Son of Memory

When you teach your son,
you teach your son's son. 
                ~The Talmud

‘Ten pigeons, eight chickens, a cockerel and two ducks;
my goats as well.’ His arms begin to wave.
‘Why did they shoot the animals?’ He looks
disturbed. ‘How could my pigeons misbehave?
The only birds they left round here are rooks.’

The ninety people gathered in this space
were his uncles, aunties, mother’s sisters' sons;
instructed to take shelter and to brace
themselves for trouble. A day of distant guns:
a flash—his brothers dead before his face.

Ismail, four days, a metre from his head,
headless—‘Why did they shoot the donkey too?’
He yearns to, but can’t raise the family dead;
he feels their presence, though they’re out of view;
you know he wants to cry—but no tears are shed.

Nigel Holt

If you have any comments on this poem, Nigel Holt would be pleased to hear them.

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