The Spiral Ladder

Climb over the Wall

Red Onions


As the captains and crew of  Freedom Flotilla II face sabotage, imprisonment and the concerted efforts of Israel and the US to thwart their mission, British Writers In Support of Palestine remembers the reason for their efforts: the courageous, long-suffering people of Gaza, and in particular its children.  Thinking of them, they published a poem by Agnes Meadows, from her collection At Damascus Gate on Good Friday (Waterways Publishing, 2005).

Red Onions

My sparrow-spring girl is crying again, not silently,
With the precocious dignity of those old before their time,
But with noisy, terrified tears as befits an 8-year-old
Who has just seen her best friend murdered before her eyes.
Her weeping splits apart the fabric of evening,
A grey cotton shroud torn to bitter shreds,
A wailing siren of grief shaking the walls of her home
Like an angry robber intent of stealing midnight’s stillness.
This vibrant, joyful, dancing child,
Who turned me around with her laughter,
Spun me like a top until I became dizzy with love,
Now shouts and trembles, convulsing with torment,
Beats her father in blind uncomprehending rage,
Her small fists nailing stations of the cross upon his flesh.
He smokes too many cigarettes, becomes absorbed in the mending
Of clocks, radios, other broken things, a family joke
That seems to have lost its punch line, for his child cannot be fixed
Tonight, a clockwork toy that has been wound up once too often,
Spitted by a soldier’s sniping savagery.
She has been undone by horror, unravelled by memories of blood
Splashed with geranium freshness onto the fearful ground.
Her brothers hold her close
As if by doing so they will absorb her anguish,
Join up the circle of her broken heart,
Rekindle the flame of innocence within her.
Her mother occupies herself in the kitchen,
Holding things together with soup,
Slivers of chicken,
Eggplant, green peppers.
It is the red onions that make her eyes water,
Nothing more.
Just the red onions.

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