RAF Greenham Common in Berkshire was a base for nuclear missiles. In 1981 the British governement allowed American cruise missiles to be based there. To protest this a peace camp began in September 1981. The camp was active for 19 years and disbanded in 2000.
This poem is from the fourth Hackney Writers’ Workshop anthology, Where There’s Smoke, 1983.
(Greenham Common, Dec 12-13 1982)
We stare at a barbed wire fence
Our dreams enmesh it
Festooned, it is almost human
As though dancing could win battles
As though singing could change hearts
But songs have a way of lingering on
Images more haunting than slogans.
A photo flaps against the wire
A candle lights a future hope
A hand held out to help you cross the mud
A line of women winding on and on
The wire trips
Traps the inside person
There was a man’s world
Of polished shoes, and grey pressed uniforms
And orders barked out into silence
A serious grown-up world under attack.
It was an unequal fight
Of wool against metal
A spider’s web of contradictions
Where singing swilences threats
Of songs against machines
Of candles against bombs
Of ‘only women’ against aggression.
But who felt most victorious
As they danced home to bed
Taking their magic with them
Back to their everyday
Responsible, grown up worlds?
Our mothers were right to teach us how to knit.