The rock and the club and the spark to make fire,
A hide and a carcass, a spear and a knife,
The sowing, the harvest, the store for the winter,
The village, the empire, the civilised life.
Philosophy, culture, the pride of the warrior,
The need for a leader to show you the light,
Indecision, suspicion, the hoarding of plenty,
And fighting for causes they told you were right.
The stake and the axe and the flaming hot poker,
Lies, superstition, false promises, famine,
Rhetoric, lost hope and man made disasters,
The killing of children, the torture of women.
Murder rebranded as collateral damage,
The constant suppression of anything odd,
Like those with a different language or culture,
And those who believed in the wrong sort of god.
Heroes defending what cowards had stolen,
Inequality hidden by national pride,
Swastikas, heraldry, crosses and eagles,
Bright flags and platitudes for those who had died.
Destroying the planet disguised as prosperity,
Dreamers and schemers ignoring the science,
Marketing rubbish as essential to living,
Envy and greed in one more grand alliance.
After desert and snowstorm and flood and pandemic,
The poor go to heaven, the rich go to Mars;
The rest live in caves, find a spark to make fire,
Start another new history, then weep at the stars.
Jeff Gallagher writes: “This poem was inspired by George Santayana’s remark that ‘those who do not remember their history are condemned to repeat it’. In UK schools at least, History is now very much an optional subject, which is a tragedy in my opinion. Humanity’s continued failure to find peaceful solutions to conflict only confirms the truth of Santayana’s remark.”
Jeff Gallagher is from Sussex, UK. His poems have featured in publications such as Rialto, The High Window and The Journal. He has had numerous plays for children performed nationwide. He was the winner of the Carr Webber Prize 2021. He also appeared (briefly) in an Oscar-winning movie. He has no handles.
http://www.carrwebberprize.org/ … Scroll down to ‘Winners 2021’
Illustration: “ESCENA EN EL FIN DEL MUNDO // SCENE AT THE END OF THE WORLD (April 09 / 2007)” by Simon Wilches is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.