How did they get here? A map of interests, with hazy borders. Zinc. Potash. Iron. Gold.

Feathers and pearls. Winding the gramophone, as the shells come in with a whump and a crump, over the dragonfly-haunted lawn the air is jaunty with tunes, young scions practise steps to the latest dance.

Access is blocked to the source of oil. Bearings brittle. Across frozen tundra, in camouflage whites, the sons of labourers and beauticians trudge with rifles, sights telescopic, try to see through orders for better futures, willingly slaughter according to past culture, expressing themselves in rapid live rounds, easily tempered, obedient to a Cyclops regime.

Borders in the tongues, as well, in the burr, the slang and the brogue. Attitudes to the sun inculcate infidel slants, sort at birth the buckets for the true religion, the buckets for the right and pure, the buckets for the sacrifice. To these, gods grant absence of pity for their enemies, boys and girls who, under an impossible moon, might have glanced across to each other and gone the way of flowers, open with scent and touched to nod and sway by mild evening breezes, the sound of fiddles and songs wiring them to a new location.

Precious resources, the water and the loam: coal for power. Warmongers haunt anvils, forge unions from molten states, whipping on ghost horses, building the race right to exclude. Through the limited visions of little spirits, meat is invited to the abattoir, meat comes to the menu whole.

They stand alone who die alone. They die together who fear to stand alone. Kill together who join together. For who can stand alone? In the bones, the rattled marrow, after the rats, the bones of the wrist, after the fish and the worms, bones of the fingers, after the months and the fire, carpals and phalanges, the sabres are curved quiet in rivers, and the bones of slain horses and their bold cavalry riders will live eternally in the memory of the nation, later vapourised, slipped to a different name, annexed by torpor or viral meme.

Invest in the makers of flags and munitions. Prepare for contention: they murder for justice, the motherland weeps, the motherland is hunger, the motherland and the fatherland, the fatherland demands, the motherland pleads, how long can the fatherland accept, how much more must the motherland take, suckled by wolves, washed up among flint and sapphires, handed a branch with a magical bird, spewed from a volcano, slipped from the womb of a tiger, whipped from a god’s tears, established by saints, claimed as home, given forever beyond migration, and in the bunker of the skull, the sublime leader digs in, issuing directives, assuming this great task, bearing the burden, hardly sleeps but makes no fuss, thinks further, plans vaster, unworthy, and yet higher than us.

Crematoria, too long idle, are poked from their sloth. There is still time to measure your coffin. Write home, while home still stands. The graveyards are coming, dressed in scarlet and khaki, and all our sons and daughters look so fine in their cool fatigues. God put death in the foundations: but we get to choose the building we hold.

Those who will not belong, must be expunged. Those who belong must gather more and more, obey deeper and deeper commands.

Sleeping through the barrage, we imagined it was music. We waited to find what would happen when the music fell quiet.

Has it stopped?

 

 


from the series Silver of the mine of gold (open-ended: 2013–present)

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