You will not all live through this. Death will take
you unexpectedly. Shot in a crowd
rushing police lines. And if I am allowed
by circumstance and age – my heart will break -
I’ll write a poem for each death. My friend
was special and is gone. That’s what we say
in every elegy. And then I may
incite some sort of violence at the end.
I’ll still write sonnets, and that little turn
in the last couplet will break people’s hearts
read at your funeral. And so it starts
the peoples’ angry rage. I’ll see them burn
your killers. Yet know, with a guilty sigh,
It was my verses sent you out to die.
I have forgiven several of my friends
betrayals so bad they will break your heart
as they did mine. Quite soon, departures start
among you – lovers, comrades. Never ends
this agony of watching things go wrong
in times of trouble. One will turn to drink
and slowly die. Another start to think
small compromises best, self-sold belong
among the worst there is. And yet his face
still has the smile you loved, as with a moan
reluctantly he sends the robot drone
that kills us each in turn. I hope for grace
to curse, love, understand such traitors still.
Stare coldly in their eyes, then shoot to kill.
These are the worst of times that I have known.
I’d like to say they’ll pass, yet fear to lie.
It’s probable that some of you will die
before all this is done. Will die alone
in exile or in prison, slowly starve
die from diseases we know how to cure
be left to die from them because too poor.
Worse yet, know while you live your every breath
is stolen from those poorer. Make them count
each angry moment, live write fuck and dance.
You cannot choose your time. So take each chance
to live. Remember me. Give good account
of who I was. And make the bastards pay
who kill our world, our lives, our brief lost day.
To fight the tyrants we give up our name
become the rebel only. Spend each night
on different couch. No life except the fight
we fade dissolve. And so become the same
Anonymous as roses. Change our voice
to electronic buzz. A pastel vest
padded or binding hides or fakes a breast
The world has left us very little choice
Masked save for eyes and mouth, witness and speak
And have no fear of death, because no life.
The policeman’s gun, the state assassin’s knife
All power theirs. Our options are so weak
Save to refuse to serve, refuse to cry,
refuse to live and dying, never die.
We quarrel, often. And of course it’s true
and rarely trivial. We’ll get it right
although it means we sit up half the night
in rooms, on twitter. Such a shame that you
will not accept you’re wrong. As obstinate
as Trotsky, though no ice pick to the head
occurs. Because we do not want you dead
just very sorry, dialectic’s weight
heavy upon your chest. Then you confess
quite insincerely, but we do not care.
What once was solid melted into air.
The question’s time-expired, well more or less.
Just mentioned briefly in some final bitch
when fascists shoot us all in some deep ditch.
How do you love in hiding? On the run?
When every hour is precious, how begin
to talk of love? When there’s a war to win,
your deepest intimate a well-cleaned gun
For hours you practice taking it apart
putting it back together. You can’t learn
lovers like that; you’ve not the time to burn
learning the way to stimulate each part
take them to bits, then snap them into place.
Guns only ever talk to those they kill;
you have a need for conversation still,
or heart grows steel. It’s there in your cold face
Worst tyrants sometimes from best comrades made.
So risk it, fall in love, at least get laid.
It’s you instruct me. All I do is tell
you what I’ve learned. Perhaps I summarize.
You need to know what I’ve seen through your eyes
that we can use. My generation fell
Comfort seduced us. This time they’ll use fear
to break you into bits, devour you whole.
Each of us has a kapo in their soul
to do their work. And some will disappear
At random, just to keep you on your toes.
I’m old and toothless. I will write things down
you’ve told me, hold your words here, when you drown.
They are not quite as smart as they suppose
Some of us whom they thought they’d bought and sold
find something left of rebel when we’re old.
We might well lose. Our enemies are smart.
They have the guns and money. And the power.
Do not assume that this is not their hour
to gloat, stamp on each face and break each heart
that cares and weeping sees the world decay
music and kindness. They won’t understand
why victory seems to crumble in their hand.
We’ll die in pain. And quite soon so will they,
Our only consolation that we told them so
Cold comfort of correct analysis
inadeqately argued. Synthesis
Perhaps the last sad true thing that they’ll know.
Death’s dialectic. Ashes of our brains
Mingle with theirs. Hot winds sweep empty plains.
So many fights we can’t afford to lose
so fight we must. With blood upon our hands
perhaps. Important each one understands
it is the fight, but not the blood, we choose.
Fight that’s our dialectic changed to will
we do not fight to win, perhaps to save
some fragments of what Money would enslave.
Freedom and love. I do not want to kill
Reluctance has a price we might not pay
but others. Pox and ignorance and ash.
Unending brutal tyranny of cash.
Perhaps it does not matter what I say.
Blood answers me and sneers. Intoxicates
Kills innocents, yet throws down nightmare states.
It’s almost sexual, that sort of rush.
A meeting listens to you. Feel their hearts
your hand upon their strings. That’s how it starts.
You get addicted to that breathy hush
in meetings when you speak. Like good cocaine
it makes you briefly sharper than you are.
Words race round corners as you’d drive a car
hand brutal on the wheel. And it’s your brain
whose tyres you burn, but also it’s a cause.
That’s more important than soliloquys,
or disagreement sobbing on its knees.
It is the people’s struggle, and not yours
Beware of leading. Easy to enjoy
the ride. The revolution’s not your toy.
You do the things that only you can do,
be useful, kind in unexpected ways
to sisters and to comrades. When malaise
creeps over you, accept it’s like the flu
you are allowed to spend a few days sick
a few days off your game. Recovery
is sometimes slow, never obligatory.
You learn doubt’s shape. It fits, a sudden click,
part of analysis, that’s never done
always in progress. Brick on brick gets placed.
Each momentary problem that you’ve faced
part of the process. Always try to shun
the simple lying versions leaders sell
that silence stories only you can tell
You’ll probably outlive me. Unless shot.
If things get bad, as very well they might
And we’re arrested on some foggy night
I will not last on Dartmoor. Feet will rot
joints creak I’ll catch the flu or fall asleep
and not wake up. This happens when you’re old.
Bad food, some brutal guard, or just the cold.
They’ll put me in a grave twelve inches deep.
And burn my poems. Keep them in your heart
where they belong. Admonitory advice
to learn, digest, remember. Once or twice
use them to teach. Yours is the harder part
suffer for years kept going by the hope
of seeing your tormentors choke on rope
It may well be that they will kill us all.
A thousand bullets in a thousand brains
would solve most of their problems. What remains
of any opposition will soon fall
to broken hearts and age. Yet, tense, at night
they’ll brood on murders missed. Fear that we’ll rise
somehow from death. Their lies will glamorise
us to their shiny children. What we write
somehow survives, however much they burn.
Regrows like bindweed, underneath the ground
Your essays and my sonnets will be found
on barrows, shelves and websites. No return
for you or me, my dears. We’re dead and gone.
Their children praise us. Freedom’s just begun.
Or maybe not. Perhaps we lose. The worst
not knowing, but suspecting, as we die,
these fools have killed the world. And don’t know why.
Desperate people rise up, and the first
shot down as we were, and the next. Paid thugs
kill sisters brothers hoping they’ll not starve
yet do. In south and north great icebergs calve.
Floods rise. Crops fall to blight or rot or bugs.
Last child falls to last sleep pus in her eyes.
The last birds charcoal on last burning trees
Art knowledge love just ash on burning breeze
charred dust with husks of roaches, lice and flies.
Those curses true we screamed with our last breath
Dying rich men will fuck the world to death.