Maxine Beneba Clarke
Proportionate force


the president is tough on immigration,

                      he is building the mexico wall


and the smell of despair is unbearable,

in the child-camps of customs and border


they say the collars of babes are coarse with cried salt,

they say more bodies than mattresses

                                            line the concrete floors


small children sob for their mothers,

in the now-soiled clothes they were wearing


                                                              when separated by force



another woman has come forward

she says the president

                                            pinned her up against a wall


twenty-five years ago

the president of the united states of america

                                                                                                    raped her,

in the changing room of a new york department store

the president says it never happened

the president says she’s not his type


no offence or anything, the president says


but like all the others,

                                                   she’s lying



then in june,

             iran shot down an american drone


and the president declared

          then undeclared




said he’d thought about it

and nobody died,


                     so the force was


This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Jun 29, 2019 as "Proportionate force".

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Maxine Beneba Clarke is the author of The Hate Race and Foreign Soil. She is a winner of the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Poetry.