War zone


It is two a.m. and I am walking to and fro, talking to local cats, kicking litter to the kerb. I have been keeping the dog-watch, learning the texture of the night. I have been studying the madder parts of the holy book, and drawing its charts. I am ready to make it come true.


You hunt where you can, you with your terrorist chic, your poster of Andreas Baader, your hipster cap. You walk me round the town, gesturing: There, you say, that’s the station, that’s the bridge. You walk me past a postcard-pretty lake, where swans steer past boys in boats for hire; or through the market, gesturing: here and here. You are dreaming of death, among the dog walkers and the begging birds. You see blood on innocent stones, imagine your story rendered perfect on the screen.


They are gone into exile. Days in the jungle, nights by the sea. She spends the night hours breathing prayers: words with weight enough to slice the wind. Her son, and her son’s son, are gone. Her house, and her dresser, and her little dog. The wind worries past, the great sky turns slowly, the chiaroscuro of the unwired world keeps her there, watching, chin on her fist, fist on her knee.


Ashes in the wind, sand between our fingers. Even the memories of memory are fading. It has been decades since this all began. All your threats have been fulfilled. The children have gone to dust, the front doors on the houses bang dully when the weather turns, and the town has been handed over to stray cats. It is time to shelve the history books, shred the archives, draw down the mourning shades. Time to agree that no one has won.

Jen Webb


Jen Webb is a poet who works at the University of Canberra, and has been published by journals and anthologies in Australia, Canada, the USA, UK and China. She is the author of several poetry chapbooks and, with Paul Hetherington, of Watching the World: Impressions of Canberra (Blemish Books 2015).

© 2017