When he was one some sort of uprising took place
Not more than a thousand miles away but wire dispatches said
It was quickly quashed and there was nothing to worry about.
His mother was airing sheets at the back of the house.
Before he reached five it turned out
There is a lot more of them, quite dissatisfied
And screaming for a change.
Newspapers said they got what they wanted.
When he touched ten it was revealed
That their numbers had exploded and it is impossible
To stop the wave by peaceful means.
They called it the revolution that never happened.
By the time he came of age two wars already swept the country,
Spilled out onto the continent and almost beat to death
The entire world. There was very little he could do
And that’s exactly what he did.
By his forties it all looked a lot more promising,
With shops showing signs of shipments and new houses
Built hurriedly on freshly dried marshes. Everywhere
Young mothers strutted their prams like peacocks.
When he was fifty the tensions were back in the saddle
Riding all horses of destruction known to lore,
Drawing blood from everything on their way.
It was only when the big night came when they withdrew.
I was born in his sixties and don’t remember him
Smiling. Leaden with what I could not understand, torpid to
Everything that interested a five-year old, this dark rock
Watched over me when mother was at work.
It is impossible to detect them grow, that’s all I learned
Watching the trees outside our house. Is it the time
That counts or unmeasured,
subtle conquest and cultivation?
I am as blind as all before me.
In his early nineties, still handsome, he went
The way of all flesh. A father of three, visiting him at the time,
Dallied down the corridor and back into the lift. Some cabby, leaning
Against the side of his car, was enjoying a gasper.
As they are telling me it is proper to cherish tradition
I concentrate on the death by thousand cuts, if it really hurts
Or the convict grows accustomed to the pain like a frog,
Boiled slowly until it misses its last chance.