A Week in Reflection

bb-wirThere was a time, when I was much younger, when I was afraid to fly.

No more.

I’m not sure why the change, but since a few decades ago, no longer do I sit white-knuckled in the belly of those big mechanical birds as they defy gravity. Perhaps it’s something to do with my attitude to death. I’m no nihilist, but I don’t necessarily view death in a negative light. My death, that is. The death of others is quite another matter.

The morning after MH17 was shot down, I flew long-haul. I thought not of plane crashes but of the shocking consequences of war, its terrible futility and the immense trauma and devastation that it invariably causes to human lives; of those people left behind, forever suffering the reality of the obliteration of their loved ones. And how this suffering so often leads to an ongoing cycle of violence.

In my hotel room, on the BBC News channel, night after night, images of the crash site alternated with sickening images of Gaza. How to make sense of the human that strolls casually amongst the mutilated dead, picking through aircraft wreckage and strewn personal belongings as if he were evaluating fruit at the local market. And of the human that bombs sleeping children as if crop-spraying pests. How do we get to this?

A week later, on my way to Tân Sơn Nhất International Airport for my flight home, my hosts, who insisted on accompanying me in the taxi to the airport, chatted with the taxi-driver in Vietnamese. I heard the word “Malaysia” and asked if they were talking about plane crashes. They were. And they expressed their alarm that there had been three in one week. I thanked them for their tact, and we all laughed.

Once boarded, I started reading The Sorrow of War by Bao Ninh, and thoughts of the taxi conversation were forgotten as the book caused me to reflect on how human memory and the subconscious mind work both for and against us in life: the need for revenge versus the need for peace; how we dehumanize “the other side” to make ourselves feel better about what we do and about humanity as a whole; and how memories play a role in our undoing.

Eventually I slept but was bedeviled by catastrophic dreams – we ditched in the South China Sea, a flotilla of boats waiting to rescue us; we made an emergency landing in a busy city street, the fuel-laden left wing barely missing an advertising bollard; I rescued long-dead loved ones from a burning wreckage in a field of sunflowers..
.. the subconscious mind doing its best to exert control over that over which we have little.

Despite our best efforts, accidents happen; death happens.

But war does not just happen; it is made by humans, the likes of you and me.

bb-wir2

 

 

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The Man in the Street

How often
is he there
in front of you?

Just another bloke
like you

except, perhaps,
a lack of personal hygiene

or its pathological opposite,

his way of regarding you
far too directly
without blinking

for the longest time.

When he asks for a cigarette
do you oblige

in spite of yourself?

Because in this stark room
you cannot reconcile
the rhetoric

on the face of it –

just another human being
in the silence,

no manifest difference
to teach the rookies,

no monster in plain sight
to slay with a bedside light,

just this banality
of evil

sitting in the corner
of your nightmares.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Inside

Trapped inside a system of prejudice

South African Pass Laws

Yellow Badge

Palestinian Freedom of Movement

The Stolen Generations

Jim Crow Laws

Judenhut

Ethnic Cleansing

A re-posted poem –

Death Cap

Iniquity, depravity
crimes against humanity.

Conflagration, radiation,
man made this abomination.

Enormity, deformity,
war’s enduring legacy.

Experimentation, humiliation –
Who needs victim’s approbation?

Cessation, condemnation?
War has no such aspiration.

Obliteration, extermination,
then,
our final destination.

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For more entries to this week’s photo challenge, see The Daily Post at WordPress.com

Crystal Fear

Photo by RIP - ©beeblu.wordpress.com

Above the clouds
the raven circles
below

the world turns
us down
to a fleeting kiss
of ground
in capricious wind’s riddle –
How to unstick gravity?

                      Pull up!
Pull up!

Maximum speed
unbraking hearts arrested
by clarity
a stark reality
in the whispering
of slow-motion minds –

Are              we                  unstuck?

And the raven hovers
and the world turns
and fear takes flight

Why?

Do I not care or
like others before
deny it’s the end
of my world turning?

Then the raven flies south
on flouncing wind
to drown brown lands

And so
we land

on a world
turning
without end

Old Oaks

Young oaks, fresh-leafed

uniformed
in naive acorn pride
stand tall in single file
guardians in memoriam

of those who died

– in Time –

gnarled with salt of tears
whorled in winds of sorrow
and furrowed with fires of rage
young grow old

in a different
age

toward the light, away from fear

with deferential bow
to a
Callery Pear


A History of Fear

it’s

the dark, those monsters

under the bed, first day

at school – bruce m trying to kiss

you in the sandpit

and hell-to-pay for jumping in every puddle on your way home,

men in hearses and dark

glasses – stranger-danger,

not running solo, nor flying, but

an umbrella on the wind – cruel and unusual,

old man on the street corner –

feathered hat, immaculately

polished shoes, threadbare clothes,

a broken headlamp in the rear-view

and unspeakable things,

and then, you know, the death of a parent,

DNA gone awry,

that your actions caused this –

suffering,

not of your own shadow but

rage, betrayals,

the sound

of your own screaming,

depravity of infant

body-bombs,

spectres – Margaret Hassan, the Falling

Man,

Afghani children smashed

into dirt playgrounds,

the death of dreams, sadness

of others,

hearts beating through walls,

and then,

somehow, nothing

much

at

all

least of all

death