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Torpedo Fair.

An eclogue.

By ANTHONY HOWELL.

 

HERE where there’s nothing
Of sustenance other than
The breasts of some thin lass
Giving suck to a bairn,
We must ride on through the stress
Of war as best we can.

I sense you are far
From quarters which command;
Throne where a Prince is on view;
Corridors where deals go through;
Shady nooks in which
Your offensives are planned.

Here we lay siege.
There is darkness and nightmare.
When we retire, it is on a stretcher
Stinking of amputations;
Engines of war for repair.
Here are no delicate operations.

Palace plots abound.
The court equally
Can be a killing ground,
Take the philosophy
Of that blood-thirsty pope
Who saw in gore rejuvenation.

Snipers watch the hill.
Sights are adjusted,
Focused on the kill.
Who we destroy today
May be for the court to decide,
But, the court is far away.

Still, we are your puppeteers.
We direct calamity
From the comfort of armchairs,
And if we must retreat,
It is to a hermitage
Where there is plenty to eat.

Until we scorch the earth.
Cleanse with absolute thoroughness,
Leaving no scion or imminent birth
To grow up into our killer.
The last gasp of every last man
Ensures extinction of a clan.

Your management, however,
We have in hand.
Legal departments
Have taken over command.
We ensure your terror
Is cleansed of human error.

Actually, that SEAL
Has struck a business deal
With his weapons manufacturer.
Orders are but trifles.
There will be a spin-off
Into hunting rifles.

Hephaistos has Aries in his net.
The arms fair is at court,
Not on your blood-soaked field,
But where fair arms beset
The defences of a Minister
And alter his report.

Your dirty deals do not
Detract from our undaunted
Sense of brotherhood.
Here the talk is man to man,
A language of our own
When in some tight spot.

We only rate the gentleman
Who handles the pen
As well as he handles a blade.
Who cares how you brawl?
It matters not at all
Without a silver tongue.

You do not understand.
The names of those who blab
Adorn our stone of shame.
Sealed lips assign no blame.
Black ops call for secrecy,
E’en from our own command.

That code of silence
About what you get up to
Protects ourselves as well as you.
Silence is a virtue
When it is expected
Our hand go undetected.

Thus it is, we serve.
Improve on our brutality.
Never move fast. Be sure.
Kill with impartiality.
Throw children onto the pyre
Of parents’ burning barns.

His entrails may be hanging out,
But on tv it doesn’t hurt.
Meanwhile fireworks squirt,
And there are projections onto the palace,
Turning it into a doll’s house,
To captivate the populace.

War stinks,
Wounds are large.
Ears are badly damaged
By the concussions of a barrage.
What reaches only the eye
Serves as well as a lie.

Our sphere excels at pretty lies:
Ingenious machines
For making mists and waves.
Ladies cheat heroic slaves.
Lovers use underhand means.
Nothing at court is about fair play.

Your ‘Civvy Street’ appals
Let’s engage in violent hostility.
Deliver death to the enemy.
Prefer a straggled trudge
Through rotten human remnants.
To arras-hidden walls.

But subtle you are not.
A drone may now be sent
From cultivated lawns, where
Everyone competes to show
How considerate they are.
Terror may be triggered from a yacht.

We know that war needs lies.
They lend us our excuse;
Maybe the lie of religion,
To disguise prospection.
The ground has its reserves.
But ours is not to question.

A brain is supposed to control
That hand that winds the rack
Or pours the last of its whiskey
Into an ice-bucket now;
Since tomorrow he flies back
To the Gulf and a country’s overthrow.

Wheels on poles there pledge
The broken to the crows.
All battle is for hearts and minds,
So make quite sure she knows
Her rape is being done
By one who murdered her son.

A connoisseur of art
And whether bums be pinchy,
He plots the death of billions
While spending millions
On a fake Da Vinci.
He is so very knowing about the heart.

Or so he may appear;
But we who do his will
Upon the champs de guerre
Are in truth his loins:
What he sows through us
Will be stamped upon his coins.

Perhaps, but who can tell?
He may well marry his typist.
She will take over the state
And build some temple of delight,
Sprung from the ripest
Seeds of his invincible might.


Anthony HowellAnthony Howell, a former dancer with the Royal Ballet, was founder of The Theatre of Mistakes and performed solo at the Hayward Gallery and at the Sydney Biennale. His articles on visual art, dance, performance, and poetry have appeared in many publications including Art Monthly, The London Magazine, Harpers & Queen, The Times Literary Supplement. He is a contributing editor of The Fortnightly Review. In 2001 he received a LADA bursary to study the tango in Buenos Aires and now teaches the dance at his studio/gallery The Room in Tottenham Hale. He is the author of a seminal textbookThe Analysis of Performance Art: A Guide to Its Theory and PracticeDetails about his collaborative project, Grey Suit Online, are here. In 2019, his exploration of psychic chaos, Multilation (with Consciouness)was published by the Fortnightly’s imprint, Odd Volumes. His latest collection is From Inside (The High Window).

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Sue Petersen
Sue Petersen
29 days ago

Looks good but I don’t understand it – sorry

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