Three Poems by Peter Branson
No laughter on the stairs that day you find
her in her room. She’s gazing out towards
the old churchyard, a weird look on her face
you’ve never known before, resigned, world-wise
beyond her years. She’s staring at the grave
her brother fills. You’ve heard her many times,
imaginary friend, small talk, but now
you realise she’s speaking to a ghost.
They say when one twin dies the other’s drawn
into the shadow-space . No Christian rite,
no prayers, good work or penance can suffice.
You’re educated, modern, westernised,
too proud to dabble in blood sacrifice.
Week later, doesn’t wake; no warning signs.
Is it well-earned, your claim to fame? Most times
it’s not. The high class madam or the back-
street tart, you hawk a vision of yourself,
pay dirt, or others do. Real thing, fools’ gold,
no mind, the word made flesh, you’re feted, play
your part. We’re animals, you’re visitors:
rabbits, we stare; sheening, you gaze straight through.
We’re sure who we can trust (Taste wanes). You’re sleek,
pre-occupied and rich beyond the need
to know. Air-brushed, red carpet fluff, you’re all
the rage. Time warps and wounds: the stolen shots
expose; you’re anybody’s, that’s the price
you pay; you have no privacy outside
your gilded cage. Scandal! Hold the front page!
The Haditha Massacre
For Woody Guthrie
Haditha, Iraq, where 14 men, 3 women & 7 children were killed, Nov 24th, 2005.
Come all fair-minded people,
pray listen to my song,
You police a foreign country,
How things go badly wrong.
Small town down by the river,
no special claim to fame,
Till US troops were ambushed
And one of them was slain.
A passing car got peppered
Beneath a blazing sun.
Five bodies were recovered
But not one single gun.
They stormed the nearby houses
And heard their sergeant say
“Fire first, ask questions later,”
For someone had to pay.
Bad apples in a barrel,
The warning signs ignored,
Each time we turn a blind eye
Means bigger trouble stored.
Three women, seven children
And fourteen men lay dead.
The youngest still a toddler,
Aged one, the locals said.
It’s hard to find excuses
when so much blood was shed.
Yet no one has been punished,
No justice for the dead.
They shot some at close quarters,
A bullet in the brain.
An old man in a wheelchair
Was numbered with those slain.
I don’t know why we came here,
I’ve no idea at all,
‘less it’s for the money men
Who buy and sell our our oil.