Steve Ely Poems

WORK

Cutting in the cane fields
or hacking back scrub,
it was something we were used to:
after all, we were farmers.

We'd gather every morning
before setting out,
then cutting all day
in the jungle and marshes.

We'd come back exhausted,
well worthy of beer
and brochettes. Our wives
turned their backs in bed.

In those days was beef
and ribsteak in plenty.
We bore the knives ourselves:
slaughtering, jointing.

We feasted like the elegant kings
to whom were given
such bloody instructions
they jumped to the life to come.... more »

INTERHAMWE

Please allow me to introduce myself,
I'm a man of wealth and taste.

The werewolf seems more were than wolf.
He's a nice guy, plausible. He's a giver.
He gives us permission. He's a liberator.
He frees us from guilt. He knows we're all sinners.
He forgives us, and we know it's alright
to forgive ourselves. He touches our hearts,
and we're called forth to testify, holding hands
with our glassy-eyed sisters and brothers.
You're never alone. You're one with those
who work together, a team. Were and wolf:
twin creatures of the pack.
St. Brice's Day,
Oxenford. Infesting the streets like cockles
among the corn, we took scythes to the plague
of Danish tares. The King decreed it; his people
made it happen.
Clifford's Tower, with clubs
and staves. The Jews killed Christ, were rich
and stand-offish. Our reward was release and carnival.
It doesn't feel wrong when everyone's doing it.
At St. Martin's Vintry, a Kentish ploughman
suggested the shibboleth. Jack Straw brought the axes.
The English insisted on English bread and cheese.
‘Case en brode' was the best the Flemings could do.
They lost their heads. Wheat and chaff, sheep and goats,
us and them. Team-building via pogrom.
But teams get results: hit sales targets,
build bridges from cardboard and paper clips;
go out on the piss and wreck the Jade Palace.
Fifteen yeomen in ripped St. George
bellowing the National Anthem. Brings a tear
to your eye. Makes you want to tear heads off.
My work here is done.... more »

FASAYIL

Yes, I remember Fasayil
the dirt-track's hanging gate
a shanty of tents and mud-brick shacks
annexed to the Jewish State.

Melon fields of blinding light
and sentried ranks of palms,
Tomer's barbed-wire cash-crops,
Fasayil's destitute farms.

The drudgery of those melon fields
was relieved by the company
of my smiling Bedouin workmates
exiled and refugee.

Yet I refused an invitation
to dine with them in their homes,
not because the Arabs will eat your heart
and make bread with your bones,

but because a Brooklyn accent
said this is the West Bank guys
and those that eat with Arabs
are terrorists and spies.

Shabbat shalom on Tomer
grilled steaks and Maccabi beer
‘Dance Rock' and the Kids from Fame,
Sharon and Shamir.

Yes, I remember Fasayil
where I learned good men are meek,
and collude with power against the poor,
the dispossessed and weak.... more »

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