Thomas Ország-Land

War Correspondent

For James Fenton


Floating among the ice, these peaceful

soft, curly shapes reflect the sky.

The river rocks them lightly, gently,

their pace appearing slow and graceful

beneath the evening’s silver mantle.

We cannot see the fish below, but

discern from here a place of worship

that dominates this wounded landscape.


The fish cannot disturb the dead.

Indifferent, the murdered lie

swelling our rivers of history.

A friendly warlord has purged a delicate

threatening issue of principles

(which we regret). You must have heard:

a war afar stirs passions once

it has occurred on television.


They’ve left behind a tidy village

of great importance — once, to them,

the toil of ruined generations,

a scent of sweat, the stench of fear,

spent cartridges trampled into the snow

and children recoiled from adult ways,

potential witnesses still in hiding

in crumpled bedrooms (which we regret).


Others I know marched calmly at gunpoint

and left their clothes and shoes on the shore.

They were received by the surging waves

tied in pairs to prevent survival,

to float forever towards the sea

— rejected by oblivion.

We have erected a monument

to urge humanity: Never Again!


…A monument secured by our stubborn

pillars of fear that make us insane and

succumb to the lure of the tranquil river.

The icy current coils beyond

our will and wailing. Hear this dirge

composed for you and me, undated.

It mourns the living. We calculate

our fate in sums of overkill.




Thomas Ország-Land a poet and award-winning foreign correspondent. His books include eight collections of verse in many editions. His next major work will be The Survivors: Holocaust Poetry for Our Time, to be published by Smokestack/England.

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