Like a tough flint
honed by a hungry stone-age hunter
two million years ago –
faithfully chipping off slivers
that winked dully in the midday sun –
you sharpen your rage, poke at
your gangsta habit of revenge,
cold to the sabre-tooth-marks in the one
who you hate and blame, not stopping to think
that though chance has led you to be foes,
your histories are the same.
Compassion is banned;
you stick the killer and you slink away,
the new abuser; in one foul move ceasing to be accuser,
taking your place as the accused –
just a slim link in the striped chain of retribution,
the latest player in a city game, unhindered
by guilt or shame.
The opposing team is obligated to whip up
its hate, to ignore the history of pain that emaciated
your better nature.
They paint your sticky crimson fate
across a careworn street where angels whisper benedictions
and a lone mother listens.
As your blood rusts in the gutter,
happenstance brothers take their deadly place
in the self-defeating spiral
The sane man proselytizes from a sagging soapbox.
Raising his hands in supplication, he claims
that all which flows from our veins is red,
all of it smells the same,
all death leaves a similar bitter taste,
and we are all related.
Declaring he’s crazy, friends and foes
unite to chase him away.
loading their guns,
they shoot another brother.
©Jane Paterson Basil