‘Living Streets’ is the anthology of the yearly Ranelagh Arts Festival which took place this month (September). It includes a poem by me entitled ‘Endgames’ (extract included below ), which concerns the hunt for, and capture, of Radovan Karadzic and his General, Ratko Mladic. The Balkan wars of the late 20th Century could be said to be an ‘unfinished business’ left over from the second world war and were characterised by the brutal and inhuman conduct of that World War. Well, you’ll say, all wars are brutal and inhuman, and you would be right to say so. But a look into the history of that war is to get a look at the very worst in the nature of mankind, from the systematic genocide of the Nazis to the two atom bombs dropped on civilians. And the deeds allegedly done (allegedly, since they have yet to be proved at the Hague where Karadzic is undergoing trial at the moment) by Mladic and Karadzich would rank amongst the most heinous ever committed. Thus my poem. However, I also wanted to get across somehow that, despite their reputations as criminals, these men are heroes to many. There is a history of bitterness and hatred in that little part of the world which has its roots in the middle ages. How will our modern concepts of justice (as exemplified by the International Court of Justice at the Hague) cope with this? These matters interest me because I look to international, rather than national, systems of justice to provide us with hope for a better future as regards these large-scale massacres and destruction. There are bound to be faulty mechanisms and corruptions at international level too, but I think that , at the least, the most virulent ‘nationalistic’ prejudices may be constrained.
The anthology ‘Living Streets’ is published by Seven Towers Publications (www.seventowers.ie) and was launched at the Ranelagh Arts Festival HQ on Friday 19th September. Eilean Ni Chuilleanan, Macdara Woods and Eamon Carr read from their contributions.
a winter sun can spread, its icy shroud
unmottled by man’s footprints. Here they keep him
folded in their hate, our criminal, their poet.
These roofs, where ice drips down, but slowly, only
to freeze up again in dead of night—
This town, where foreigner was never welcome—
Streets, that take the print of NATO boots
unwillingly and soon erase them, watches
from its casements this young soldiery
that stands uncertain in its alleyways,
and slouches on its corners, smoking, rifles
sloped like Christmas toys, not sure of what
to do, or if it will be done, or when
to do it. Tight-lipped townsfolk grip their missals
close against their chests and step out carefully
to church, ignore the armoured cars, and give
no look or sign or salutation, their breath
solidifying in contempt. They know
what these young boys are made of, what it is
that they can do, and everything they can’t,
now they’re here among us on the ground–
and not above the clouds, so out of reach
we couldn’t see them, even hear them ’till
their bombs came raining down. But no offence.
We are a warrior people used to war:
the art of slaughter. And we understand
it’s our turn now and we have clasped him to us
this cold Sunday morning here in Pale
where he’s with his own again, who wrote
of Death, The Spider and The Wolf, who dreamed
our Greater Serbia, who put down pen,
decided war would be continuation
of his poetry by other means
and at whatever cost. And at whatever
cost we will defend your criminal, our Poet.
Published in ‘Living Streets’ The Ranelagh Arts Festival Anthology, Dublin 2009