plug leaks against more damage.
(You're mightily sure that War is done.)
We understand that you must
settle for the closest match.
Why can't humans compromise before--
not after--war?

Verse for Hvar

The sixteenth century's Petar Hektorovic.
Poet rich and word-proud enough
to build and fortify a castle
with fish pond (and poem) to tell
his delight in fishing and fishermen,
to inscribe his poems on its walls
in Latin and Croatian.

Less of an anomaly, yes,
but atypical all the same.
That tomb--below the altar of
Our Lady of Charity Church--Hannibal Lucic,
whose Female Slave was the first
non-religious drama in all Croatia.
And the first theater in Europe
to allow plebeians.
Jelsa (near Hvar) was home to
a Croatian literary circle,
Matica Hrvatska, and its library opened
the first public reading room
in the Dalmatian islands.

But today?
Today I eat
olive-wrapped anchovies,
octopus salad,
eight other delicacies,
sip slivovitz, and think of
organizing a rave
in the local disco,
after which I'll read
all my verses for all Hvar.


What You Think You See

I know what you think you see.
Karstic island.
Rocky, barren ground.
No waters playing here as river or stream.

Our famous cheese is sharp-flavored.
Pag sheep dine on salty grasses
in this our ancient salt center.
We remember our salt warehouse as
the disco "Fifth Magazine."
We remember our land
in pungent Pag Cheese.
Pag sheep dine on bitter herbs,
for little vegetation thrives (no trees).
We do not deign to puff Pag Cheese.
Don't look in Pag Town for it.
Walk back lanes, remote and stony byways.
Find a hand-lettered sign: "Paski Sir."
Find Pag Cheese here.
We remember our land
by aging Pag Cheese
in stone as it soaks in olive oil.

No matter.
We are karstic, not caustic.
The one great gift of the vain Venetians
was to hire Juraj Dalmatinac,
the greatest builder of his time.
We have a neat, an orderly town,
our streets sturdy and delicate
as is Pag lace.
Pag is more than a loaf of bread,
a jug of wine,
though our sandy soil supplies us
with gegic and zutica wines
to accompany Pag Cheese.
We dance the kolo,
drink our wines,
applaud our great folk play Paska Robinja
(The Slave Girl of Pag).
We are karstic, not caustic.
I know what you think you see.
You have pegged Pag wrong.


When The Feral Went Wild on Its Own

The Writing Hand writes
and then moves on, they say.
Well, not here in Dalmatia
where the court jester
on the masthead of The Feral Tribune
thinks he's the Eveready Rabbit
and gives finger after finger,
each fingering more than the digit before.
When The Government took over
its parent paper, Slobodna Dalmacija,
The Feral Tribune went wild on its own.
It won't be stayed
from its self-appointed rounds
by sales taxes, pornography taxes,
or defamation suits.

"Hey, Man, we're got
right here in Croatia!
The Committee to Protect Journalists--
international, too--
is onto The Government.
The Government is being watched.
Maybe Ivancic and Culic
will get the Nobel Prize.
Only they're making war, not peace."

"But it's righteous war, Man.
Like against The Government."

"Did you see President Tudjman's face
morphed into Franco, Stalin, and Milosevic?
Front page, Man.
Photo montage. Swear to God
and kiss my left toe!"

"Yeah, well they Francoed
Tudjman again
when he proposed
adding Ustashe bones
to the graves of their victims
in the concentration camp."

"Hey, Man,
President Tudjman's daughter
used her father's connections
to set herself up in business!"

"And it attacked the Minister of Health
for the deaths of those six children
in that hospital in Zagreb."

"Well, if The Government
does put The Feral down,
it'll be a short hibernation.
They'll thrive underground.
Every kiosk in the country
will carry it.
The Feral's not just for
Dalmatia any more,
Dorothy Government!
Why, Pag cheese and Pag lace
will come wrapped in it.
The Feral will always be
the tabloid with the mostest.
Satire, Man, Feral style.
Eat your heart out, Mr. Swift!"

(Former college president (Dr.) Lynn Veach Sadler has published widely in academics. Now a creative writer, she has won many awards for her fiction, plays, creative non-fiction, and poems, including North Carolina Writers' Network Talus and Scree and Cream City Review competitions (fiction). Dr. Sadler has traveled around the world five times in as many years. She lives in North Carolina.)