Every night you open in me a fountain
of forbidden words,
words like love and sadness and freedom
and though none or few
(too few to make a difference)
shall listen to those troubled words,
the words must be written
lest the present should ever be forgotten.
While the generals celebrate
and the rulings of state empower the rich,
we are never far from the troubled lives of the poor,
or the boys in uniform, the uneasy killers –
who write their final letters home.
It is not possible to say when the war will end,
or count the dead in such a way
as to bring any comfort to the living.
You say, ‘get up, do not be afraid,
write your poems, my love.’
And there it is again, the struggle
to be one’s self, the customary carnage,
the struggle to speak the truth.
What man will raise his arms in defiance –
raise his head above the hole
he has spent years digging for himself?
Every night you free me
from the disapproval of my fellow poets
whose ancient belief in the natural order of things
condones the ‘war of all against all.’
And so we return once more to forbidden words,
words like peace and justice and brotherhood –
even these words must be written
albeit against the stream.