Poem: 1,500

The word “genuine” proliferates
In comments threads and candidates’ speeches
As 1,500 are lost at sea
(A conservative estimate)
(The highest on record)

And we ask: How authentic is your desperation?
Ignoring the calculation of risk
That precedes stepping onto a precarious float
Already overburdened
Teetering on the edge of submersion

How authentic is your desperation?

We plunder your resources
Back your dictators
Bomb your countrymen and women
(They pose a security risk)
(We unfortunately expect collateral damage)

Our bullets, handshakes and trade policies chase you to our shores
Where we say you are a security risk, too

Hail Westphalia!
Hail colonialism!
Hail structural adjustment!
Hail The Coalition of the Willing!
Hail the neoliberal world order!
(We can expect some collateral damage)

No one is genuine
When we make the rules

– April, 2015


I wrote this poem after reading, hearing, and – through startling images – seeing the broken boats and floating bodies of migrants drowned off the coast of Europe. I write a lot, but rarely poetry. It’s not my strong suit. Yet prose and analysis suddenly seem too detached for some subjects. Politicians – among them those clambering for a spot in the UK Parliament next month – are too ready to take a faux-logical stance that cloaks a far more sinister ideology. Perhaps we can combat their callousness through words of our own.

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