Can you recall?


I remember that smell,
from when I was a good German.
I had a lovely uniform,
with lightning strikes on the collar – I was stationed at Buchenvald.

I too, can remember that smell
I was a guard at Auschwitz.
I remember the sad faces
of the frightened, hungry children.

I also remember that stench,
my father told me about it,
when they killed the Palestinians
and drove others from Jerusalem:
but I also smelt it in Jenin and Balata, Gaza, Ramallah and Khan Yunis – when it came my turn to serve.

That miasma haunts my nostrils since I hid in a church in Rwanda. The priest had said it was safe, and yet he let them in,

with hate in their hearts and machetes in their hands.

I too, can remember that smell
in the cemetery of Santa Cruz when they fired on students.
And at Suai where they murdered as many as they could –

even the priest and the nuns.
Their red and white bandannas
and their TNI weapons –
just after we voted to leave Indonesia.

I also remember that stench
from Biak, to the New Guinea border where Kopassus kill and torture.
The TNI shoot people
for raising the Morning Star
their flag of independence.

I smelt that fetor
in the daisy cutter, cluster bombed buildings of Baghdad;
and the detonated tombs
of the Tora Bora caves.

I remember the odour of death
in the shell-shocked ruins of Grozny, and in the cities of the disappeared throughout Chechnya.

From the smoke stacks of Auschwitz –
to the shallow graves of West Papua,
to the burnt out houses of Darfur,
to the corpses rotting in bulldozed refugee camps in Gaza, the smell is the same,

the same dreadful smell, is the same.

First published Al-Moharer 1/11/2004 Vo.13 No.198.

also by Green Left Weekly 3rd November 2004. p.25. Issue 605.
also by Synaptic Graffiti Collective 20/4/2005 yourecall.html
Awarded the monthly Westender Bent Books Poetry Prize for November 2004