They served the black milk of the past


They came at dawn, benevolent with promises
with open hands, and buses, candy-smiles,
separating fathers from their wives
sisters to the left and brothers to the right
before they served the black milk from the past.

‘It can never happen here in Europe’
‘We have learned, and we are better now’

Yet we watched and failed.

Some were neighbors just before the war.
The gun-men and the corpse,
the rapists and the girl who lost her smile.
once used to chat and laugh at sunset
before the lines were drawn,
before the milk turned black again.

They tried to hide the bodies
digging soil and separating limbs
and still we search for heads to match with arms.

Today one-hundred-thirty-six boys and men
were laid to rest with names on headstones
forensically matched to relatives
in the town of Srebrenica.
Where they served the black milk from the past.

Genocide by Sue Park

Genocide by Sue Park


Today Grace introduce the poetry of Paul Celan at toads. His most famous poem is the Fugue of death retelling the terrible Holocaust, that begins with the phrase: “Black milk of daybreak we drink it at evening / we drink it at midday and morning we drink it at night”. As it is the 20th anniversary of the Srebenica massacre today, I’m sad that we have not learned, that these atrocities, still go on. The black milk is still served in places all over the world.

July 11, 2015

54 responses to “They served the black milk of the past

  1. I LOVE this poem. Especially this section:

    “the rapists and the girl who lost her smile.
    once used to chat and laugh at sunset
    before the lines were drawn,
    before the milk turned black again.

    They tried to hide the bodies
    digging soil and separating limbs
    and still we search for heads to match with arms.”

    Excellent work!

  2. Sadly, these atrocities do still go on – even at that scale.
    And try as we might to deny it – its a bit more insidious these days,
    we have only learned how to hide it – or ignore it – better.

  3. I am reminded of the Holocaust by this poem, mass graves more recently….we humans never learn. As horrible as these atrocities are, what would be worse would be that we stop caring.

  4. The metaphor of black milk is a powerful one…and it is so true that atrocities continue in more places than we would like to believe.

  5. How quickly the world changes when we are indoctrinated into a war – which if asked those who end up fighting may not even know why they are carrying out the actions of despots who keep their hands clean..the personal touches in this make it all the more poignant – the girl and the boy chatting at sunset..awakening to a very different morning..admiration must be given to the people who have worked so hard to identify those lost people..powerful piece…

  6. One can never fathom what many ways can the human kind exhausts its energy to inflict pain and destruction to fellow men! Truly said Bjorn!

    Hank

  7. Sadly we all encouraged to hate someone to justify the actions of insane governments. There is not much profit in peace.

  8. Hatred, scapegoating, fear of each other–these things are indeed everywhere theses days–here in my own country I wonder if we are not just a breath away from acts like this–we have them already, just on a smaller scale, less organized–the black milk is deadly for those who must drink it, but seemingly sweetly addictive to the servers. Fine poem, Bjorn.

  9. 20 years since then….and still atrocities continue. Your poem is a sad reminder of this tragedy of the past & one which causes us to look at our world as it STILL is today.

  10. That is still a lot of bodies and bones to bury ~ It is sad to believe that these atrocities repeat and repeat, like we have never learned ~ Thanks for writing for this challenge at Real Toads Bjorn ~ Wishing you a wonderful vacation ~

  11. You used your inspiration very well, to recreate this terrible event.

  12. gruesome indeed is the taste of that black milk; thanks for sharing your skillful handling of such a challenging poetry prompt
    have a lovely Sunday Bjorn

    much love…

  13. A wonderful poem Bjorn–it feels sometimes like this black milk is a kind of mother’s milk to the culture–terrible. I think in the U.S., too little attention was paid to this conflict–it just seemed strange and foreign and the U.S. populace is not too interested if its just U.S. soldiers (and not civilians) involved. Very sad. Thanks for the fine poem. k.

      • Ah yes. We had a refugee working in our office, but some time ago–in the middle of the conflict–I believe he got political asylum as he was a christian married to a moslem. A professor of anthropology he started out here as as a copy person, but then did very well, I believe, as time passed. k.

  14. Your poem contains past, present, and future. I would not be “ringside at genocide” if I could help it. I wonder though, given the foreign policies of the USA, if I am not in some ways ringside–like for Palestine and Gaza?

  15. Bjorn, a brilliant write, and a sobering fact, that it is all still going on – hatred of Otherness, instead of recognition of our human Sameness. I am working on a piece for this prompt, very dark, as such events are. Your closing line is a knockout! Wowzers!

  16. Black milk is such a powerful image ~ so sad that this violence still goes on. Hopefully by bringing awareness, these tragedies won’t happen again in the future.

  17. One of the things that shocked me the most was that 20 years later the crime of ‘genocide’ is still being denied. One despairs that responsibility for past actions is being shirked to this day. Admission of guilt can pave the way towards reconciliation, which is obviously not felt considering the attack on the Serbian PM at the ceremony.

    Your poem reminds us of the horror of a conscience-less war, and it comes at a time when aggression in Europe and the Middle East is reaching another crescendo. We do not do justice to the past if we ignore such atrocity.

  18. “in the town of Srebrenica.
    Where they served the black milk from the past.” This poem is one of your best. A true indictment against the human race.

  19. “‘It can never happen here in Europe’
    ‘We have learned, and we are better now’

    Yet we watched and failed.”

    Such chilling, but regrettably true lines. What’s the quote? “Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it”

    When history becomes something only read in a book, only historians remembered the lessons learned. The rest of humanity is doomed to repeat the atrocities because we have either forgotten the lessons learned, or don’t care, or as many who committed the unthinkable in the names of their Lords, believe their cause is just.

    Excellent words to give soul to heartless reality.

  20. Haunting, with candy smiles and black milk. We need these words heard. We cover up history and I agree we can’t heal without exposing the truth.

  21. Powerful write, Bjorn. Sadly, the black milk poison of hate and depravity still flows from man’s heart…unless transformed.

  22. Chillingly good. Benevolent promises…excellent.
    Neighbour against neighbour. Will we ever truly learn the lessons history tries to teach us?

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