by Lisa Kelly
The man who confronted the tank captured
by drone footage. His hands held up.
His wife in the front seat, his child in the back.
What’s next is blurred, what’s later is burned.
The evidence remains. Pepper holes
of bullets in car doors. Shot after shot.
A body lies in the street. A camera shot
of hands tied behind a back. Another victim captured,
wrists bound with white cloth. Bullet holes
fired in backs of heads. Who would stand up
to their oppressor? Images of war crimes burned
in the mind – revealed once the occupiers drew back.
Calling a war, a special military operation takes us back
to calling a publicity stunt a wildlife campaign: a tiger shot
with a tranquiliser gun, a Siberian tiger that burned
brightly for a photo opportunity – captured
and over-sedated. It died for this. Its time up
when he got what he wanted. Amber eyes darkening holes.
All these holes
impossible to piece together, to bring back
meaning. No let up
in uncovering mass graves, basements where citizens were tortured, shot.
What they did…so many people were killed…just for nothing. Have we captured
enough eye-witness accounts? A burned
swastika on a woman’s body. Raped, killed, and burned.
Another generation falling through holes.
More cities like Bucha, more cities captured
with the same horrors unfolding. We roll the film back
and forward to where the past and future show the same shot.
Yet, there are denials, claims this is all made up.
If only the far-right was not on the up:
Putin, Orban, Vucic, Le Pen, Trump, Johnson. Civil rights burned
as they stoke the flames of nationalism. The cheap shots
at immigrants; the illiberalism; the bribes; the gaping holes
in their accounts. Always the fight back.
Complacency is the route to being captured.
Bucha citizens did not give up their right to live whole
lives. After Bucha burned, they took their city back.
For every despot’s shot, the people’s spirit uncaptured.
Lisa Kelly is a freelance journalist and co-Chair of Magma Poetry. Her first collection, 'A Map Towards Fluency' is published by Carcanet and was shortlisted for the Michael Murphy Memorial Poetry Prize 2021.