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1918

Kissing cousins in a spat over sovereignty
take a pleasure cruise to the Continent
to dig trenches and play Chicken with gelignite:
“Leave your nets and we’ll make you killers of men”.

“Bash the Bosh barbarian then home in time for tea”
– with my nerves shot and my ears blown out.
Kept my limbs, but what good are they?
Bringing in the Harvest for the Lord’s table
while we want for clean water, medicines, shoes
and books for our children’s learning.

All has to be begged for, bargained for, traded
for loyalty to King and Country.
If the crops fail and we fall behind,
he’ll have us jailed or take our homes.

So it’s back down the mine like a ferret after its prey
but we won’t get to eat what we catch
– just breathe it in and hand it over.
Influenza flames like a plague through the village
and we die like the rats we chase from his storehouse.
Business as usual.

2003

Elected leaders seize a slap from three aeroplanes
as their chance to reclaim the Middle East
with cluster bombs and depleted uranium:
“Resist our will and we’ll call it terrorism”.

Waging “total war” against their “Axis of Evil”
leaves thousands dead, our way of life laid waste.
Got my vote, but what use is it?
Yielding up our oil wealth to the world market
while we want for safety, stability, peace,
an end to the grief and burning.

Pleading for our rights like beggars in the street
while warlords thrive on our suffering.
We bring goods to sell to our neighbour
on the wrong day and pay in blood.

So it’s back to tribal strife like killing’s the latest game
but we won’t get to choose who prevails
– just pray, and weep, and hope it’s over.
Corruption clings like a curse on all our futures
and we’ll die like rats unless we purge the storehouse.
We must rebuild for all.