I wrote these two poems for the Green Kordofan benefit concert, which took place two days ago. Green Kordofan is a charity which helps South Sudanese refugees.
Women of Troy
Here once again, the Women of Troy –
Admit it- don’t you think it’s become a bore ? –
The way they go on and on about their boys
Who died in the war
If anyone else gets down on her knees
To beg asylum for refugees –
To ask for money to help rebuild
The towns in which their men were killed-
I shall scream
I know they are the victims of war crimes
But I’ve heard it all before – a thousand times –
Troy burns and they take them to the ships –
But if I hear any more of this from their lips-
I shall scream
I sympathise that they have been displaced
But they are not the only ones to have chased
Me for money – Au contraire! Join the queue!
Sometimes I don’t know what to do
And now, they say, there’s drought and famine-
Babies die, the old ones die, their gamine
Girls have suddenly grown old- their sons
Become too weak to lift their guns
Homeless now, they are taken from their home
They are taken on the ships to another place
They would rather die than leave this place
I am nice and warm at home
While I scream
Once they lived in Murderland
Where the strong drive out the weak
Now, refugees in Muckaboutland
They are playing hide-and-seek
He counts to twenty, opens up his eyes
There is no-one to be seen
He remembers where they used to hide
Places he himself has seen
He remembers faces
Memory is full of hiding-places
Are they hiding behind the fire-haze?
The cattle-bones that decorate
The weary, gut-red earth?
He opens up his eyes and plays-
It’s either that or else to hate
This outland of his birth
Are they behind the new latrines?
The grasses by the wire fence?
The gasoline bottles?
He giggles; he is caught between
The pleasure and anxiety of suspense-
“Coming for you; ready or not”
“Coming for you” doesn’t sound quite right
But he remembers hearing it, at night-
He remembers eyes and covered faces –
Memory has no hiding-places
Perfect for these young veterans of war
This game of parts- the counting;
The hiding; the laughter and the fear;
The cry of “Coming for you”; the mounting
Anxiety; the mounting urge to giggle-
This is, after all, just play –
The need to stay still, not to wriggle;
The longing not to give themselves away.
The running, the discovery, the capture;
All ends, this time, in a sort of rapture.
Wiping away the tears we shed for life
Hope is our watchword
We hang to it by our fingernails –
The inchmeal progress – two steps forward,
One step back – money from bring-and-buy sales,
Half-marathons- one step forward, two steps back.
The rules of this game are complicated-
Racing blindfold, legs wrapped in a sack
Both legs and thoughts are unarticulated
Yet they keep on going down the track
Towards an unseen winning-post- they find the knack
Of smiling, having fun, imagining that they are racing homeward.
For a moment, while they run the race
Murderland leaves no traces
On their bright refulgent faces –
Memory ; hiding-places.