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This poem is taken from PN Review 194, Volume 36 Number 6, July - August 2010.Three Poems
Talk about War at the Poetry Workshop
We were looking out for the others from the sunny back doorstep
when, after nearly a week ie all of the writing workshop,
I finally asked the soldier to stop loading up rhymes for flower
and tell me instead about Basra. I wanted the low-down on power.
I got dry facts about daily vacancies in the restyled police:
how to monitor (you can’t) mile-long queues along canals to the palace;
how the secure pay drew doctors, engineers, dentists
and then another type, as I’d surely heard; how first aid kits
or currency would have been more use than her patrol.
And this paid-for course? Her notice. Monday, she was off the pay-roll.
Did I not know who ran the army, and not just in Basra?
Each theatre now, for a woman, was grunt work or purdah.
The others emerged from the woods. She wanted something else. Not this: Poems,
she quoted, don’t pay bills, but, she wanted to know, what does?
Dressed as jedi and druids, they fought like Saxons on the date of the equinox;
the security detail handcuffed ‘Maud, the Edwardian archaeologist’
then forced her into the lotus position. One of the jedis opened a suitcase
and started a songwriting class. We wore sheets and 49p glow-sticks.
Stonehenge, Woodhenge. We danced anti-clockwise till the sun rose
on the fenced-off holes and rifts of the latest excavation.
Wardens, like builders checking gaspipes, wore hats and brighter clothes,
fell over themselves: who will protect the circle of standing stones?
Called to the yard
(‘Look, look’, he shouts),
I see the fallen bird
and hold my son’s hand
but what grips instead
are the goggle-eyed flies,
their broad foreheads
like miners’ helmets
lighting up their feelers
on the slippery grey-purple
of the bird’s exposed keel…
I couldn’t take my eyes
off the scene (I see it still)
as rooted in it as,
over the road, the local
who circle, hour after hour,
the burnt house’s remainder,
half-knowing they prefer
breathing its arsonised pall.
This poem is taken from PN Review 194, Volume 36 Number 6, July - August 2010.