Corinth

I can’t write a poem about love. Love isn’t poetry.
You don’t find love washed up on the Seine or hung like branches from the Eiffel tower.
The love the poets know won’t float through the air, touch your forehead like a leaf…it hides in refugee camps and food banks.

Love puts on a jacket, walks past the night clubs of Sauchiehall street, finds you, kneels down beside you and says “you’re worth more than this, you’re worth more than this”.
And if he can’t see it he has nothing.
And if he speaks in tongues of men and angels but has not love-
Be quiet, Aphrodite whispers. Don’t tell the prophets.

Love is an offering, emptied of everything, heaven made humble. God wept, the deity bled, our rejection held in like nails He wouldn’t let go. When we were never so far, He was never so close. When love was summed up in three words the second was forgive.

Don’t give her your love, give her that love.
Don’t give him what he deserves, he’s worth more than he deserves.
Take this vow and make it real. Fill this ring with promises, hard and true.
Like I promise I won’t fail you…and pick me up when I fail you.
Like I mean it when I say I love you and I mean it when you say it too.

I can’t write a poem about love. Because poems end. Because words and knowledge pass away.
But love stands.

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The Great Invisible

You closed your eyes and didn’t tell me what you saw.

Every feather on every bird. You saw every dream. You saw every sunset as it was meant to be seen, through every eye and mouthed the words ‘I love you’ as though you were repeating someone.

When you closed your eyes your family were all around you, whispering in your ear, good words and bad. I saw a sleepy looking girl in a brightly lit café. I tried to get you to hear me, I saw an absence that wasn’t there.

You heard every conversation, saw the words that were missing, you were exhausted with love. You saw the beauty and the wonder of the man we passed on our way here, sitting on the street. You unsaw his dirty clothes, I unsaw his face covered in sacred purpose.

You closed your eyes and you saw
a hundred poets reaching out to the great invisible
touch it, pull back suddenly
suddenly love is a face, a place, a feeling.

Show me, show me, show me – why a twenty minute conversation with you
feels like
the best day of my life
and I’ve lived a long, full life. Show me, show me, show me-
“What’re you thinking?” I asked.
Nothing, she said. Nothing important.
So I stopped. I stayed quiet. And I listened.

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Denial

He was in a court room, cold wood every side, jury in the foreground, I hate Mondays, twenty thousand words behind him, of evidence and argument, of black on white.

Last night he was in a bar, she was there and he was there. It was painful.

He had lived in this case for weeks now, knew every word and number. He ushered the jury by the facts. It was pre-meditated. The e-mails left unread. The blocked calls. Early signs. It wasn’t a difficult case but it was a well prepared argument. He was eager to prove he was right.

He was eager to disprove he was drunk. Because he had moved on. Emails. Calls. He had moved on, and he was probably with someone else. He definitely, definitely didn’t look drunk. He looked like he had moved on and she had missed her chance and he didn’t even think about her. He knew exactly how that looked.

The CCTV footage, placing the defendant at the scene. An involuntary glance to the side followed by another. Defendant. Wishing. He was anywhere but. The knife near the body. Cuts here, here, and here. Couldn’t be self-defence.

Couldn’t be. He glanced at her. Twice. Three times was hard to explain. He wished he hadn’t seen her, wished she hadn’t seen him. Wished he was anywhere but now. Felt every lapse in judgement. Felt his conviction slip away.

To hold her. The jury gone, feel the rush of the wait. Arms back, feel her weight. Innocent or guilty. Innocent or guilty.

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Genesis

In the beginning there were no words. Formless, empty, the earth had no sigh. The world spun, the trees swayed, the waters waited for their first kiss. I slept on, I wasn’t born yet, I missed it. There was dark, there was light, on the first morning.

Man begat man begat man and there was love, I assume. What did the first man think of the first woman, was it love at first sight? What did man and woman tell their children love was? What did they say to each other when they met and was it good?

I walk through Glasgow city centre, late on a Saturday night, thinking about the first morning. The first sunrise, gasping for air. The first rush of fingers through grass, first touch of footsteps on sand. I imagine the sea hushed before the moon, the bright, bright green of the first flower, a blank page horizon. Glasgow wails like a newborn whose cord has been cut but in the beginning it was silent. In the beginning there were no words. I wonder what the first words were.

Now the pavements are crowded with new creations, a shadow leans across the street. I squeeze past, whispering to myself, a man shouting in my ear about something, I’m not sure what, just keep walking I guess. More shouting, more voices all at once:

Sparechangepal-Getyourhaunsaffmeyejake-Godcanyouhearme-Couldyousestepawafaethedoorspl-Gonnaenopushmeyewee-Sickfeelinsickgonnae-Lookwhereyouregoin-pushyeifIwanttaeyefat-richcominfaeyoupa…

Glasgow changed its clothes, its friends and the colour of its skin, tried to fit in, be accepted, be a type. A teenager ravaged by heroin sits folded into his t-shirt, soaked through and begging for change. Unaccepted, but feet still moving to the beat of the music blasting out a message from every wall and window. Girls stagger through the cold in high heels and high skirts, men shout through them as they pass. Lads and lassies, man created them, in its own image it created them.

There was dark and then there was light, on the last morning. In the end there were no words. Litter scarred the streets, heartbreak and headache bit through every flat and tenement. Man had begotten man who had begotten man and there was love, I assume. What had mankind told their children love was? What did the last man say to the last woman when they first met and was it good?

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Compassionate Conservatism

They bundled me into a car – passenger seat, not the boot this time. My knees started to fold, anticipating the blows that didn’t come. The same people, the same car but something was different this time.

“How have you been?” the driver asked.
I couldn’t stop myself. I tried to forget the words I’d learned since the last time they took me - how to swear, how to accuse.
I still wake up in the middle of the night, I told him. I still jump at every sound, I check every locked door. Every day my six year old son asks me if the men will come again. That Christmas is a part of my family now.
I knew I should just stay quiet but the words had been waiting since the moment I learned them.

“They’ll be waiting for you.” he said with a voice that didn’t fit the words, that was eerily absent of threat. Don’t touch my family, I thought, but the words seemed to catch in my throat. I rubbed my hand against my shoulder, knew why I couldn’t fight them. This was different to last time but the feeling was the same. I tried to summon the strength to tell them how much I loved my family, how much I hated this car, all the things I’ve ever been or done and what I had meant to people. My voice bellowed in my head but squeaked in my mouth.
“I am Persian. Don’t kill me.”
It was meant to sound defiant.

The car pulled up at an airport. There were no other vehicles, no signs or luggage trolleys. Military, I thought. Military. And this was rendition.
“Here is your passport.” He placed it in my shaking hand. I felt the weight but not the touch and realised my body was numb. He got out the car with his partner, leaving me alone, the keys in the ignition, the engine switched off. I stare at the wheel, feel my heart pound and my hands freeze. Should I take my chance? Fear compelled me to escape, despair to follow them.
I step out of the car in perfect humiliation, ashamed at myself for giving up.

I had fled my home, but couldn’t get far. These soldiers were foreign to me but they may as well have been handpicked by the Ayatollah himself. They smiled as though they recognised me. As we walked through the main building I saw faces from back home mixed with stranger’s faces. The man who tortured my father. My mother, telling me that I could never escape, that I was never hidden. There was nothing I could do. I walked in step with my captors. They didn’t punch me. They didn’t knock down my door. Even though they had cuffs and batons, they hadn’t restrained me. They took away my pride and I followed willingly.

We walked through a brief complex of corridors and unmarked offices. No-one looked at me directly, no-one wanted to see my face. We stopped for a moment. My captors collected a briefcase and signed a piece of paper. I heard the plane before I saw it, engine running. Only metres away now. My body froze, as finally I decided I would not go. They placed a hand on my back and gently pushed me forward, as though they were helping me. I felt my feet stepping forward. My heart sank still further. I knew it was hopeless. But I wanted people to at least think that I had fought them.

Outside now, the wind lashed my face, Scotland saying goodbye. Every step was a memory deep. Zurvan playing with children his own age from the other side of the world. Walking through the city centre. Pollok park. Glasgow in snow. We suddenly stopped.

“In that suitcase is a change of clothes and a bank card registered in your name. The bank card will give you access to one million pounds GBP, for you and each member of your family quoted on your visa application which has now been rejected. You may go to any country you choose. The passport you have been given is a British passport. It entitles you to full protection and assistance from the British government in your chosen jurisdiction. Two additional passports are also contained in your luggage for your wife and son who will be conveyed to you separately for your security. If you return to this country you and any accompanying family members will be arrested and imprisoned immediately and the aforementioned privileges revoked. Where would you like to go?”
I process what he has said in pieces, shaking from shock and the cold.
“I am a British citizen?”
“You are a British subject.”
“Oh.”

“It makes sense if you think about it. We need to reduce immigration. You are poor. You might not realise it now, but you fled your country for market reasons. Yes there were other factors – torture, safety, the political situation but these are secondary effects. We’re saying we understand and we’ll help you. Now you can find your own way and get on. We will make the refugees rich so they can settle down elsewhere and perhaps eventually use their great resources to change the political landscape of the Middle East for the better. You are British. You have been changed by kindness. Once you were a refugee, now you are the new society.”

I didn’t know what to say, even in Farsi. I knew I’d have to learn new words again. Later I would reflect on what I should have said. I studied books about history and political theory. I would write about what I had learned in English and in Farsi. I tried to verbalise the feelings I had that day, with the words I’d learned since they took me away.

There is such a thing as society. There is such a thing as compassion, it just isn’t this.

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