Baby in Arms

I carry with me the first time I saw you,
the apprehension on your face
that gradually melted away.

I carry the sounds of your painful cries
the terrors you encountered at night
and the stories of your past.

I carry our first shopping trip
and all the things you chose,
things that helped my house become your home.

I carry the times you fell and scuffed your knees
when you tried to climb to twice your height upon a frame,
and when you bumped your head and ran to me for the first time.

I carry the intensity of the uncertainty
waiting to hear for sure that you would be coming home with me,

I carried you for months on end, before I saw your face,
not through womb but in a much more important place.

John

Over the shop door, hot air blows to keep out the cold.
It blasts my neck, and the collar of my jacket
brushes oddly against my skin.
I turn around, and there he isn’t, standing
by my side. Instead, the sight of a bloody
mess, resting before my eyes.
I cry his name, daring not to move,
there must be other mines.
Then come the mumbles of civilians, going about their day,
who all stop, just for a moment, to look at the crazy man.
He must be drunk, or something else, not for them to understand.


One night, my daughter took me to a fireworks display.
The hiss and bang, the burst of light, reactions from the crowd
as we all take cover and take account
of who is left outside. Jets roar over our heads,
and shouts of names fall on dead ears,
and tears begin to fall from
the faces of the bravest men
praying to see their families again.
Then comes the applause, happy shrieks of children,
who all stop, just for a moment, to look at the horrible man.
He must be drunk, or something else, not for them to understand.

Television talks, home provides some comfort day-to-day.
Despite the mess and dirt and grime, there’s nothing to distract
from the peace for which
we fought
and lost
in ways more than one
but for the rest, all to see
is that on paper we won.
The days roll past, measured by bottles,
cigarette butts,
white stripes of sand.
I’m drunk,
or something else,
no need to try to understand.

Confinement

When I went to school on Monday, nobody questioned my tears.
“He’s just being silly,” they said. “He has to compose on his own.”
I tried my best to be happy, and I wiped them all away,
but I didn’t get how on earth I was meant to have fun and play.

When I went to school on Tuesday, we had to do PE.
“Take off your vest,” they said. “Hot and sweaty is bad for you.”
I tried my best to argue, that I had been told I must never
take off my vest, as they’d find out, and then I’d really suffer.

When I went to school on Wednesday, we had to talk about hitting.
“Hitting is okay,” I said. “But only for grown-ups, not children.”
They tried their best to argue, and then they shook their heads,
because I was just a child, probably watching films when I should be in bed.

When I went to school on Thursday, we played a family game.
“I’ll play the parent,” I said. “But don’t worry, it’s only pretend.”
They tried their best to tell me, that what I acted out was not okay,
oh yes, of course, it’s only for grown-ups to do to horrible boys, I was told the other day.

When I went to school on Friday, I asked to have a chat.
“I’m worried about my family,” I said. “And that I won’t come back.”
They shook their heads and told me, that it was a silly thing to say,
they’d see me on Monday, stop making a fuss, and go home at the end of the day.

When I stayed at home on Saturday, I shivered in my corner.
“I don’t like it,” I said. “Can we play a different game instead?”
He grinned at me and told me, that I didn’t have a choice,
that horrible boys like me should never use their voice.

When I stayed at home on Sunday, I curled up in a ball.
“I want to go to school,” I said. “It’s nice in there, and warm.”
She laughed at me and told me that I could only go back
if I learned to keep my mouth shut, and not earn another smack.

When I stayed at home on Monday, someone called my house.
“Is he ill?” they said. “How can we help?”
She laughed at them and told them not to stick their nose
in places it didn’t belong, and it started the dominoes.

When I stayed at home on Tuesday, nobody came to call.
“You’re all mine,” he said. “And nobody cares. You can say goodbye to school.”
I tried not to cry, but I couldn’t help but scream,
and with each blow flew away the dregs of my self esteem.

When I stayed at home on Wednesday, the whole world went dark.
“It’s all your fault,” he said. “Won’t you ever learn?”
I tried to keep my balance, but it just didn’t work,
and the more I tried to fight it, the more he went bezerk.
Then his hands and cans
of that smelly brown drink
flew around the room
I stood there, knowing silently
that this would be my doom.

When I stayed at home on Thursday, I had no words to say.
I had no breath in my tiny lungs and I had no time to try
to get to school and tell them all the reason why
I had no pencils and my shoes were scuffed
and sometimes, I behaved quite rough.
It was all I knew, and I tried to say
without giving it all away…
But all you could see was
that naughty boy who
never came prepared.
I tried my very best,
but all I ever saw in
return was a blank
look on their face.
“He’s only small, he’s just four,”
they’d always say.
“Children make things up every day.”
If you took the
time to ask me
about what
I endured, I
might have
felt secure
enough to
speak, tell
about that
thing I had
happening
to me, but
in reality,
the only
words
said
was
to
“learn”
to
do
it
all
on
my
o…

The Plea of a Rescue Dog

If you knew what happened before I met you
maybe you’d understand.
If you saw the torment I was subjected to
by a stranger’s hand.

I eat from bins, it’s all I know
and toilets? I don’t know where to go.
Because, you see, the world, to me,
was once my only home.

I don’t like it when hands fly towards my face
and I hate it when strangers say hello.
Because, you see, the world, to me,
was full of fear and sorrow.

I have scars under my fur your eyes can’t see,
and worse than those are the memories.
Because, you see, the world, to me,
Was a flurry of anxiety and worries.

If you knew what happened before I met you
you might start to see
the reasons why I react so much
to someone looking at me.

I’m not a bad dog, and I love you so
but fight or flight is all I know.
So be patient, my human, and give me time
I promise to be better, and soon you’ll find
I’ll be the most loyal soul, your very own
rescue dog, to whom you gave a home.

Enforcement

Laced up boots and buckled belt
unready for the day.
Yesterday said ‘this time tomorrow’
but there was nothing real to say.
Events unfold and darkness calls,
and lights flash
and the journey
and what’s at the end
and how it got there
and who called
and there’s always an attack

because Kevlar protects not the mind,
nor do weapons defend
from the image of the dying man,
the despair of the friend
who watched him bleed
and watched him die
Ticking. Pumping. Beeping.
The cries replay
for a while
every single day.

But don’t take a beat to go and eat
or to try and comprehend
the tragedies just witnessed,
for with uniform comes judgement
and comments of how they pay
taxes
and how could you think it would be okay
to have food and water?
The same different
every day.

But the choice is made
every day
to stay and stand,
for reasons unbeknown,
up to others,
up for others,
with others
to provide support
to others.