George Santayana’s
History Lesson

Cain slew Abel, Abel, Cain;
one before the other, the other, after.
Still the sounds of former laughter:
silence, sweetness, reign.
A hundred bags of blood arrive in Balad.

Hutu hunted Tutsi, Tutsi, Hutu;
someone first, someone later.
Hate slates the hated and the hater,
and community means ‘you too’.
A thousand bags of blood arrive in Balad.

Arab maims Israeli, Israeli, Arab
round goes the triage, comes back again.
Life thickens, clings, and clems the drain;
watch the flailing scarab.
Ten thousand bags of blood arrive in Balad.

Sunni slaughters Shi’a, Shi’a, Sunni;
speak Turkish, Coptic, Urdu, Hindi,
blood tokens crescent, cross and bindi;
the land flows milk and honey:
a tidal wave of blood bears down on Balad.

Nigel Holt

If you've any comments on this poem, Nigel Holt would be pleased to hear from you.