In a minute she will say ‘good morning’ and the ghosts
will scamper from my skull back to Biafra
where, like every day, the conquerers will kill them
and wipe the bayonets on oil-stained grass.
The sun will race everywhere when she opens the curtains,
its beams, at this prime distance, bringing me warmth
more bearable than gun barrels burning flesh from hands
that tried to push the noise and the light away.
My distance from the sun will make me welcome
its particles, the way we welcome ambassadors
who bring this message from so many lands:
Our oil supply stays safe, and in good hands.
Five minutes after firing stops, birds sing.
The smells of coffee, butter, fresh croissants
and the sounds of Jan Sibelius do their work
expecting my greeted skull to say it’s fine.
© Alan Reynolds, 1998 – 2016
I have worked and reworked this poem over the years, trying to write something that expresses my reaction to what I feel is the madness of being well adjusted in a maladjusted world.
There are too many examples of the maladjusted world. Here I went back to one which had a name and face many years ago, Biafra, conflating it with today and any day. Maybe I chose Biafra as my ‘scene’ (and Finlandia as my title, especially when listening to the music) because of Kurt Vonnegut, who wrote so movingly about that country when it was one: The Republic of Biafra, May 30, 1967 – July 17, 1970: ‘The tune of Biafra’s national anthem was Finlandia, by Jan Sibelius. The equatorial Biafrans admired the arctic Finns because the Finns won and kept their freedom in spite of ghastly odds.’ Wampeters, Foma & Granfalloons: Opinions, 1974. p. 140.