h1n1, the pandemic (a poem)

cause let’s face it rich white folk
mostly die of heart attacks / not aids
& in our world
bored teenagers rope red
necks / for thrills
& accidentally asphyxiate
in black suspender lace / they
strap body smack
& traffic white lines / to fall
before some firing squad on a
sandy thai—

ok / for real / i’ll just say it:
h1n1 is not a plague

a pandemic is the fate of
small namibian girls
when russian gun runners
arm hungry knock-kneed boys
on the tattered african corners
where a dozen ream of bullets
cost less than a tin-can toy

ok / so / for real
let me just say
(with all due respect for the dead)
h1n1 is not a pandemic
h1n1 is two weeks in bed
h1n1 is not a pandemic
that’s right / i said

will some brown mama scrape
her own thigh flesh to feed a
broken eyed babe with
screaming shrink-wrapped
ribs / because watch out
h1n1 is here
/ will
congalese militia rape every
female in the village / grandmother
with child / child or not / will
government soldiers
machete out the eyes of
princesses who weep
too much / because h1n1

i mean / fuck / a pandemic is twelve-year
old chinese sweat shop slaves
for david jones designer boxers
h1n1 is three months away from
being a flu shot / was
mexico’s problem / till some
new york accountant’s daughter
didn’t wake up / h1n1 has
crossed the borders
the real hysteria is
& i don’t mind saying it:

h1n1 / will not discriminate

scales the high rise office blocks
of respecta—first world folk
ladies & gentleman
the problem straight:
h1n1 / the pandemic
does not recognise hate
h1n1 / the pandemic
is secular / interracial
& goddamn
we need
to vaccinate

Maxine Beneba Clarke

Maxine Beneba Clarke is an Australian author and slam poet of Afro- Caribbean descent. Her short fiction collection Foreign Soil won the 2015 ABIA Award for Best Literary Fiction and the 2015 Indie Award for Best Debut Fiction, and was shortlisted for the Stella Prize. Her memoir, The Hate Race, her poetry collection Carrying the World, and her first children’s book, The Patchwork Bike, will be published by Hachette in late 2016.

More by Maxine Beneba Clarke ›

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  1. I don't know whether to comment over here or over there now. The best way for me to read a poem like this is as a kind of channeling of energy. The language acts like a net or a filter through which the energy, a combination of emotion and intelligence, is refined and clarified, made more direct and intense and then fired into the brain of the reader like a bolt of understanding which leaves no escape nor possibility of denial. It is like a sci-fi thought laser cutting through the hypocricy and bullshit which forms the majority of our culture and exposing the truth in a way journalism never could. Poetry is the best description of the world in that fuses both intelligence and emotion and the magical third, the alchemy. I will go copy and paste this over into Overland now Maxine because there is nothing I like better than saying the words hypocricy and bullshit in a place where the movers and shakers of Australian Kulture may stumble over them.

    1. Re: Paul commented on h1n1, the pandemic (a poem) Paul, what’s with the attitude? Who are these ‘movers and shakers’ with whom you have a problem? If it’s addressed to me, well, I wish I could help you but, sadly, my ability to move and shake Australian culture (with or without the K) is rather limited.

  2. No, sorry Jeff, not you. You are doing a fantastic job under the most difficult of circumstances, I wish you would post more of your double barrelled pieces yourself. I mean the people who the poem is aimed at, who created the 'mind-pandemic'. The attitude is just for fun, I like playing dress-ups.

  3. Besides anyone who annoys the neighbours with the fantabulous Desmond Dekker is a friend of mine. "Wake up every morning slaving for bread,

  4. But more importantly, Jeff, and don't let this comment out, I don't want it, I am just too lazy to get your email, this is probably the best poem that will be written in the country this year. It is fucking brilliant. The craft and technical skill is matched by the brilliance of the thought. You know I know what I am talking about and this is a huge poem. Think about Picasso's Guernica, is it about the Facists bombing a town noone ever heard about? This poem is the equal of that painting.

    1. Re: maxine commented on h1n1, the pandemic (a poem)

      On 14/06/09 8:39 AM, \”IntenseDebate Notifications\” <notifications@intensedebatemail.com> wrote:


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