Choctaw Village by Francois Bernard, 1869
Monday, 21 August 2017 00:55

Pictures of Unfamiliars

Published in Poetry

Pictures of Unfamiliars
after Carolyn Forché

by Kevin Higgins

Beamed into one’s living room via satellite,
or framed in syndicated photographs
on the quality papers’ foreign pages, even
their black or missing front teeth
have a strange beauty.

The shanty town dwellers of La Paz,
in their hand-woven red and green ponchos,
carry themselves in a fashion
which puts to shame the post office queue
scraggy mother of two, with change
in her slovenly wallet for lottery tickets,
but not shampoo.

Nothing against the locals.
But the skeletal Colosseum cats have a grace
which the one I ran over on my way
to this morning’s Amnesty
International meeting absolutely lacked,
even before my brand new
Goodyear Assurance tires ironed flat
its entirely unremarkable pelvis.

The ongoing pain of the Yazidi women
and the entire Choctaw nation (every generation)
is best struggled with over a Fairtrade salad
in one of the more radical tea shops
on Sandymount Strand.

In comparison, one admits,
our local Others – with their dole
day drunkenness, and lack of imagination
which has seen them prosaically wander the roads
these past thousand years – just
don’t cut the whole grain mustard.

When they start mouthing Civil Rights
and municipal water cannon, or
police batons get over enthusiastic
on their irresponsibly positioned skulls,
people like me will feel forced to pass by
on the other side, checking our messages
for pictures of unfamiliars being
deliciously maltreated
anywhere else.

Note: Poet Carolyn Forché wrote a poem titled ‘Against Forgetting’. She also co-edited the excellent anthology Poetry of Witness but forgot to include any poems by Native American poets because there were, apparently, no poetic witnesses to the genocide of the Native American people to be found in the United States of America, the country in which Carolyn Forché lives.