Saturday, May 14, 2005

Falluja, an unfolding story

Falluja-in-C******y, a trilogy in search of a quartet.

I first heard of Falluja a little time after the illegal invasion of Iraq by the United States of America and its satellite states. I read of a small town 70 miles north west of Baghdad, and equated it with our town 70 miles north west of London. Iraq had not put up much of a fight against western "Shock and Awe" tactics, a modern day version of the German Blitz Krieg 65 years ago. Fallujans had not resisted the Americans entering their town. But when the troops occupied their primary school the people gathered peacefully to protest. It seemed like the Civil Rights movement in Northern Ireland that led to Bloody Sunday, the murder of 15 unarmed protesters in a crowd. There were claims, then as now that someone fired a gun.

The news story was incorrect in many ways. But I think these poems tell an important symbolic truth. I have watched the story of Falluja unfold, from more or less peaceful aquiesance to violent resistance and brutal suppression and ultimate devastation. I look forward to the day the city is rebuilt by and for its own people, when I can turn this trilogy into a celebratory quartet. As I write today the Americans have begun the process of exploring war crimes committed in Iraq and elsewhere by their own administration. Proceedings have already begun against the Blair regime in Europe.


Dazzle-blue dragonflies
A dance of delight
Among yellow flag iris
Soft haze of summer by the waters edge
Arcadian Oxfordshire
Cool waters slipping silently through Cotswold stone

A moment away
In cyberspace
Cavalier copters clash and crash
An unholy mating
Death in the desert

Closer still
Not even a breath away
In a parallel universe
The copters have landed
Safely on our playing close

These young missionaries
Schooled in a games-of- war Arcadea
Chew gum
And slither through the streets

A base they make of our primary school
A place of safety

Big boys, fearsome toys
Uncertain of their liberator status
Settling in

They don't seem to understand
We want our school back for our children
As yet uneducated Into politicians death squads
Into weapons of your war

C******y folk
Famous in the County
A dash of colour splattered on the uniformity
Of Oxfordshire's dull Tory blue
March in protest to our school
Fifteen dead todayIn this parallel universe
We wanted our school back
For our children's future.

A vast peaceful army of protesters marched through London to protest the illegal war of aggression. It made no difference. The war went ahead. Many of us felt disenfranchised. By the autumn the occupation was a fait-accompli. Our local anti-war group had disbanded. But the Fallujans refused to submit. An American helicopter was shot down. 15 Americans were killed. I wrote a second poem.

Falluja-in-C*****y Revisited

The old manWavesTwisted stumps of steel into the sky
Abuzz with whirring mosquito men
Agitated AmericansFlash by in their copters
Trigger unhappy

A big one is down

This bird will no longer fly
This eagle will not command their skies again

The Fallujans have brought down a big helicopter
15 Americans are dead
Revenge is sweet for some
A strange poetic justice

In C*****y
The Kingfisher dives into the stream
The swallows have fled
War seems to be over
The rebels have disbanded
The banner that stood before Parliament is gone

We wave nothing
Either in anger or in greeting
At the American planes flying in from the gulf

We place no masks of Bush or Blair
On our bonfire festival effigies

We are more successfully oppressed
Than our angry Arab brothers
Guy Fawkes is an immigrant burned on the cricket ground

We will keep on burning his impiety
Full of shallow good cheer
His fight for freedom
Burnt out
Like our indignation

It has taken months to find a way to write this third poem. This was the Guernica of our own time. In quiet rural Britain it is almost incomprehensible, unimaginable. The destruction of the city of Falluja, and the removal of its 300,000 people in November 2004 is the equivalent of emptying Oxfordshire and destroying Oxford. At the centre of Oxford is a memorial to protestant Christian martyrs. One day there will be a memorial in Falluja to the martyrs who stood against the American tyrant, George W. Bush, and his invasion force.

Falluja 3

Led bellied blackness
Heavy rain
Clouds rushing westward
Bombing through my lovely countryside

They are born out of the eye
Of a most savage storm
How they oppress

My life
My world
My Wychwood forest
A dreadful mess

This is no battlefield
Only fox and pheasant are slaughtered here
YetI am
And we are all
Among the fallen

With faltering steps, Gill and I stumble forward

The forces of a vengeful biosphere
Like an evil empires army
Have swept with awesome power through these trees

Now the storm has left us
We struggle through this smashed-down landscape
Sycamores, like unarmed soldiers,
Hacked off at the knees.

We can find our way safe homeward
This is not Falluja
This was not the will of Man

I try to comprehendThe annihilation of a city
And the suffering of its people
I witness
What I can.