Wednesday, April 26, 2006

254. Foreign Correspondent

Chinga su madre
you filthy foreign
gringo, step away
from my line of sight!!!!!
He spat this out in Spanish
and this was
my introduction
to foreign correspondence
as the bullets
whacked into the walls
over us and around us
but, thankfully,
not quite into us.
Got him, he grunted,
and so I peeped,
quickly, out the window,
and said, No, you missed.
Bad mistake.
He glared at me
with his red-rimmed eyes
and when he pointed the rifle at my head
I could actually see
the split-second decision
in his eyes, the frown,
the little blink,
when he decided
not to shoot me.
It was then, at that moment, that I understood
the first principle
of eyewitness reporting:
report not what you see,
report what people tell you.

Well, that was Nicaragua
(or was it El Salvador?)
back in the Reagan 1980s.
I moved on to Lebanon
where the civil war was
so confusing, even the locals
couldn’t tell me what was going down.
The US Marines got blasted
and everyone looked so damned pleased,
as if they’d done it themselves,
which everyone hastened to inform me
they hadn’t. Big cheesy grins.
Therefore nobody was responsible,
everyone was totally innocent
and it was a total non-event
as the 280 plus bodies
were dug out of the rubble ….

report not what you see,
report what people tell you.

My newspaper wanted bathetic
details, like which poor kid
came from Oklahoma.
Like who cares!!
Maybe people in Oklahoma.
My three previous stories had been spiked
because I had no solid proof
apart from the fact that everybody
local knew exactly
what had gone down:
It was the Iranians.
It was the Iranians.
It was the Iranians.
Got that? Well, it was never printed.
The Americans, wisely, withdrew
(they could still do that then)
after blasting the unoffending coastline
with volleys of 18 inch shells,
murdering a few hundred women and children,
shit happens, from the USS New Jersey.
Makes sense; it’s kinda hard
to swagger away
unless you leave some death behind you.

Now I was beginning to understand
the things I could write
and the other things I couldn’t.
The only people who shot at me
and quite seriously tried to kill me
were the Israelis: they did that
oh, about 15-20 times, for them
it is always a joke, and when
with distress and piss-streaked trousers
I wrote in a white heat
about the last of my narrow escapes,
the newspaper yanked the story,
told me I was too “emotionally involved”
plus the incident had never happened
according to Israeli Army Radio.
Like, right, sure, get your ass over here,
see what these people do, day in day out,
But nope, sorry pal, “We have growing concerns
with regard to your objectivity, and would
wish to remind you that this corporation
expects the highest level of professional conduct”
These are bullets, man,
They blow holes in you.
The BBC guys lost their driver last week
because some bored little jerks in a tank
decided to blow him up, displaying
the local level of professional conduct.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

253. Down the Alley in D-Town

On my way home, down through the alley,
I nearly tripped over him,
stretched out in his trenchcoat:
another bad drunk, thinks I,
until he grips hard on my ankle
and says, Son, do you love Ireland?
This was an unexpected question.
I suppose I do, sir, says I,
now will you let go of me leg, please?
Listen to me, son, I haven't long to live
and ye're a good lad, I can tell.
I've a thing in my pocket, now,
it's a thing I plan to give you ...
are ye with me now, me stout gossoon?
Would you let go of me leg, sir,
says I with the panic rising.
I will, says he, with a rasping sigh,
but his grip had actually tightened.
I have the Naval Plans for the invasion of France
(Oh, right, thinks I, this is all we need.)
You must take these papers direct to the King!
But, sir, says I, we have no king,
we are the free and independent
and poverty-stricken Irish nation!
Ah, so the rumours are true, says he.
Indeed, sir, now would you care for an amberlance,
sorry, an ambeedance, one of them yokes
for to carry you away? I would not,
says he, anything without an honest
upstanding horse in front of it, is entirely
suspect, a matter for the gravest concern.
Oh, to be sure, says I, but why
will we be invading France? Divil blast ye,
son, do you not know a thing about code?
Sorry, says I, rubbing on my leg
(he'd let go by now), but can you tell me,
sir, what has you stretched out in the alley?
Haven't I been shot, says he, annoyed,
have you no idea what it means to be shot?
Well, it would hurt, says I, I suppose. Hurt?
says he, it hurts like the bloody blue blazes!
I'm sorry for your trouble, can I get home now?
Ye cannot! Amn't I just after telling you
that the future of the Empire ......
Tis a Republic we are, says I, now,
Ahhh Republic me arse, says he,
aren't we the same feckin people,
the fishermen, the farmers,
the gombeen men, the hoors?
Well, you have a point, says I.
And isn't it dear old Ireland,
he says to me, that calls to us,
like a lonely stag across the moors?
Like a what, sir?
Like a stag!! One of them lads
with the horns on top of their heads, like,
have ye never read a buik?
Oh, but I have, sir, says I.
Well, then, ye'll know what I'll say to you next:
there's Caitlin, Kathleen ni Houlihan,
the personification of our nation,
the pure young girl, the virgin bride,
the ideal we believe in, as we
count our money and scratch our balls,
ye've heard tell of her? Oh, and I have,
says I, many a time and oft, here and there
among the neighbours. Tis been very nice,
sir, but I've to go now, I'll be late for me tea.
Young man, he roars out of him, I AM Kathleen!!
Drunk and shot, sprawled out in the alley,
here as ye find me, for a moment, perhaps,
there may be some lingering doubt,
some slight scintilla, some shadow of disbelief,
but I AM her, here before you, the eternal
feminine symbol of Ireland!! So you are,
sir, and will I go and call that amberlance?
Listen, ye scut, ye hoor's melt, I AM that pale-cheeked
lass, with raven hair and lips like blood upon the snow,
a knowing child who has sent out men to die!!
Not a bother on you, sir, been a great pleasure,
had a grand time talking, but I'll be off now so ....
Not so fast, me young spalpeen!
You will take my message to the King
as I lie here (gasp) alone and dying.
But we have no King, says I.
Ahh, but we do, says he.
And he whispered a name in my ear.

I carried his message to the man he mentioned.
Our country, since then, has become rich
beyond all dreams of avarice. The alley,
when I went back in the morning, wasn't there,
hadn't been there for a century, they told me.