Wednesday 2 March 2022

As if in a Dream





As if in a dream, by Michael Rosen

I'm hearing radio programmes

playing Ukrainian patriotic songs

and lovingly produced discussions

about the history of Ukraine

and admiration pouring out of my radio and TV

for the brave people of Ukraine

daring to stand up to this terrible invasion

and I felt warm and sad at the same time

wrapped in the care and kindness of it all

and I was pouring out my admiration too,

and images from the TV came to me from last night

of hundreds of people squashed into a station subway

trying to get out on a train to Poland

and more sounds from the radio

of people on the border shivering and hungry and crying

not knowing if they could get out

while arcs of light flashed over apartment blocks

and the morning showed the cold grey ruins of people's homes

and I heard the words of sympathy

from our leaders

while they explained that Ukrainians

would need visas or relatives in Britain

if they want to come here

and I wasn't sure that people crushed

into the subway would have visas

or relatives here, would they?

so if they don't have visas and relatives

what happens to them in the freezing cold

on the Polish border?

and I thought about the care and kindness

coming out of my radio

and I felt uneasy

that I remember other invasions

other bombings,

and the same radio and TV stations

pouring out hours of words

on why similar bombings and invasions

were necessary and good bombings and invasions

and why those resisting were crazy and bad

and of course - as always -

why there wasn't room for people of those countries

to get out and come here

and I was left looking for the principle being defended here.

This principle can't be that it's wrong to invade

other countries.

The principle can't be that it's wrong

to bomb civilians.

The principle can't be that we must help

those who resist invasions.

The principle can't be that we must help


But then I thought,

what's the matter with me?

what is the matter with me?

why am I looking for a principle?

Well, not a principle that lasts

or a principle that is valid in all places.

Our leaders' principles are things

they pick up, boast about

and then drop

in the hope that we can't remember anything

from before last week.

Or that we don't notice what else they do

in other parts of the world.

One moment they are friends with people

who are tyrants or backers of tyrants

and the next they are explaining to us

that the tyrants are tyrants

and friends of tyrants are the friends of tyrants

as if we didn't know that the tyrants are tyrants

and that they themselves are friends

with the friends of tyrants

as if we hadn't noticed this

as if we had now forgotten this.

And this is a cycle

that goes on and on turning,

it's turning in my mind

remembering my parents

talking of the leaders of their time

chumming up with Nazis

corporations selling oil to the Nazis

oil they would use to bomb us

and my parents talking of uncles and aunts and cousins

who criss-crossed the very same land

that the refugees are crossing now,

one who escaped

the rest who didn't

and it's a cycle

it's a cycle that grinds millions into the ground

burnt, dismembered, starved, maimed

and I am listening to the radio.

And I am listening to the radio.