Sunday, 13 November 2011

Teaching the World to Sing

(Thousands of cluster bombs were dropped on Iraq
by American bombers during the first Gulf War

Look, children!
Shield your eyes and squint skywards,
see that steel stork, gliding, miles high,
trailing a white ribbon and quartering the sun.

Watch, as it drives the Shadow of the Cross,
shape-shifting, across our desert sands.

Hark, how silently it sheds its stache of pregnant pods,
dropping, ladder-like, down the wind,
bursting, sky-high, in flashes of gold,
like ripe dandelions hatching hundreds of hovering seeds.

            Tick, tock, what o'clock?
            Five past twelve and counting ....

Watch carefully, as they pendulum closer,
appearing, for all the world, like so many cans of Coke,
guided groundwards on parachutes of silk.

Keep well away!
At their first brush with our sweet earth,
they will burst into bloom
like flowers in the desert after spring rains,
flicker their butterfly lives and crumble into dust.

And beware!
They will latch like leaches
onto man and woman,
beast and child alike.

They will maim and blind
and scatter blood and brains
across the hungry sand.

And, mark my words!
The shadow of that stork is long,
never more may children dance across the fields,
Nor lovers stroll, hot hands entwined,
through groves of palms,
nor hurl themselves, tormented, under trees.

For, you must know,
there are some seeds that will not shoot,
but sleep for years, half-buried in the sand,
red apple-cores of death, deep-lodged in steel throats,
waving each its little parachute and screaming, neon-loud:

            DRINK ME!  I AM IT!

And waiting only for the kiss of one small hand
to spring it back to deadly life.

            We aim to teach
            the world to sing
            in perfect harmony.

© Colin Watts

Editor's note: Colin has also sent this poem to David Cameron and William Hague. It seems entirely appropriate on this, Remembrance Sunday, to consider those killed and injured by weapons that are, to a large degree, regarded intrinsically indiscriminate.

UK backs bid to overturn ban on cluster bombs
Colin Watts is author of four collections of poems. He works in Adult Learning and is not a millionaire.