by Peter Street
I think some people may mistakenly believe our writings cannot make a difference – well they are so wrong- my dear lord they are wrong.
I was so desperate to join Writing for Peace. It was something I had to do. It almost seemed as important as breathing itself. Ok, that may be a little over the top, but I seriously believe writers can make a difference – that is writers from all levels, and children. Yes, children – I went back to Croatia in 1996 to write for Scouting Magazine (over 21’s) and for the United Nation’s Refugee Agency about the therapy camps set up for children who had witnessed, among other things, executions. While we as adults didn’t get much from them in the way of conversation, they were eager to talk to other young people from all parts of Europe. It was a case of young people talking and writing for young people who had similar experiences.
One of the reasons I went to the war as a poet was to write about the women and children there, because very few t.v. networks ( if any) were saying much about them. Here are three poems from my time in the Bosnian/Croatian conflict.
Thinner than thin, sexless,
no breast to milk her babies with,
the ones she’d pushed five miles
up through Sniper’s Alley
to this hotel (for Dignitaries),
her face gaunt, towards death,
floral dress a shroud.
In one hand she gripped
a plastic bag of custard, spuds,
chewed bones, while with
the other she begged for more
in good English.
I gave her ten Deutschmark,
two pounds of rice, a tin
of pilchards. She dropped
to her knees, sobbing.
Our wagons rock, jerk
through lines of pot-holes
a foot deep in a cinder path
where children walk barefoot.
It’s a ride down
into something I don’t understand;
a dog shelter where at least
one hundred families live,
who beg out their hands
and cough loud barking coughs.
Naked kids swapping boredom
for disease under a tap
that’s splashing cold silver
into mud pies.
Our interpreter – an English Lit. student, his family wiped out, is talking of Shelley in a waste land such as Eliot never saw.
Something was itching my eyes to stare
over at the machines.
Only I seemed to hear the bleeping
yet my whole family was standing there
and everyone who had ever lived,
the whole universe even, all screaming
not to look. Yet the bleeping seemed
to bounce off every childhood picture
and get-well card
in the Zagreb hospital:
like a ball to my feet.
Then I made my mistake
and looked at a face,
a kind of no-face with holes for eyes
legs missing from the knees down
still stuck to all those bits of shrapnel somewhere, which banged her life apart.
A little girl, bandaged
in mummy, almost pretty.
Some nurse had taken an age
getting each lap perfect
so proud that when we look
we might still see a person,
Peter Street’s new collection, “Listening To The Dark”, was just released by Penniless Press Publications. In his latest collection, Peter reflects on the arguments for/against a war with the humans and their ignorance regarding global warming. Says Peter, “This sixth collection covers my travels in Iceland, my life in and around the north west U.K., and the latest flora and fauna.”
Call for Submissions: The Writing for Peace Literary Journal, DoveTales is accepting poetry, fiction, essays, photography, and art. Find Submission guidelines here.
2013 Young Writers Contest: Poetry, Fiction, and Nonfiction divisions, ages 13-19. Find guidelines here.
Volunteer as a Writing for Peace Mentor: Learn more and apply here.
A Word from Veronica Golos
Don’t miss our next post, when we’ll hear from Writing for Peace Adviser, poet Veronica Golos. Veronica Golos is the author of Vocabulary of Silence (Red Hen Press, 2011), and winner of the 2011 New Mexico Book Award.
Learn more about Veronica here.
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