Militant Thistles

polemical poetry to prickle the politics of "permanent austerity"

atos Poor Doors Sheriff Stars spikes

thistles stretch their prickly arms afar

Black Triangle bedroom tax Disrupt and Upset

Jim Newcombe

The Sirens Of September

 

 

I first saw her the week the war began.

She appeared before me as a dream made flesh

like the calm at the heart of a hurricane.

When our eyes met I was kissed by a ghost.

I’ve been haunted ever since, and so lucky.

Others were sent out who’d seen their friends

split into pieces in the line of fire –

a subservient and bolstered soldiery

answering tyranny with tyranny,

coerced into battles not their own;

the villages of innocent civilians      

who died in vain. All too easy to forget

that they were real people, people like us,

with dreams like ours and families like our own.

Our newspapers and television screens

became the manipulated media

of fabricated facts, which only goes to show

our history is defined by what we’re told.

Beneath a rhetorical smokescreen, between

discretion and tact, there originated

a shifting political lexicon in which

we ‘crusaded’ against the ‘axis of evil’;

in which ‘liberation’ meant invasion

and ‘collateral damage’ – dead civilians.

Words themselves suffered in that war.

                                                              And then

amid proclamations of righteous warfare

she appeared: her sandy hair gathered back,

the white blouse unbuttoned at the throat, the keen

and vital eyes; that honed and supple skin

like elegant ivory undefiled.

In my mind her appearance somehow pacified

the sandblasts and advancing tanks, the ripped flags

and smashed statues. What anodyne?

What composure of incomprehensible cries?

I whimsically, foolishly believed

that by embracing we could embrace the world,

that we could bridge the rift in creeds and nations

in the faithful communion of a kiss.

But we never properly met, and I don’t know where

to find her. I think of her now almost

as a mathematical problem whose

solution eludes me.

                               The war went on,

despite huge public protest. Democracy, then,

is a lie – an abstract freedom of speech

futile amid the smoke of explosions,

as helpless to negate an act of evil

as to secure the balms of earthly peace;

but we ruthlessly instilled its sterile dream

into cultures older than our own, that

never held it part of their tradition.

As for me, I continued to think of her

as immune to indoctrinated enmity.

My unsuspecting heart made its dumb prayer                    

that went heavenward but didn’t find her there,

and so returned to earth to place in me

this deep regret, this wound that has no scar.

The war was real; our freedom and our love

both illusions. But then, the best things are.

Jim Newcombe grew up in England's midmost county, where he spent his childhood and adolescence adventuring from dawn till dusk on the streets of Derby. As a young man he found no preferable society to the studious hush of libraries, the open air of the fields and streams and the Rabelaisian nightlife of the English pubs. Pursuing knowledge and culture for their own sake, on moving to London he followed the Orchestra in the Age of the Enlightenment, was a guest of the Elian Society at the Royal College of General Practitioners and the Oxford and Cambridge Club, attending lectures at the Instituto Cervantes, Institut Français du Royaume-Uni, King’s College, Kings Place, the LSE, Conway Hall and the National Gallery. His writing has appeared in various publications, examples of which are conserved in the Bodleian Library.