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THE SICK MAN OF EUROPE

For John Plummer

 

‘History is a people’s memory.’ Malcolm X

 

It is VE Day. Though those who still survive –

the eye witnesses – tell angrily of waste

not sacrifice, what should have been a day

of the dead, and the maimed, and the displaced

worldwide is here one of tea parties, sing-songs –

while the toll mounts as if it were the first day

of the Somme. They lied then. They are lying now –

with entitlement’s clipped inflexions,

with the easy rhetoric of privilege,

the sound of the discrete shibboleths

of power and class, the sound their money makes –

lying about the future and the past,

lying about the sick and the dead.

If you are poor, or old, or brown, or black

you will suffer sooner, and die alone.

 

 

 

 

© Copyright David Selzer
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5 Responses
  • Ashen Venema
    May 29, 2020

    The poem strikes a chord. ‘Worldwide’ … yes, I always felt this day in history should include the memory of ALL those who lost their lives, on all sides of the war, soldiers and civilians.

  • Alex Cox
    May 29, 2020

    Fantastic. Thank you.

  • John Plummer
    May 31, 2020

    Sick Man of Europe. We need poetry that expresses the deep and swirling anger many of us feel just now. For me this recalls Adrian Mitchell’s ‘Tell me lies about Vietnam’ https://www.poetryinternational.org/pi/poem/13605/auto/0/0/Adrian-Mitchell/TO-WHOM-IT-MAY-CONCERN-TELL-ME-LIES-ABOUT-VIETNAM/en/tile. AM would have applauded your sharply crafted and emotional poem. Yes, we are right to celebrate the sacrifice and endeavours of our caring professions and public services but we do need to howl in rage as well at being continuously lied to by the current ship of fools in charge and its media puppets. Thank you, David.

  • Elise Oliver
    June 1, 2020

    ‘The Sick Man of Europe’ is all the more pertinent by its brevity. The final two lines show an uncanny prescience of the events of recent days in the U.S. (and yes, I am aware that the U.S. is not in Europe!), compounded by the criminal negligence of the blind refusal to treat the boils, injustices and malpractices, which have been festering in the UK, but yet to erupt. One of your best poems to date!

  • Jeff Teasdale
    June 15, 2020

    David,
    Thank you for sharing these thoughts and poems. As usual, the incisive mind (a fairly uncommon and hard-to-hear voice amid the constant bellowing these days) gets to the nub of our current and past conditions.
    Looking forward to reading the rest when I can sit down with them properly, but in the meantime, the paintbrushes and sculptor’s glue are waving at me from my studio…….
    Best wishes,
    Jeff

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