Poetry: Anthony Wade

Anthony Wade
Lines Of Difference

The girls drew the squares,
tongues out, peeping wetly
as they stretched
broad white chalk lines
chopping ash-grey pavement
into numbered pieces
but when they skipped their game
their fluttering dresses
were Pavlovian to the tribe
collected at the bottom of our street,
provoking an alien anger that prompted
a rugged response from our tribe above.

We were immigrants all
in a stranger’s unwelcoming land
but they, too,
called us stupid, we, too,
thought them ignorant,
all of us quick with the hand,
even quicker with the foot,
childish brutality
over a children's game.

It was in our families
that difference was learnt,
and from politicians who encouraged
those who sneered, and spat oaths
and looked down from however low,
and looked on as children fought
in the street over childish chalk lines,
a simple symbol loudly shouting,
‘you're other, we’re better.’

Silent Voices Heard In The Silence
(On Visiting the Holocaust Extension, Jewish Museum, Berlin)

I heard the most familiar voices
around the small detritus of daily life,
a voice from a tea cup and saucer here
recalling family gatherings,
part of a matching set long dispersed,
and there a crowded postcard sent in hope,
until my heart overspilled when I stood
before the clothes that once
carried the scent of a loved one,
now just anybody’s …. nobody’s.

The voices were loud in the silence
of those who refine, who embellish society,
honoured alumni of institutions
renowned in every cultured society,
grave voices giving eloquent witness
that the clothes of culture
do not advance a society
if they drape merely
the nakedness of hatred.

And I heard, too, voices waiting in the wings 
for time's tides to wash out stains of guilt,
for memory to move from the past
to the absolution of amnesia,
not to exculpation, or exoneration,
merely …. forgetfulness.

A Legacy of Migration

The Grandparents were forced
to leave their home land
by the distant decisions
of men of power far above them,
and to journey into lives of exile,
where they learned to live
with endemic discrimination,
shed the racial abuse of strangers,
and, while never losing their longing
for the old country long visited
in song and memory,
accorded respect to the land
that had indifferently let them in,
and lived their lives quietly
and industriously, aware
of the opportunities for schooling,
earning, keeping a roof over their heads,
and died as quietly,
knowing they had done their duty,
confident their children,
and also their children,
while always proud of their roots,
would make of the land of exile
their own cherished home land.

Not Another Thomas Paine

He claimed to be a radical reformer,
beholden to no secret sponsors,
unbesmirched by previous politics,
offering to restore uncorrupted government
to the people, vowing that
President Roosevelt’s “forgotten”
would be rescued from decades of dismissal
when weighed against other interests
that made others wealthier.

Established circles voiced
disbelief, dismay, even anger 
on his defeat of a preferred politician,
and the contempt for him continued,
as it did, it seemed to others,
for the many millions
he claimed to represent,
diverse targeted groups with grievances,
half of whom were tagged by his opponent
as in “a basket of deplorables”.

Incomes of certain of the lowest paid
did increase, and their children
were not sent to die in foreign wars,
in stark contrast to his more recent predecessors,
though many claimed that his
were the forgotten of an earlier,
less inclusive age,
and their preferment would breed
further division in a divided society,

and doubts about his character,
and true motives continued,
until his refusal to honour
the noble obligation of loser consent,
the capstone of the beautiful anomaly
that is democracy, and incitement
to public protest in his personal cause,
condemned him to a perpetual place
of dishonourable remembrance,
and a place in his own Circle of Hell.

Anthony Wade, Irish, an England-trained lawyer who worked mainly in The Netherlands, has published in poetry magazines around the world, both in print and online, including in Setu Bilingual. He lives now by the sea in East Cork, Ireland, and is an active member of the Midleton Writers’ Group.

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