C. J. Driver

So did we get it wrong, those years ago?
That’s “we,” the brainy boys and girls, elite
And blessed in every sort of way, judgmental
To a fault, agnostic to be sure.

We thought we knew exactly who we were.
We chose precisely who to kill with what;
The damage that we can’t undo we call
“Collateral” – we know we can’t be blamed.

And now we claim we did our best to learn
The lessons of duality (our wars
Were “little wars” and made “to keep the peace”),
Like sheep who’ve nudged a broken hedge aside.

So turn the wagons round and head for home,
Though home might never be the place it was;
The road-blocks lie ahead; the policemen pounce
On penitents and pilgrims all alike

And here’s their list of those to be detained –
Although there’s nothing left which points to guilt:
The blood was washed away, the bodies burned,
The clothes we wore all parceled up and dumped.

I told you, sir, as clearly as I could
I must have dropped my weapon in a ditch.

We built our lives on emptiness, and found
No solace when – at last – time caught us out.

C. J. Driver is author of several novels and collections of poems, including So Far: Selected Poems. For many years he was a prohibited immigrant in the country of his birth and upbringing, South Africa.
Originally published:
January 1, 2019


Rachel Cusk

The novelist on the “feminine non-state of non-being”
Merve Emre


Renaissance Women

A new book celebrates—and sells short—Shakespeare’s sisters
Catherine Nicholson

Fady Joudah

The poet on how the war in Gaza changed his work
Aria Aber

You Might Also Like


On Nine Recent Collections

Poetry in review
Stephanie Burt


New perspectives, enduring writing. Join a conversation 200 years in the making. Subscribe to our print journal and receive four beautiful issues per year.