Two Villanelles

Vienna, 1980

We don’t like anything strange or different here.

We’ve had enough of foreigners in our time.

We’d rather things would stay the way they were

 

before young people thought they ruled the world,

men with make-up, long hair, jewelled ears.

We don’t like anything strange or different here.

 

You’ll still see women wearing dirndl* dresses

and, though new fashion trends sometimes appear,

we’d rather things would stay the way they were

 

in 1900. Sundays in the Prater

or walking in the woods just after church.

We don’t like anything strange or different here.

 

We love our Lodenmantel*, ever green

and men in lederhosen, feathered hats.

We’d rather things would stay the way they were

 

before the wars, when music ruled the world

and culture, not the crude modernist trash.

We don’t like anything strange or different here.

We’d rather things would stay the way they were.

*Dirndl: a traditional dress

*Lodenmantel: A woollen winter coat, invariably green

 

First published in Reach Poetry

 

Kiev, 1981

I don’t remember much, but I was there

a sightseer, politically naïve

and now I wish I had been more aware.

 

How the people lived, I did not care

but found it odd that no-one seemed to leave.

I don’t remember much, but I was there

 

a night or two. I’d had some time to spare

so travelled east. Appearances deceive

and now I wish I had been more aware.

 

Those I met seemed happy, unaware

their freedom was not real, but make-believe.

I don’t remember much, but I was there.

 

To look beyond the veil I did not dare.

Oppression I could simply not perceive

and now I wish I had been more aware.

 

Each night, in horror, at the screen I stare

as frightened people for their dead hope grieve.

I don’t remember much, but I was there

and now I wish I had been more aware.

First published in Reach Poetry

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