War’s hell, they say – but so is love
and growing old – and tax.
And so is nature red in tooth in claw.
And politics – and school – and learning facts.
And so is family, famine, flood and fire
(well, fire’s a given, hell’s own living flesh);
And flesh itself is hell when first it grows
then shrinks, stretched loose on twisted bones,
and wired with bunged-up veins. Yes, flesh is hell.
Skin’s hell, and brains, and maddening sounds,
the voices, wheezes, coughs and grunts,
and all the living huffs and farts and groans and sighs
and creaks and clicks and squeaks and moans
and squelches, hisses, whistles, bumps and burps,
the soft detritus of the human mound.
And wasps. They’re hell. And flies and worms and bees,
and rotting plants and dusty rooms and dread.
Yes, dread is hell. And smells, both vomit and Chanel.
And pus and poo, of course, and blood and wee.
And porn, and trains, and Kim Kardashian,
and news read by impassive speaking heads,
and fashion shows - the papparazzi press -
pulp fiction and reality TV.
Kalashnikovs. And cold. And hot, of course -
yes, hot is hell. And death and birth. Belonging
and belief. And culture. O, and race.
And graceless people claiming they have grace.
And gunmen shooting children in a school,
or bathers on a beach, or praying men in mosques.
Closer to God are we, when hell goes off in our hand
or sidles up and shoots us in the face.
And synagogues and saints and sand and sun
and brigadiers and cherry trees and Fun,
and vicars, tarts and teachers. Everyone.
And beards and burkas; Jimmy Choos and jeans.
And some being rich while others starve.
And some being safe while others die.
And jobs that should be done by now,
or will be never done.
If you have any thoughts on this poem, Louise Wilford would
be pleased to hear them.