In Respect of Insurgence
Czeslaw Milosz, the Nobel laureate, asks:
What is poetry which does not save nations or people?
I hear your steps nearby in the night, you say to me,
'you are a poet, save people.'
I try to imagine a world without pain,
but poets control so little, it hardly matters.
Certainly, I am only flesh and blood,
part of the incomprehensible mass,
one voice in bitter protest
delivering the world of poetry my rebellion.
I do not come to fanaticise against the ‘great’ and the ‘good’,
though I believe in no rulers, no gods.
Then, to whom shall I pay homage,
and from what maladies am I to save people –
war, torture, occupation?
You are insistent, if not in our lifetime,
then in the lives of our children,
or the lives of their children, ‘something must be done.’
So I write a poem about the history of imperialism,
but not a single soul is saved;
no words will bring back little Zainab Rasif,
or the war dead of Fallujah,
or the innocent executed at Ishaqi –
the killing does not stop or subside a little, even for poets.
My pain is written, but it is not heard
above the unashamed laughter of politicians,
or the rattle of machine gun fire in the eastern desert.
The voice inside my head is loud now,
I speak to all the broken poor
of the last departed century: my home is your home.
We have seen the many faces of cruelty,
the shootings and the torment,
we have even fallen in love along the way.
I lift my voice to you, here, on the edge of the abyss,
one voice against forgetting, against deception,
a lone voice against apathy, which is the final defeat.