Welcome to JP Melville's review, experience, and statement on foreign aid and the international development industry. A conservative faith in family. A love affair riding the riotous tensions between money, personal freedom, the majestic travesty of our specie's ecological footprint, and economic politics. Selected writing of both prose and poetry, anecdotal travel log to rhetorical essay, dating back from the 1980's to the present. Enjoy!

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

War - Baku - Karabakh - Oil - The Middle East

There is war.
One does not have to accept war.
There is war.
Men die.
Children go hungry.
Dirt grows under the nails.
Bottles get smashed.
Crows roost or pick on the unspeakable.
Rain falls and mud thickens.
Cold cuts into fingers.
Low voices dissolve into dark skies studded with stars.
Wind whispers lonely through rattling dried leaves.
Ragged dogs with ribs showing root in forgotten garbage.
Widowed young women hunger after men's bodies they cannot have.
Rivers flow sleepily along empty banks.
Rust gathers on steel posts.
Listless smoke curls from cold stove pipes.
A plant tips, dried, the stem snaps, the pod falls slowly,
Slow through an arc of endless time,
Sweeps from standing tall,
The sun and clouds swirling above its drunken toppling,
Speeding ever so more quickly,
Plummeting down,
Rabid velocity toward impact,
The ground, now screaming ache, desire,
"Come, Come, Come, Oh God Come!"
Desperation grasping, clasping, gasping,
The pod growing ever so larger as it races closer,
And closer,
Toward impact,
Rabid impact,
And shattering,
Shattering explosion!

One of a thousand seeds falls gently,
Oh ever so gently,
Into the warmth of urging soil.


What is this thing
Which we call war?

Only today I am asked:
These foreigners who go early to Baku on Fridays,
While nationals must stay until 5:00 p.m.?
Only today I am asked:
Do you like your job,
When it is nothing more than U.S. foreign policy?
Only today someone says:
With Allah's grace,
I will return to the mountains of my Karabakh.

Why I stay behind,
I do not know,
I cannot stomach something,
I am the manager,
My office, my child,
Even while my Imishli office
Grows silent on a Friday evening.
Development workers gone.
Work done,
By clock and by calendar,
Workplan, strategic plan,
Development work is done.
Yes, to Baku,
Three hours away,
Brand new donor funded
Automobiles and vans,
Hurtling, hurtled toward,
Oil rich,
Derrick pocked
Cosmopolitan city of the East.
Persia's canker.
Electric lights.
Two, three, towering hotels
Oasis of the rich.
Women with curled smiles,
Men with cigarettes,
Mobile phones,
And bureaucratic jobs in their dreams.

Yes, the Imishli office,
A propaganda machine,
Paid with foreign dollars,
Civil Society's Speakers Corner,
Leaves blowing round its corners,
Blood empty of bodies playing roles,
Even before Friday's dawn creeps in the sky,
Halls and walls and barren yards
Grown silent for the weekend,
Infinite weekends,
Eternal weekends,
Through to coming Monday.

I know,
That this weekend,
Several recruited renting men sit in Baku,
To discuss what they call
Post‑conflict society,
The snapshot of time
When the dust settles
Following the last spark of flame
Tearing from a rifle's barrel,
When the air still scintillates with tension,
When tension breathes from every voice
Impregnating words
Which pass the wet warm lips of every person,
Young, old, crippled, passionate,
From every breath across the land.

And of these recruited renting men
Yet another wrestles lasciviously with his computer,
In a windowless office,
Fingers tapping plastic keys,
Fingers tapping business plans,
For people he has never known,
For whose daughters he never has desired.
And yet another prints black ink,
Single spaced reports,
Times New Roman 10,
Headers, footers,
Tables, graphs, appendices.
And somewhere
A woman Gender expert,
With her lover,
His arm squeezed round her shoulders,
Drinks whiskey in a bar,
Telling stories about her ruined passport,
Which she ruined by spilling juice on it,
Surrounded by English speaking foreigners,
All laughing,
All in the pit of their stomachs worrying,
How they too would replace their papers,
Their umbilical cords to other places,
To other wombs far away from the echo
Of the cold, hard, black paved streets
Of the voiceless wind from the strange wet sea
Which whips in from the docks
Wrap, wrap, wrapping its stranglehold
On the cutstone buildings
Lying outside the door,
From their cigarettes,
Their drinks,
And the young woman telling her story
Of spilled juice on a passport.

Funny that,
This weekend,
Elsewhere in Baku,
Born and bred Azeri,
A young man seeks his friends and streets,
Black leather coats,
Jocular banter,
The company of humanity.
Another, not so young man,
Rests with his wife and daughter
Reading books
Listening to his family's
Small events of the week.
Several women watch the tv
With their husbands by their side,
Turkish melodramas, love,
Or broadcasts of the government.
Others drink tea,
Play cards,
Talk of weddings,
Or plan one.
Even others have gone to bed,
Faces snuffled into pillows,
Digesting their first home cooked meal in five days.

This weekend in Baku.

But in Imishli...
Three hours away,
The electricity fails to come until nine p.m.
And then with insufficient voltage
To turn the stiff compressors
Of ancient Soviet refrigerators.

In Imishli,
The dogs bark,
The wood smoke hangs in the air,
While the full moon spreads her vapour
Over quiet ground
And children sleeping
Buried beneath aging blankets.

In Imishli,
The hulks of Soviet central school heaters
Rust against the night,
Thick natural gas pipes sag their shadows over cracked sidewalks,
Webs of desperate wires hang from leaning poles,
The vacant spaces between walled homes
Called streets,
A mysterious limbo of emptiness
Only rare single souls with hunched shoulders
Hands sunk in pockets,
Passing quickly from secret departure
To even darker destination.

In Imishli,
The world waits for market day,
Saturday morning,
When the bazaar springs to life
From six in the morning to just after noon,
When everyone is out,
And the streets are alive,
The children poking their noses out from metal doors,
The chickens scratching in gutters,
The sheep grazing the medians.

And then the afternoon is empty.

The void is there before dusk.

The tension seeps between the cracks.


His words echo in my mind,
I will return to the mountains of my Karabakh.
For Monday I wait no more.

No comments:

Post a Comment