For James Fenton
Floating among the ice, these peaceful
soft, curly shapes reflect the sky.
The river rocks them lightly, gently,
their pace appearing slow and graceful
beneath the evening’s silver mantle.
We cannot see the fish below, but
discern from here a place of worship
that dominates this wounded landscape.
The fish cannot disturb the dead.
Indifferent, the murdered lie
swelling our rivers of history.
A friendly warlord has purged a delicate
threatening issue of principles
(which we regret). You must have heard:
a war afar stirs passions once
it has occurred on television.
They’ve left behind a tidy village
of great importance - once, to them,
the toil of ruined generations,
a scent of sweat, the stench of fear,
spent cartridges trampled into the snow
and children recoiled from adult ways,
potential witnesses still in hiding
in crumpled bedrooms (which we regret).
Others I know marched calmly at gunpoint
and left their clothes and shoes on the shore.
They were received by the surging waves
tied in pairs to prevent survival,
to float forever towards the sea
- rejected by oblivion.
We have erected a monument
to urge humanity: Never Again!
...A monument secured by our stubborn
pillars of fear that make us insane and
succumb to the lure of the tranquil river.
The icy current coils beyond
our will and wailing. Hear this dirge
composed for you and me, undated.
It mourns the living. We calculate
our fate in sums of overkill.
If you've any comments on this poem, Thomas Land would be pleased to hear them.