Listen, they say there’s a war coming.
I’ve packed my survival kits
and reinforced the bunkers
But I need to know, have you?

They tell me you’re up to something,
that I need to be on my toes.
I keep looking back, and all I see
Is my own dark shadow;
Following me, wherever I go.

Listen, I think they’re getting to me
I can’t sleep through the night anymore.
Sweaty brows and Cold Starts keep me up.
I need to know, does sleep evade you too?

They tell me I can’t trust you,
that you’ve sharpened all your blades
And I shouldn’t walk bareback at all.
So I roam about with a suicide vest
on the off chance that they’re right.

I say it’s overwhelming, unnerving,
they’re adamant it’s just to scare you.
“It’s never meant to be used”, they smile;
“No harm, no foul”, just do or die. . .

I don’t know how to tell them
that when the Banshee sings,
there is no music to be heard,
there is no beauty
in hemorrhaging mid-chorus.

I let one final sigh into the night.
How many kilotons of death
would it take
to put the fear of God into men?
I sense that they’re not listening,

But I need to know, are you?


Note from the Poet:
I was among a few of the young professionals in nuclear policy who were hosted by the Stimson Center here, in Islamabad for a dinner workshop. The food was great; the chef seemed to have made a point of going easy on the spices, leaving all the heat for the discussions that ensued through dinner.

A repeated theme there and at the events that followed was the Indian administration’s lack of interest in coming to the negotiating table. Of course, the infamous Cold Start and our own NASR were mentioned with great passion too. I couldn’t help but wonder though, what use is all this rigorous consultation of history, of statistical analyses, of all our nuclear learning? Sure it’s the source that we draw all our conclusions from, but to what end? To whom do we address our concerns when there is no one listening on the other side?

Here’s hoping we can one day overcome our differences in a manner that prepares us for the mammoth task of laying the foundation for a lasting peace in the region.


Image: Agustín López Pérez-Smithsonian, Pinterest

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