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Paradise by Glyn Hughes


One time there was a boy who knew
there was no Paradise but this:
a tent pitched in a field; a friend
shared long enough to be quiet
when lit by youth’s epiphanies:
birdsong over morning dew,
and Palgrave’s Golden Treasury.

In the next scene, Just like in the movies,
a suicidal plane, crew tensed for Paradise
(they’re promised a hundred virgins each)
splits the world on its soul’s fault-line.
This incident is the arrowhead of war’s
fervent abstractions
and we kill in mass for those, not for particulars.

Such ones as this (the heart would die not kill for this):
shrouds laid in another field
(no cattle here, no walls left up, no grass)
no time to count how many, with the news
snatched away as soon as glimpsed.
A mistake — or a subversive in the newsroom?
But this I saw: the free world’s enemy —

a row of children (under tattered cloths)
who did not know why life was poor nor why
what they had little time to see
came out of the sky. Intelligence
had claimed Bin Laden there, but he was not,
and America’s Lidice was snatched before you could say
this is not like the movies.

Each party has a paradise of its own,
and ‘perfumed gardens’ breed the warriors
of the Apocalypse!
Armageddons haunt the human race.
The big tides are beyond us but the small ones hurt.

I’d be happy in another place,
though wouldn’t choose anywhere but here right now.
I stare at my distanced field over a fence.
There’s the hills, the same. Farms almost the same.
Descendants of the flowers bloom like their ghosts.
There we pitched our tent.
I miss my friend. I peer over the barbed wire’s
defiance of a hope going back to Gerrard Winstanley.
Keep out! The notice says.

Added: Tuesday, November 19, 2002

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