(for Stephen Spender)
Somewhere a white horse gallops with its mane
plunging round a field whose sticks
are ringed with barbed wire and men
break stones or plait straw into ricks.

Somewhere women tire of the shawled sea’s
weeping, for the fishermen’s dories
still go out. It is blue as peace.
Somewhere they’re tired of torture stories.

That somewhere there was an arrest.
Somewhere there was a small harvest
of bodies in the truck. Soldiers rest
somewhere by a road, or smoke in a forest.

Somewhere there is the conference rage
at an outrage. Somewhere a page
is torn out, and somehow, the foliage
no longer looks like leaves but camouflage.

Somewhere there is a comrade,
a writer lying with his eyes wide open
on mattress ticking, who will not read
this, or write. How to make a pen?

And here we are free for a while, but
elsewhere, in one third, or one seventh
of this planet, a summary rifle-butt
breaks a skull into the idea of a heaven

where nothing is free, where blue air
is paper-frail, and whatever we write
will be stamped twice, a blue letter,
its throat slit by the paper-knife of the State.

For the name that the ideologies
use everywhere for the common good,
the Word is no longer flesh, but the logos
of a paper, bureaucratic god.

Through these black bars
hollowed faces stare. Fingers
are gripping the cross-bars of these stanzas.
It is not here yet. Because it is somewhere else

their stares fade into oblivion
thinly, like the faceless numbers
that bewilder you in your telephone
diary. Like last year’s massacres.

The world is blameless. The darker crime
is to make a career of conscience,
to feel through our own nerves the silent scream
of winter branches, wonders read as signs.

This Issue

August 16, 1984