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The Barnard-Boecker Centre Foundation

Where were you?

My friend said it
…where were you
when we went to war
against Iraq?
he said
…I was in Ottawa
my feet freezing at 20 below
watching limousine after limousine
sweeping black through
the snowscape
to deliver the MPs
to deliver the vote
..yes, we want war.
in Victoria
pansies and primulas
bloomed in the planter
by the harbour
all nice for American tourists,
I climbed up on its brick edge
and said
to the sombre crowd
…this is the saddest of days,
the peace movement has failed,
we see the first post Cold War
war…power unwrapped,
steel and force
without fear of reprisal.
ten years later,
at two o’clock in the morning
squeezed in a crowd
with drums pounding,
chants in Arabic, in English…
down, down, with the
USA…students cheer,
as flared with gasoline
stars and stripes burn
to a sliver of ash.
Speeches condemn the sanctions
outside the Palm Beach Hotel,
yes,
that is its name,
this country is
the home of palms, dates, the food
of gods,
and wheat for
bread for the world.
I meet and photo a man with his family,
one would have been a baby
ten years ago.
did he rush his nursing wife
to a bomb shelter as the bombs whined
in the night air?
and then, too close,
smashed, burned, exploded,
a school, a bridge, a shop or
a neighbour’s home?
They were there ten years ago
as I spoke in the winter’s gloom
across the world.

Why would I want to kill?
this family, this little girl
with round coals of eyes
under Freda Kahlo’s eyebrows?
Ten years later, I am here
in the crowds of Baghdad,
I know where I am, but
I still don’t know why
we kill and kill and kill.
Maybe one day
a black limousine
will arrive
with the man
with the answer.
Until then I wonder…
is she the child who died
one month later while
I looked at pansies and primulas
in Victoria?
I will never know
and
I still don’t know why.
Where were you?
Where are you now?

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