A. J. McKenna


What, of all things beneath the sun, is fairest?
Thousands on foot or the ships sent to take them
to some other island, city or border,
unsettled, dispersed?

Perhaps you think a fence the fairest thing seen,
A thing of razor wire and steel, sun-gleaming,
its check-points manned, all processed in good order?
Perhaps bolt-cutters,

a dinghy to go over water to land,
papers – who, this desperate, cares if they are forged
or genuine? Hope lights on what it can:
to bombs, what’s law?

Perhaps, to you, an antiseptic kill
a drone’s Hellfire payload, deployed cleanly
by a joystick fondled in an air-conned room
in Lincoln – better?

I say the hand that reaches for another
is more fair than marching troops or battleships.
Light work, it should be, to make this plain to see:
would that it were,

but people call, in the name of drowned children,
for bombs; people say our empty land is full,
and praise our leader when he kills by fiat:
Wham. Bam. Thank you Cam.

(this poem contains elements of Sappho Fragment 16, ‘The Anactorian Poem’, as translated by Richard Lattimore)



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