Pictures of Unfamiliars

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By Kevin Higgins

after Carolyn Forché

 

Beamed into one’s living room via satellite,

or framed in syndicated photographs

on the quality papers’ foreign pages, even

their black or missing front teeth

have a strange beauty.

 

The shanty town dwellers of La Paz,

in their hand woven red and green ponchos,

carry themselves in a fashion

which puts to shame the post office queue

scraggy mother of two,  with change

in her slovenly wallet for lottery tickets,

but not shampoo.

 

Nothing against the locals.

But even the skeletal colosseum cats have a grace

which the one I ran over on my way

to this morning’s Amnesty

International meeting absolutely lacked.

 

The ongoing pain of the Yazidi women

and the entire Choctaw nation (every generation)

is best struggled with over a fair trade salad

in one of the more radical tea shops

on Sandymount Strand.

 

In comparison, one admits,

our local Others – with their dole

day drunkenness, and lack of imagination

which has seen them prosaically wander the roads

these past thousand years – just

don’t cut the whole grain mustard.

 

When they start mouthing Civil Rights

and municipal water cannon, or

police batons get over enthusiastic

on their irresponsibly positioned skulls,

people like me will feel forced to pass by

on the other side, checking our messages

for pictures of unfamiliars being

deliciously maltreated

anywhere else.