Tag Archives: war

The New Amazons


These are the new amazons, warriors for an age when battles are fought over inches and ounces, ground held firm with a will power you cannot understand and they cannot explain.

Every day when the killing fields is the  site of last resistance,  their own bodies. offered up, suicide bombers all

New bones map out a skirmish won, an enemy routed, another stand made.

The scales record betrayal, defeat, the spirit is strong, but the body weakens, turns tail, offers surrender when all that is required is a tactical retreat….a re-grouping….a re-arming with weapons of mass distraction.

The enemy creeps up in the night, pitches camp, lays siege to the body.

Bared, ready for morning inspection with eyes sharper than a sergeant major and a tongue more vicious too.

Everything must be checked, double checked, you’re in this army now.

The front line moves, an inch here, an inch there, movement hides the cost, becomes just a to and fro, meaningless battle lines with no clear winner…..dug in, all over by Christmas

A war of secret attrition, where the scars are buried deep, not displayed on special days for the curious, the non-combatants,  and those who fell at the first hurdle try not to stare, try not to feel a tiny frisson of envy, a sense of missing out on something big

Mummy, what did you do in the war?

There are no victory parades for these ana warriors, no wreaths of Flanders poppies, no awkward silences, praying that your phone won’t go off….not now.

But, just for  a moment, I imagine them, the ranks of girls, for they are legion, arms whipcord thin, collar bones as sharp as the creases in a demob suit, knees buckle under the weight of banners, but these are the ana warriors, spartan in their stoicism, shrugging off the costs of war.

To save the village we had to destroy it.

 


The eternal, ever-giving, fun-loving clowns hit town again …….and again


The child leans forward, her hair a curtain between her and the glowing screen, her lips move, reading the messages that ping and click into her inbox.
Her hand moves automatically to the family sized bag of crisps, nestled, half hidden on her lap.
Hand, mouth, bite, chew, hand…..old familiar pattern.

She stifles a giggle with a hand that is salty, malty with crumbs of crisps. His messages are so funny and then he can be so tender, so loving.

She knows that he is the one for her, it’s all perfect

They will run away together, start a new life, no more name calling, no more teachers staring at her with half disguised disinterest.

She loves him, cannot wait to be with him, has already packed a bag, written, in rough, the note she will leave.
She’s going to do it properly, her neatest handwriting, nice paper and everything.

She doesn’t hear the door open, doesn’t see the smallest clown tiptoe in, skirting the fluffy rug, the bundle of bears huddled at the foot of the bunk beds.

He reaches across her and with a gentle finger pushes the off button on the lap top and then bows to the child with a flourish and pulls the pink paper flower from the brow of his hat.

She can’t help her smile, forgets to cover her mouth and the beam lights up her face.

As the clown leaves, he pulls back the curtains and lets the sun shine stream in.

The boys are sitting, their backs against what remains of the walls of the last house on the dusty Main Street.

Dogz and Little Man have found some battered cassette tapes, they are carefully unwinding the black plastic tape and wrapping the flapping spool around each others arms to make bracelets or armour or just something that looks fine, catches the midday sun, sets them apart.

Spider sits, legs splayed, rubbing the butt of his AK47 with a tiny bottle of palm oil, the metal gleams and he bows his head to concentrate.

The others are watching him carefully, they know he has some Kif in his jacket pocket, maybe even some weed. In the absence of the Sergeant, he is the man, the dan.
They quietly move closer to him, make sure that they are in his sights.
Nobody wants to miss out on anything good.

Newboy and the boy so new he doesn’t even have a nickname, are sitting away from the others.
No name boy has been crying, the tears have left an almost clean path down his dirt encrusted face.
The others can all remember the tears, they make sure that they don’t make eye contact, nobody wants to remember back then, back when they first came.

It is Newboy who sees them first, a dot in the landscape,that becomes distant figures, that slowly resolves into 3 figures, biggest, smaller, smallest.

The clowns are back in town.

The crew stiffen, hands reach out for guns, bats, sticks, they all stand, even New Boy, even no name boy, group together, wait to see what will happen.

The clowns stop at the edge of the deserted town, they eyeball the boys and the boys eyeball them and then with a whoop and a shriek, the clowns launch the selves.

Cartwheels

Summersaults

Forward rolls

Flic Flacs

And the dog runs alongside, tongue flapping, mouth smiling.

The boys turn to Spider, looking for guidance, but he shrugs, trying to be the man, but wanting to see what’s going to happen, feeling a smile tugging at his mouth.

He makes a decision, places his gun on the floor and slowly slides himself to the ground, his jeans are too short now, bony, adolescent ankles stick out, before his boots, the boots, the man boots, 2 sizes too big, but, in them he walks like a man, so he ignores the blisters, has pushed to the back of his mind, the actual getting of the boots.

In them he walks tall.

The other boys, slide cautiously to the ground, form a rough semi circle and become an audience of children, mouths open, weapons forgotten, they lean into each other, a tangle of legs and arms.

The clowns go through the routines, custard pies, the kicks and pratfalls, the teeny tiny cycle and then, the smallest clown begins to march, miming the carrying of a huge military drum, it trips him up, catches his behind, threatens to swallow him and all the time, the other clowns are marching, mad goose step marching, legs so high they almost reach their heads.

With a flourish, the biggest clown produces a giant water pistol and starts to fire jets of water at the others, they fall back, legs kick in the air and the boy soldiers laugh and laugh as the clowns lie twitching in the dust.

The road is full of people, as far as the eye can see, heads down, laden with bags and boxes and prams and trolleys and baskets balanced on heads.
They walk, trudge, one foot, another foot, walking towards the horizon.
There are no young men, just women and children and old men, all becoming more silent as the days go on.
The children have stopped playing, stopped darting ahead, stopped suddenly dropping to the ground to examine a brightly coloured stone, a tiny lizard.
They walk and carry and if they are too small to carry, they are entrusted with even smaller children, one each side, held tight, dragged on legs that have to trot to keep up.

At the very back of the line are the clowns,
Biggest
Smaller
Smallest

And on each of their shoulders is a child, head drooping, face brushing against the soft pompoms on the pointed clown hats.

The clowns walk, slowly, doggedly, behind the lines of all the lost.

Biggest
Smaller
Smallest

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Tears


In my defence, I am struggling with another bout of chronic insomnia and am therefore experimenting, sadly unwillingly, with writing at very odd times of the day or when I am completely exhausted.
It has an odd effect on writing, I’m not convinced its really the way forward.

Tears…..

Her days have a new rhythm now
A recognise able tune, familiar, but with a new syncopation
Get in car…..familiar
Fingers fumble to find the measured tones of Radio 4…familiar
But the crying is new
And she has a new routine to manage this
Mirror
Signal
Manoeuvre
And then, head on steering wheel, salt tears mixing with that chemical
That spray the Kosovans on the corner squirt liberally over the dashboard when they swarm over the filthy car
That spray that makes old cars new

The tears are time limited
5 minutes and she is ready to go
Has become practised at emergency make up repairs
Stalled,stopped at the traffic lights, waiting to make that tricky right hand turn

But

The tears have become more frequent
No longer need the nudge of those other voices, other sounds
She carries them
Internal radio
Even in silence

She has become adept at dabbing, mopping
Crumpled tissue always at hand
Sometimes
She wakes at 3,4 am
And finds that her tears have begun before the day itself

Finally,
Tired
Embarrassed by her mute mourning
She takes herself to a doctor
He,
Shines lights, pokes and prods
Pronounces
She has blocked tear ducts
Her crying is a symptom, not of the world tearing itself apart, but her own physical malfunction

There is a pause

He

Scratches his nose

Rubs his own eyes

Says there seems to be a lot of blocked tear ducts

These days.

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The eternal, ever giving, fun loving clowns hit town…..again


This story was suggested to me by a friend, who sent me HIS short story about a clown sentenced to perform, day after day to the children waiting to enter the gas chambers and some how I began to think about a group of clowns,acting outside of time and space whenever children are in pain or peril.

So, thank you to S, for such generous sharing of the eternal clown.

The flan hits the face again, perfect shot and then a pause,
Count 1 and 2
Tip of tongue, shocking pink against a moon white face and the clown licks at the custard covering his eyes and mouth and nose.
He begins a toilette, carefully removing the yellow glop.
The children giggle at the hopelessness of the task and then stiffen, cover their mouths with their fists, become quiet, watchful.
The big clown, completely absorbed in his task has completely failed to notice the two lesser clowns, creeping up behind him, their faces overshadowed by an insanely over-sized bucket.
They mime counting
One
Two
Three

And then they hurl the water over the oblivious clown.
He leaps into the air, face contorted with mock shock and then returns to earth, his bottom landing first and into the supposedly forgotten custard pie.

The children’s laughter almost drowns out the crump, crump of falling artillery.

And on the Kindertransport, the child’s mouth is a perfect O as she watches a clown bend and twist balloons to make a small pink and red bear. She clutches a stained and grubby stain ribbon, all that is left of her bear, dropped, left behind somewhere in the dark between trains, when the adults said that there was no time to go back to look.
The balloon bear completed, the clown leans forward and dedicatedly lifts the ribbon from her hand and wraps it around the balloon bear.
The child and clown smile carefully at each other.

The wooden boat clings to the shore and even then the movement is enough to make the children puke.
These Peters and Brigettes, sworn to liberate the Holy Land from the Infidel, wait for the journey to begins and while they wait, cold and wet and hungry, they watch the clowns, sea salt eroding the matt perfection of their clown faces, juggle elegantly with an impossible number of silk scarves.

The shack is dark, lit by one guttering candle, there are children everywhere, some almost old enough to work in the fields, others tiny, still reaching out for the mothers, but all eyes are intent on the 2 clowns performing in the least dusty corner.
It is so dark that the children are almost invisible, reduced to just gleaming teeth and glistening eye whites as they watch the clowns chase each other in tiny ever diminishing circles until they are forced to run amongst the children.
The biggest clown tries to hide, choosing the very smallest children to crouch down behind, so that he is absurdly visible, his tattered red trousers are the only patch of colour in the room.
This hiding and seeking game is unsettling some of the older children, reminding them of more deadly games played out in the cotton fields when one of the bucks, most likely a new African, turns rogue, tries to get away, get home.
The clowns notice, pull back and quickly produce an old favourite, the teeny tiny cycle.
They both clamber on, smallest clown on the shoulders of slightly less small clown and legs move madly, piston like as the bike careers into the crowds of children. The clowns clear a path, scooping up the very smallest children to take a turn at the red bicycle ride.

The room is almost silent, just the beep beep of the machines, the steady thrumm of cables and wires and at its centre, the child, still, almost invisible under the burden of leads and bags and drips.
The smallest clown sits at the foot of the bed, floppy hat flopping with the weight of pink plastic flowers.
This is no place for tomfoolery, for noise, for jolly japes.
Instead, the smallest clown, face in shadow, blowing iridescent soap bubbles.
One by one they float into the air and then, soft as a butterfly, one lands on the child’s wrist.
The clown pauses, but there is no reaction.

The clowns are processing, Russian doll figures made real, biggest, smaller, smallest.
They lope across the playground, clown shoes dip into last nights rain puddles.
They are playing kazoos but the sound is almost drowned by the screams and shouts of children as their skin burns and bubbles.
The clowns, undaunted, try to make more noise, reaching into pockets to pull out impossible instruments that cannot have been hidden in such baggy pants.
Drums, trombones, cymbals appear, the smallest clown tries to execute some business, catch the middle sized clowns’ ears between the two brass discs….but the children are weeping, reaching out for help.
The clown dog, small , brown, a little yellow ruff around his neck, trots from child to child, terrier face wrinkled in distress, a growl just held back.

The clowns regroup.
Take stock and then the biggest clown scoops up the little dog, musical instruments vanish back into hidden pockets and they walk away.

Biggest
Smaller
Smallest.