By Ali Alizadeh
You call me a barbarian.
I call you master.
You don’t speak my language.
noise in your ears; my poems
masterpieces of literature.
constitute fashion; your homes
the hovel your tanks levelled;
rags. My beliefs
crushed by your technology
because I’m a barbarian.
But I must understand
your language. O master, your words
are essential to my survival. I have to
put your goggles on my eyes
to see myself,
a dangerous alien with
and innate savagery
because you’re so civilised and meaningful.
You have the weapons
the tools for proving the logic
of your power. You wear clothes
that bolster your shoulders
and accentuate your height.
Me, I’m naked
and paraded as a prisoner
on your catwalks. I’ve been
defeated, dispossessed, and now
detained in the cages
of your metropolis. I can’t remember
if I ever had my own culture
because your powerful voice
has deafened my memories. Your logic
proves I’m a primitive
at the mercy of your civilisation.
Yes, I understand
your language. I’ve been learning
the lexicon of my inferiority
from behind the bars. I now know
how to spell and pronounce
the terms of my slavery. Your shackles
are called Security; your war
Operation Freedom; your cluster bombs
food parcels for my children. O master,
what you want your filthy slave to be. I am
your barbarian, your terrorist;
Originally published in Eyes inTimes of War, by Salt Publishing.