Monday, July 8, 2013

Two Poems by Mike Jenkins

After All This

After the cities and bullet-trains,
the salary-men and uniformed pupils
sleeping standing up going home
after the Buddhist temples adorned
in gold and even  the benches
with offerings of slotted coins
after the high-rise station
with garden on its roof
and a jazz band stage even
after the Zen temple
with its stone garden, water
meditating between angled wood
after Nagasaki and Hiroshima
peace-parks and flickering film
of black kites circling the ruins
after the volcano with acid lake :
vision of the earth’s core,
sulphur poisoning the air
after sleek, most sinuous horses
grazing in the fertile caldera ;
watching nauseous, their meat on skewers
after the bath-robe town
exhaling hot air from underground
and each cloth a cherry blossom
after the shrine to war-torturers
and the Emperor’s city-within-a-city,
a museum glorifying ‘the old lie’
after all this, no better sight
than my young daughter on the platform
in slippers and dressing-gown, waving me home.
(for Omar Deghayes)
I know
through the blur,
one moon   one star –
I am a number
too many zeros in this world –
the black hole
of my left socket
not the number
they knew me by,
those guards and bolt-hole
mouths spraying pepper
but a number recurring –
one I insist on,
the horizon from clifflines
a number they wanted
to gouge out –
I struggled to count
as my eyes turned liquid   turned blood.
when I saw the landscape
of my face
what they had done to it
it was both east and west –
the starved desert of cheeks,
dead pit of one eye-ball
my nose a broken Tower of Babel –
even the wrinkles were treads
of boots of soldiers invading
when I saw this place
I knew I’d fought with hands and feet –
battlefield where I return at night
and now, the salty breeze
can soothe these spoil heaps,
the history of my skin
but I won’t rest as they defile others –
precious countries from the southern foothills
to headlands of the north.
Note – Omar Deghayes was imprisoned and tortured in Guantanamo Bay. He was eventually released, with no evidence at all that he had been involved in any activities. He now lives near Brighton. ‘I am a number’ are his own words.



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