Poem

Maxine Beneba Clarke
Proportionate force

                                            i

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

 

                                            ii

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

 

                                            iii

then in june,

             iran shot down an american drone

 

and the president declared

          then undeclared

 

                                                                  war

 

said he’d thought about it

and nobody died,

 

                     so the force was

                                            disproportionate

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

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