A Day's Work
Tuesday, 23 October 2018 11:52

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.

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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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To the Wife of an All-Too-Interventionist Foreign Secretary
Tuesday, 23 October 2018 11:52

To the Wife of an All-Too-Interventionist Foreign Secretary

Published in Poetry

To the Wife of an All-Too-Interventionist Foreign Secretary

by Chris Norris

Note: This piece is an updated reprise of Edgell Rickword’s mid-1930s poem ‘To the Wife of Any Non-Interventionist Statesman’. Rickword was addressing those mainly Conservative politicians who opposed sending military aid to the Republican Government in Spain on grounds of Britain’s supposed ‘neutrality’ in keeping with the policy of other European powers. This was in flagrant disregard of the fact that Germany and Italy were providing large amounts of logistical support to the rebel (Francoist or Fascist) side. 

So. Cut to Yemen, 2017.......

Bad form, I know, intruding thus on your
Most intimate proceedings at a time,
Of all times, when you'd wish to shut the door
On such intrusions, let alone what I'm
Proposing here. Just let me say, before
You cut short this rude visitant mid-rhyme,
That though it's something most folk might deplore,
And some would count a veritable crime,
Still certain faults may merit rather more
By way of censure, and - if my words chime
With your assessment - urge you to ignore
Your husband's overtures. So, should he climb

Into the marriage-bed and indicate
That maybe you'd now like to have a go
For old time's sake, so he can demonstrate
His undiminished powers, please let him know
It's just not on and that he'll have to wait
Till you've delivered him a blow-by-blow
Account of why you're dead set to frustrate
This new-found fervent craving to bestow
His favours nearer home. Affairs of state
Are more the sort of stuff you'll want to throw
At him than those affairs that hardly rate
Brief mention in the gossip-pages. So
Let me, your voice of conscience, intimate
Some counter-thoughts to interrupt the flow
Of pillow-talk that then begins to grate
Until you give that dolt the old heave-ho.

Past forty people tend to have the face
That they deserve, as Auden said - a bit
Unfair to some, perhaps, but just the place
To start in figuring how you'd better quit
His soon detested marital embrace
As the truth dawns. For it's a phizog fit
For detailed study should one wish to trace
The path by which this liar, hypocrite
And bully-boy outlived each new disgrace,
Each proven lie or piece of pure bullshit
Exposed, and, after letting in some space
Of time - alms for oblivion - strove to hit
The headlines once again. He'd join the race
As if from a fresh start, and so omit
To mention how he'd made a basket-case
Of every job for lack of mother-wit

Or through an ego whose enormous size
And utter lack of scruple left it prone
To all variety of tricks and lies,
The sort of thing he'd never quite outgrown
Since Oxford. They're presented in the guise
(As you'll best know) of one just lately flown
That second nest and not yet worldly-wise
Though quick enough, when his thin cover's blown,
To play the Bullingdon and exercise
The toff's old privilege of uttering bone-
Head platitudes that win the booby-prize
Except as judged by members of his own
Select bunch with their Oxford-nurtured ties
Of influence, patronage, and social tone.
They made sure he could never jeopardise
His chances through excess testosterone,

Stupidity, or (now you'll see just where
I'm coming from) his willingness to sell
This country down the river, bring despair
To countless migrant lives, make each day hell-
On-earth for starving Yemenis since they're
In line of fire for every British shell
Rained on them by the Saudis, do his share,
And more, in building up the current swell
Of fear-fed xenophobia, and prepare
The witches' brew of lies that cast its spell
On those without the time or thought to spare
For checking things. That's why they promptly fell
For every false prospectus he'd declare
With all the chutzpah of the ne'er-do-well
Street-trader trying to flog a dodgy pair
Of Levis to a cash-strapped clientele.

So when he next lets on he's keen to get
Back on connubial terms, or starts to press
The chat beyond a spot of tete-a-tete,
Please think - before allowing him to mess
With your sleep-patterns - how it might be met,
This fumbling boss-shot at a first caress,
By firm repudiation of your debt
To nature, custom or the old-style stress
On wifely duty. Then - to make him sweat -
Recount his sundry acts of boorishness,
Hypocrisy, self-interest, covert threat,
Bad faith, and willingness to acquiesce
In proven war-crimes. No cause for regret:
Think Lysistrata, watch him detumesce,
Then hit him with your choicest epithet
As he finds cause to rue his state of dress.