Image by Caroline Forbes

Poem introduction

This poem comes in two parts, in fact I wrote the second part first. And I wrote it in a workshop led by Christopher Reid and he asked us to take on a non-human perspective, and I thought it would be very interesting to hear what a blank piece of paper thinks. And when I wrote it, I thought it was a bit lonely like that, so wrote the first one to go with it. There is a date in the second poem, 16th March 1988, and that was the date that Halabja was gassed and five thousand people died. I guess this poem is about two pages confessing their sins to each other.

Two Pages

1. Delivering a message

I was asleep in the middle of a pad
when he started writing on the first page.
The tip of his pen pressed down
forcing pale words into the pages below.
He wrote many versions that night
some very lengthy, others brief.

When my turn came he paused,
palmed his temples, squeezed his eyes,
made himself a calming tea.

She received me early one morning
in a rush, leaving her flat.
She ripped the envelope. Then, gradually,
her steps slowed down,
her fingers tightened around me.

2. Not delivering a message

All my life I waited for words –
a poem, a letter, a mathematical puzzle.

On March 16th 1988
thousands of us were taken on board –
you can't imagine our anticipation.

When they threw us out from high above
we were confused, lost in blankness.
All those clean white pages
parachuting into town....

Puzzled faces looked up
expecting a message, but we were blank.

Two hours later they dropped the real thing.
We had been testing the wind direction.
Thousands of people were gassed that day.


from Life for Us (Bloodaxe, 2004), © Choman Hardi 2004, used by permission of the author and the publisher.