Trade Burdens

Put your shoes to one side,
Turn around
Open your eyes
Then remove the blindfold
Really open them
What can you see?
Is it a pretty picture
One you would hang
On a bedroom wall
To gaze upon
Each broken dawn
Or one you would bury
Deep in an album
Kept in a box
Under the bed
Dusty with disuse
Only to see the light
When grandkids visit
At some idyllic future time
Of tolerance and teaching
That is yet to come
And may never happen?
Truth be told
It doesn’t matter.
Whatever your vantage point
Gender, skin tone, genetics,
You see things
As you see yourself
And feel excluded
From any grouping
You view as ‘other’.
This is life
(Or something like it)
Your experience
Will not match
That of those ‘others’
Nor theirs, yours.
We are all different
And empathy is not
Experience.
That certain knowledge
Of the unknown,
The unknowable
Could be our strength
But differences also
Divide us
One from the ‘other’.
Those who would understand
Take it further
Try to get closer
To forbidden wisdom
Fail in their attempt
For alas!
We cannot truly
Experience ‘otherness’.
Plato’s cave all over again
Nothing but shadows
Elusive and unfeeling.
We are not all filled
With benign curiosity
Hardly surprising.
For those whose world view
Does not admit equality
It only ends in tears,
Accusations,
Mimicry, farce,
Inappropriate
Cultural appropriation
Labels, stereotypes,
Profiling.
So what do we make of it
This unfathomable ‘otherness’?
Racism, misogyny, xenophobia
Fear of the unknown
Misunderstanding
Embarrassment and even
Murderous hatred.
The persistent among us
Keep picking at scabs
So old wounds fester
To the point of eruption
Irritated by irrational isolationists
Lodestone
To the bitter iron
Of bad blood
Drawing down ire like
Hera in her lousy marriage
Choreographed blame
Detracting from the culpable
To the scapegoat.
Bringing forth bolts
Of heavenly fire
Raining misery
Down upon us
All mere mortals
And still we stand divided
Our own ugliness comes to the fore
Humans racing
Competing for each burden
Losing face and patience
Fraying, unhappy peace
As we ignore our ignorance
Setting aside compassion
For righteous bigotry
Small-minded acts of defiance
Banner waving, street fighting.
Fail Army?
Too bloody right!

 

Brain, baby! Brain!

Curse these hormones
They make me cry
More for the plight
Of others – for kindness
At joy, or pain,
Or seemingly nothing
Than any worst of mine
Experience of life to date
How can I tell my eyes
To shed no tears
For those who die by fire
For those who risk
Both life and limb
To save another’s child
I cannot make myself
Immune to the suffering
Of animals, women, children
Nor even violent, middle-aged,
Mercenary misogynists
Whose words belie their actions
What are these thoughts?
These feeling of unexpected
And even unwelcome
Compassion for all things
All creatures, living and dead
Even mosquitoes, crushed
For being as they are
My bleeding heart would nurse
What good is such weakness
Am I now infirm of purpose
So blind to the darker side
Of human nature
That I would embrace it
Heedless of my own
And others’ safety?

Tied Hands

I wish I could help
But I can’t, I can’t
I lack the autonomy,
Forced to plant
My feet on the bars
Of this creaking fence
And dole out excuses
Of common sense

Winnipeg

Cry me a red, red river
A river of dust and bones
Of hearts that bleed and shiver
From broken and bruising homes

Blow me a kiss of willow
To echo a mourner’s moan
The ache of an empty pillow
Another child’s fate unknown

Cry me a red, red river
To fold me within its bed
And comfort the cares that slither
Through thoughts of unending dread

Bring me a message, finding
Too late what you had to face
My anger a knot, a binding
A coiling of thoughts that race

Cry me a red, red river
Reflecting a distant star
A chorus of souls, a quiver
That calls to me from afar

Paint me a cold moon rising
Surrounded by frozen waste
Still warmed by a hatred, blinding
For victims that leave no space

Cry me a red, red river
From words that no longer mean
An end to the dreams that linger
Its path a forgotten scream

Soothe me to sleep through Winter
To wake in the roar of Spring
With gifts that are carved to splinter
Where birds cannot bear to sing

Cry me a red, red river
And lay there upon this shore
The past where I long to wither
And hold you again, once more

This was written for the Red River Women.

Ah, Palmyra

We care more for ancient ruins
And destruction wrought on tombs
By whatever means they may
Than for lives that end today

While the blood and flesh and bone
Leaving everything they own
To escape the latest purge
Travel desert, sea and gorge

Those who voyage only land
On their uppers, close at hand
To the help they sorely need
Yet the politicians plead

Not to have to break their word
To the xenophobic horde
Those whose votes they barely won
From the hardened right, anon

Thus with bottle-necks and fence
We corral and harry hence
Workers that we sure could use
Grateful, welcome, unabused

Skilled and keen to integrate
To prop up our ageing State
In permissive company
Knowing just who let them be

As the fight takes to the skies
And the waves fill up with lies
We would throw away resource
Inconvenient and coarse

With no tally of the cost
Nor of what support is lost
Though our leaders might feel tall
While our borders stand, we fall

Survivor

I am right there
Surrounded by cockroaches
Squatting in the ruins,
The wreckage.
Collateral, damaged
In the fallout
Of a truly
Decadent society
That looked up to its
Graven images,
Photoshopped.
Idols, now idle.
How they glittered
In their lame, sequinned
Lifestyles.
Just me – a bunch of
Bad habits
And under the rubble,
One drug-addled
Rock guitarist.
Perhaps if we put our
Heads together
We can try
To find words
To remember.

Street Scene

Stroll down any dusty thoroughfare
From Maida Vale to scruffy Shepherd’s Bush
They’ll ambush you on pavement then and there
Relieve you of your digits, prod and push.

Foot soldiers, armed with clipboards and ambition
Will tug at strings that tie the heart to purse
Their target: the conversion to commission
Of less-than-living wages as you curse.

The haves that make up half the knotty problem
Are touched for cash by those who live below
Embarrassed by their wealth, some may endure them
While others just ignore them as they go.

With one foot on the ladder of ascension
The other in the bucket of distress
They’ll tell you of the horrors one won’t mention
To try to hold attention and impress.

The passers-by whose means are independent
Whose social conscience privilege must prick
Are rarely found donating rent or pension
Confronted daily, skin must be quite thick.

While those who swallow pride and do the needful
Are debited directly for their pains
Their duty to society a creed. Full
Of charitable empathy and claims.

Family Tree

I do not know their faces
Nor the shape of their hopes
Smiles or holy days
Though their names are familiar

Their dead branches whisper to me
Cut off long before I grew
To stretch my own limbs skyward
Drinking in the warmth of life

Pollarded by the Shoah
They were dead wood
Judged and executed
Discarded, pulped

Their elder fruits
Dropped, dried,
Repackaged and distributed
To nourish the living

Old shoes, clothes, handbags
Torahs pulped for toilet paper
To wipe the arse of the aggressor
Marching through ancestral Europe

Kicks supplied on demand
At discount rates
An eye for an eyeful
A bullet for a broken bone

Until I stand here
Weary of remembrance
Sighing in the comfort of
Survivor’s guilt

Read Primo Levi and think of
Stage directions for a ‘war’ film
Complain about my own
Petty frustrations

Knowing we can never again
Afford to plead our ignorance
Of the mechanised
Bestiality of man

Frustration (or why the female of the species is more deadly than the male)

The clown at work
Who wrecks his tech
Until you’d, cheerful
Break his neck

The letch en route
Who’d lick your thighs
Whose comments make you
Roll your eyes

The slobs, commuting
That don’t share
Shift bag, nor arse
To spare a chair

The manager
Who can’t decide
To rule the troops –
Job suicide

The lover’s ears
That don’t retain
A single word
Of our refrain

Taking a back seat

Racist grannies on the bus
Tut and stare – it’s them v. us
Martin Luther was their King
But did his words mean anything?

Instead of peace from A to B
Oneupmanship is all they see
A trade in slaves they scowl and claim
No other story merits blame

How then may one girl best explain
Two thousand years of Jewish pain?
Our ancestors have suffered too
But my pale face meets hostile view

No white devil yet understands
The misery of foreign lands
Of being torn from all you know
And sold for servitude, although

If we had time enough to show
So many tales of mankind’s woe
Are written, spoken, danced and sung
To exorcise this bitter crumb

As painful history lays bare
How little pity all do spare
For those they see as lesser folk
The truth is plain, a racist joke