Thursday, April 18, 2013

Two poems from Turn Your Head

These two poems are from Tuol Sleng Still, a series of poems relating to the death camp, Tuol Sleng, run by the Khmer Rouge in Phnomh Penh during the seventies. Still is for the photographs taken of inmates before and after their deaths (infants and youngsters included) and it's for 'now',our tacit acceptance of torture and death that seems undimmed no matter how civilised we imagine ourselves to be.

And my child? 
He sleeps with barely more than birth’s darkness in his head.
I watch his famine coming as surely as a train;
but make no mistake, if you see fear, it is fear of the void
at the centre of my child’s screams for food.
All else is contempt for men who cultivate dreams
where his will never grow.


Looking away from the camera, I see
two soldiers hacking a prisoner’s legs
till he’s on his knees; the next is waiting
for his shins to explode into pain.
Ten-year olds screaming instructions,
angel-faces with AK-47’s;
childhoods manured in hatred
leaning against our horizon.

In twelve hours I've seen so much
I'm staring through it.
A lifetime scratches down that glass;
my mind is overrun with atrocities.

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