Nigel Holt

1.Faith-full

Praise be to god when all around is ruin;

when shopping carts are filled with blown-off limbs;

when concrete, glass, steel and grass are skin

across a Beltane landscape’s blood-shod whims.


Praise be to god when Ruth or Hala cries;

when corn is torn to shreds with gentle smiles;

when a bursting schoolbus (no great surprise)

becomes the smoking carcass of our wiles.


Praise be to god when hopelessness has failed;

when flesh is beaten to confess—and beaten,

does. Praise be to god when dying, jailed;

when tongues are twisted till words sweeten.


Praise be to god when all else has been taken,

for here, there is a turn—a turn to strength,

for when beyond the end and all’s forsaken,

you turn and praise your god, so if at length


your child is born, its worn out mother dies,

it’s not sadness in the miracle of birth

but serenity that falls from empty skies.


2.Old Grounds


The bitter coffee settles. The sheesha burns.

In a Baghdad café ex-Baathists haunt,

silent men make calls no one returns.


Interrogations, missing boys, old concerns,

are blocked out by an IED’s rough taunt.

The bitter coffee settles, the sheesha burns;


no one lifts an eyelid as the churns

of dust, of limbs, of screams, ascend. When gaunt,

silent men make calls: no one returns.


The snarl of sheesha smoke the slow fan spurns

twists around the bonhomie they flaunt.

The bitter coffee settles; the sheesha burns


as slowly as the truth, for though one learns

they’re back at work, the truth will never daunt

silent men who make calls no one returns.


Ghosts linger where cold coffee grounds fill urns

and whisper to an absent ear ‘You were warned.’

The bitter coffee settles. The sheesha burns.

Silent men make calls no one returns.



Nigel Holt © 2009

3.Gazan Candles


‘Resistance is feasible even for those

who are not heroes by nature’

Noam Chomsky


When bodies blaze, small flames ignite;

when rage in men is at its peak,

there burns a deeper inner light


in those whose gut opposes spite;

the vengeance and the right we seek

when bodies blaze. Small flames ignite


a house, white phosphorescence, bright,

they char a child, take eyes, a cheek.

There burns a brighter inner light


when right is throat-cut in the fight,

when those who must be strong act weak.

When bodies blaze, small flames ignite


within the charnel of the night.

When will succumbs, when all is bleak,

there burns a deeper inner light


beneath a bushel, beyond gouged sight:

there flares the tallow of the weak.

When bodies blaze, small flames ignite:

there burns a deeper inner light.


4.House Call

for Dr Izeldeen Abuelaish


Another round of triage, another night;

three sisters and a cousin playing games.

‘Tell me you think it’s going to be all right’,


Aya says out loud to mask her fright.

Mayar can feel the fear that noone names:

another round of triage, another night.


Bisan instructs the girls, ‘Shush! Sit tight!’,

the nearby houses shrouds of dust and flames.

‘Tell me you think it’s going to be all right’


—the last words Aya utters. The Israelite

who put the shell straight through the bedroom

blames

another. Rounds of triage, another night,


‘even kids…’, he sighs, ‘…join in to fight.’

But doctor Izzat stumbling in, exclaims

‘Tell me You think it’s going to be all right!


Can you, my God, build heaven on our spite?’

His tears anoint the memory of their names.

Another round of triage; another night;

tell me you think it’s going to be all right.



Nigel Holt © 2009