A Day's Work
Tuesday, 14 July 2020 21:39

A Day's Work

Published in Poetry

A Day’s Work

by Chris Norris

Will not even the massacre of children in Yemen end the silence over the murderous complicity of the British government? They were little kids on a bus on the way back from a picnic, no doubt laughing and raucous as large groups of children tend to be, and then they were burned to death. At least 29 children were among the 43 slaughtered, an atrocity perpetrated by the aircraft of Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies.

Consider Britain’s role. According to the Campaign Against Arms Trade, our government has supplied the grotesque Saudi dictatorship with £4.7bn worth of arms since the war in Yemen began. Just months ago it feted the Saudi dictator Mohammed bin Salman: unveiling a joint £100m aid deal, granting this tyranny humanitarian PR, while BAE Systems announced the sale of another 48 Typhoon jets. It gets worse: British military personnel are directly involved in helping the Saudi war effort – to what extent remains intentionally murky.

- Owen Jones, The Guardian, August 10th 2018 

The U.K. government’s attempts to protect weapon sales to the Saudis are unsurprising given the numerous ties that BAE Systems, which holds a ‘near-monopoly position’ in the U.K. defence industry, has to the U.K. political establishment. Chief among these ties is BAE’s link to U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May, whose husband and close political adviser, Philip May, works for the Capital Group, BAE’s largest shareholder and thus the largest beneficiary of the company’s arms sales abroad.

- Whitney Webb, MintPress News, May 2nd 2018

He's back, your Dad, back home from work, so go
And hug him, then make sure to say
How nice it is to see
Him home, and hope things went OK,
And how you love him, just to let him know.

Remember: please don't ask again what he
Does daily, how he earns his pay,
Or what he has to show
For all those long hours he's away
While we wait home for him, us three.


For then he'll think you're trying to replay
That ugly scene not long ago
When he was on TV
And those protesters sank so low
As to yell 'How many kids d’ya kill today?’.

They'd Googled him, found he was CEO
Of British Aerospace, which they
Instantly took to be
Their all-time big chance to waylay
The monster and upend the status quo.

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'What's your reply?', they'd say, 'what lies d'you tell
When your kids want to know which line
Of work you're in, or where
You got the money for that fine
Sharp suit and car that show you're doing well.

Or maybe they don't ask you because they're
Afraid to know, afraid to dwell
On what might undermine
Their rosy view of you and spell
A truth too hard for those young souls to bear.

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Or else, perhaps they know but want to shine
In Dad's fond eyes so try to share
Your pride in arms you sell
To vile regimes with not a care
How many kids must die so your kids dine,

How many men and women go through hell
On earth so you've a chance to sign
More contracts and declare,
As ever, that you must decline
All questions aimed to ring a conscience-bell.

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Us, we're the tiresome kids you never had,
The ones who won't shut up, like those
Tame interviewers, or
The ministers who hold their nose
When the next shipment goes off to Rhyadh.

We'll give them evidence they can't ignore,
Your kids, and make them see their Dad
Minus his usual pose
As one who can do nothing bad
Since merely servicing another's war.

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As if to say: when people come to blows
And someone flogs them guns galore
Where fists were all they'd had
To beat each other up before,
Then there's no blaming him for all their woes.

One day they'll find out how you made your pile,
Those kids of yours, and think the worse
Of ignorance-is-bliss
Parental tricks that let them nurse
Their frail illusions for a little while.

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Perhaps they'll wish they'd had the luck to miss
That TV footage, ostrich-style,
Or, failing that, rehearse
Some way to keep a truth so vile
From dragging them into your own abyss.

More likely they'll be eager to disperse
The shades, forget your bedtime kiss,
Refuse to reconcile
Across the years, and think just this:
It’s kids you killed, not us, with cause to curse.

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