POEM: the captor and the caged

Boots in faces.

Racist, racist.

You muslim kafir.

You nazi jew.

You, you, you.

 

The World

wars with peace,

offering its arms,

piece by human piece.

 

In clusters they fall,

gifts from your sky,

to our occupied land.

 

Your dollar notes

burn in our hands.

 

Hold our future hostage

to their past,

Eradicate we

from our history books.

With one stroke of red ink,

my life you took.

 

I have no place,

I have no place to call home.

 

Beneath the rubble lie:

keys to a non-existent home,

piled-up suitcases to nowhere,

photographs of the forgotten.

 

Underneath death and dirt,

peace is battered.

 

What is left

when nothing’s left?

If life is a death sentence,

in death, I am your equal;

in death, there is life;

in death, I am free of you.

 

War is mundane,

a shopping list

of body bags

and grieving widows.

 

Eye for an eye,

stone for a stone.

 

Your words are my weapons,

and truth?

truth is a casualty of our lies.

 

The only truth,

the only truth

that survives,

survives in terror,

disjointed,

disconfigured.

 

Prosecutor!

prosecutor of my morality.

Vandaliser!

Vandaliser of my dreams.

Prostituter!

Prostituter of my children,

Master!

Master of my savagery.

 

The law to the lawless;

terror

terror terrorises terror;

terror

reigns supreme.

 

All that separates

victims of victims,

from their victims,

is the time stamp

on your Kodak moment,

in our Olympic game

of Russian roulette.

 

In our nakedness,

we are,

we are the same.

 

Radicals!

Radicals in chains.

Radicals in words.

Radicals proclaim

the death of their enemy,

but the enemy within,

the enemy within,

in its fury burns,

until the radical
the radical is caged,

the caged a victim of

the radical’s rage.
In same sameness,

In same sameness,

the cage
the case enslaves,

the captor
and the caged.


Live performance

As any poet would attest, the words of a poem bear their own voice. It often feels like the words themselves lead you to voice them a certain way; to suppress and explode anger at a turn of a comma or with a finality of a full stop.

That is exactly how I feel about this poem. I imagine and deliver it is a raging, swelling fire tide, seething and roaring. Which is why I found it exceedingly challenging to find a ‘new voice’ for it at a recent Slamalama Slam Jam (Stripped Back). The jam paired each poet with a musician. The poet needed to collaborate with the musician and perform a poem <=3 minutes long. I chose to recite ‘Boots in Faces’ because it was short enough to meet the time limit. It was also felt right to perform it; the latest Gaza conflict was all over the news and the images of the Palestinian dead had made me feel so helpless. I felt I owed it to them that their voice not be lost. 

I was paired with guitarist Jimmy Davis, and we had around 15-20 minutes to figure out how to make the poem work. Luckily, one of my fellow poets captured most of the poem on film. This is what we came up with.

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