For Armitage and Duffy

I’m not a soldier, suffering from war

No poet laureate champions my cause

I’m an Iraqi fellah, or trader

Or a young Gazan girl or baker

I’m an imam or a seeker of truth

Or a spent mother spurned from a camp roof

No special words remark what remains

Of my shattered country and shuddering frame

No empathetic, humanising verse

Speak of the time when our lives got worse.

Fine documentaries, carefully crafted

Fresh books of poetry, with publishers grafted

Capture the war photographer’s pain

And the soldiers who left our dwellings in flames

But none do observe that my heart is cleft

From the visceral horror of my sisters’ deaths

No thoughtful sonnets, nor ottava rimas

Conceive that drones are just terrible screamers

No stirring voltas turn on the lights

When the voltage runs out in the sinister nights

My world’s turning red, and the room grows dark

And nothing remains but my simmering heart

But here’s a secret that exists in lieu

A Nobel prize or a gallery view

Me and my people. we live and breathe

Live and breathe like you’ll never believe

Our soil sings our praise and the skies, they cheer

The ink may dry up, but we will remain here…

(check out Simon Armitage’s poem, Remains, and Carol Ann Duffy’s poem, War Photographer. Both in GCSE English literature anthologies)

Strange Meeting on the Gaza March in London on November 11th

For Owen

It seemed that from the march I escaped

Down some tunnel, with mouth agape

Scooped through the hazy granite of time

Deep into the annals of past years, hopes sublime

Yet there, sleeping soundly as cherubim

Lay men of merit who’d seen times so grim

Those unknown faces who once in the past

Had laid their lives without much questions asked

For country, duty, and for freedom of good

And of them now a line of sleepers stood

Before me, all my grandfathers of yore

Who’d bravely fought in all these Western wars

And at the front there stood a man of charm

My own grandfather an honourable Khan

“Strange indeed it is,” I said, pensive

“That for a foreign land your life you’d give…”

My grandfather, he looked me in the eye

“My son,” he said, with a knowing, wistful sigh,

“My own father, my cousins and my elders

We served so that our families would be sheltered,

And we fought hard and firm for the British Raj

Not fleeing from a skirmish or barrage

And so eventually I settled in England

I wore my medal ribbons and I mingled

I bore a family in old Birmingham

And now you stand here with a plate of jam!

But listen here, these words, I speak in truth

Never would we fight for this, forsooth,

For selling the poor soul of Jerusalem

And purging that land of Bethlehem

Never would we stand with such disaster

As bleeding dry the children of young Gaza

The enemy they kill are young and free

Who now lay cold, were loath to leave early

Alas us men at arms we had no such choice

So for those children indeed raise your voice…”