Poetry & Spoken Word

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Sheila Coombes: An Anti-War Poem for Today

While leaders play chess
Soldiers wreak death and destruction
With no resurrection for them or their prey.

Resources are scavenged, cultures are ravaged,
Humanity’s the loser at the end of the day.

War or intervention, not forgetting to mention
‘Right to Protect’ (R2P) being put into play,
It’s all fabrication,
Pitting nation against nation,
While the powerful sit waiting to plunder the disarray.

Don’t act in haste, death is just waste,
No chance to taste the freedom or democracy
For which they felt the pain,
It’s murder by nations, hell’s manifestation,
A strategist’s temptation for tactical gain.

They meet their demise with tears in their eyes,
A moment’s Goodbye,

And, yes, they did die in vain.

Sheila Coombes
Coordinator Frome Stop Wars Campaign
July 2014

Daniel Jakopovich: Lampedusa


On the barbed wires of Lampedusa
the Halflings dwell.

Twenty hundred years after Christ and the Samaritan,
in countries that consecrate their names and desecrate their memories,
they bury live people.

Bako crossed the wasteland wide,
just one friend was by his side.

The Master and the Slave,
and the whole grisly dialectic of philistines and concentration camps,
brim on the rim of the continental Citadel.

Ebele crossed the water deep
leaving Bako in his sleep.

Better to drown than be drowned, in shacks where no rafts were provided by the
good people of Europe.

On the barbed wires of Lampedusa
the Halflings dwell.


Tens of thousands of refugees have crossed the Mediterranean in recent years, often on inadequate and overburdened wooden boats. The Lampedusa ”immigrant reception centre” is the primary European entry point for illegal immigration from Africa. In 2009, the detention camp was criticised by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees as many of its 2,000 boat people were sleeping outdoors under plastic sheeting, which was later destroyed in a fire during an inmate riot. By the end of 2011, around 50,000 refugees had arrived from Tunisia and Libya. On 14 April 2015 around 400 refugees drowned attempting to flee from war-torn Libya, which was followed by the drowning of at least 40 other refugees only a couple of days later. These and countless other refugee tragedies are being caused by heartless xenophobia and the Anglo-American war machine.

Lawrence Ferlinghetti: Speak Out

And a vast paranoia sweeps across the land
And America turns the attack on its Twin Towers
Into the beginning of the Third World War
The war with the Third World

And the terrorists in Washington
Are shipping out the young men
To the killing fields again

And no one speaks

And they are rousting out
All the ones with turbans
And they are flushing out
All the strange immigrants

And they are shipping all the young men
To the killing fields again

And no one speaks

And when they come to round up
All the great writers and poets and painters
The National Endowment of the Arts of Complacency
Will not speak

While all the young men
Will be killing all the young men
In the killing fields again

So now is the time for you to speak
All you lovers of liberty
All you lovers of the pursuit of happiness
All you lovers and sleepers
Deep in your private dream
Now is the time for you to speak
O silent majority
Before they come for you!

Daniel Jakopovich: A Young Plant at Khyber Pass

Be they a hundred years old,
patriarchs of conquest cold
nodding on thrones of porphyry,
never have they seen, like Mehri at ten,
what she had witnessed then,

When metallic brutes of prey
stole her father's breathing dear,
bedimming the daylight's way,
bloodying her beauty clear.

In the playground of oligopolies,
of dirty old orders of war which sear small birds still,
ambulant, benumbing hostilities
ravage the biophile ethic of Summerhill.

The loess of bellicosity
in Badsha Khan's tenacious hills
obscures such archaeologies
which bring forth nobility
through solar, gentle pedagogies.

In a lair as blind as this,
what could she have learnt of
art, and logic, and peace?

Jehan Bseiso: Gaza goes back to school

School is now home and shelter for thousands.
Students are displaced or dead, injured or orphaned.
Teacher throws her body on the children to hide them.
Books are smoke and ashes.

Math is 51 days, 2,200 dead 10,000 injured
Land divided, settlements multiply.

Geography is we make our own map from the river to the sea.

How do you teach justice in an open-air prison?


Gaza, Khan Younis, Jabaliya, Beit Hanoun - still standing.
Beit Lahiya, Deir al-Balah, Bani Suhaila – we’re alive.
Haifa, Yafa, Hebron, Bethlehem, Nablus, Ramallah – present
Al Quds – still here.

Poetry is: No poetry in this.
No song under siege, only little shoes under the rubble.

Beit al-Alami, Beit al-Batsh, Dar Abu Ali– present

All my sisters are dead.

How do you unlearn loss?

Beit Shaaban, Beit Alhajj, Beit Najjar – dead or absent.
Maryam- bullet in the head
Mahdi- still in the hospital
We couldn’t find Yaseen, we couldn’t find Yaseen, we couldn’t find Yaseen.
For 51 days.

How do you teach justice in an open-air prison?

Words on fire. Class is full.

Source: Electronic Intifada

Kamil Mahmood: There will come a day

There will come a day

There will come a day when children will make playgrounds of battle fields.

Miniature palms will Paint tanks yellow & kick footballs against once prison walls.

Maggot tarnished ropes that were once made taught echoing the cracking of a neck

Will be used to construct forts and skip with.

Tales of foreign policy and shia versus sunni and Israeli versus Palestinian and Us versus Them will be reduced to fairy tales and said rhymes

Told to a daughter at bedtime.

These are the stories I will tell you.

When Uncle Sam and Mother Earth will put aside their sibling rivalry

Realising blood may be thicker than water but blood loss is direr than dehydration.

We will sit around fires pressing scarred hands together,

Matching scratches and enjoining wounds to form the calligraphy of a common biography

We will be as one body where a pinprick on a finger will resound through eternity travelling space, time, miles and minutes until it pierces our silence like a tap drip drip dripping in the night

And the serenity of words will be realised and we will recognise that everybody hurts but more importantly everybody heals.

And the ferocity of words will be realised and we will load our mouths with syllables, aim at targets with conviction and leave wounds of words from those fort turrets

And every soldier will be first and foremost a poet.

Michael Rosen: Don't Name the Dead Children

Michael Rosen wrote "Don't Name the Dead Children" for the Stop the Massacre in Gaza National Demonstration on 26 July 2014 in London.

Israel bans radio advert listing names of children killed in Gaza
(Guardian 24.07.14)

Don't mention the children.

Don't name the dead children.

The people must not know the names

of the dead children.

The names of the children must be hidden.

The children must be nameless.

The children must leave this world

having no names.

No one must know the names of

the dead children.

No one must say the names of the

dead children.

No one must even think that the children

have names.

People must understand that it would be dangerous

to know the names of the children.

The people must be protected from

knowing the names of the children.

The names of the children could spread

like wildfire.

The people would not be safe if they knew

the names of the children.

Don’t name the dead children.

Don’t remember the dead children.

Don’t think of the dead children.

Don’t say: ‘dead children’.