Pat Arrowsmith

Pat Arrowsmith was a pacifist and socialist. She was jailed 11 times for her non-violent direct action. She organised the first British protest against the nuclear weapons establishment in Aldermaston, Berkshire, in 1958. In 1961 she was the subject of parliamentary questions after she was force-fed while on hunger strike in Gateside prison.
Adrian Mitchell wrote of her: ‘Pat shows her love through her life and through her poetry. You can’t seperate the two of course. I’ve heard people say: “I’d like to write political poems.” The only answer is: “Then live a political life.”‘
She wrote several novels, political books, and poetry collections. This poem was written on 9th July, 1968 whilst she was on a peace mission to Cambodia. It was published in Help, Apple Road Review and in 1981 in the CND published collection of her poetry On The Brink.

Viewing a Cambodian Casualty

Are you real,
standing among the palms, surrounded by
fellow villagers, photographers
and us?

Your back is pencilled, crinkled, stretched
in a taut unnatural tissue.
You were burned, they say,
four years ago with
scalding jelly from a U.S. bomb.

But are they really scars on flesh
or just a map, a
diagram of human degradation?
Is it skin or paper so
tortured and disfigured?

My eyes glaze.
I merge with the cameras.
My eyes turn to lens.

I no longer see you but
merely a picture with a
horrifying caption.
You are viewed on the screen;
read about in papers;
observed at exhibitions.

Jellied petrol may have blistered you, but
I have been chilled by
white hot phosphorous;
my nerves iced;
my glands numbed;
my eyeballs frozen.

I too have been injured.

Pat Arrowsmith

pat_arrowsmith

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s