Finest: Jessica Mookherjee – “The Killing”

Jess Mookherjee Finest

The Killing
Thanks to Simon Tje Jones

The oud and the muezzin keep to time, in the café, he is locked
in with drones, tear-dropped gas as they watch swarms on the borders
on Al Jazeera. Mint tea with the old man, who says over and over Misbaha, Tasbih, Sibha

Live from Dimas, Live from Damascus, Live from Qalamoun.

The leaders send the soldier forward, to move through the dead. He has pictures
of Sharon in his tent. His sergeant radios every day for equipment.

The old man thumbs his beads, in the café, a wall of smoke, springtime, they watch
Al Jazeera, drink hibiscus tea with Moosa, Ahmed and Rahim. Watch the old man
say prayers over and over, Misbaha, Tasbih, Sibha. An offer of sour plum.

The leaders send the soldier forward, he has pictures of Sharon next to his bed.
In the morning he’s told to move through the dead. His sergeant radios for equipment.

Live from Dimas, Live from Damascus, Live from Qalamoun.

The desert drops tears like drones on the dead. He is locked and loaded, Al Jazeera
says, he’s invited Ibrahim to taste his wife’s bread, and the old man smooths
the beads in his hand, Misbaha, Tasbih, Sibha, and the waiter offers him mint tea.

The leaders send the soldiers forward, tell them to move silently through
the dead, give them canisters of water, they have pictures of Sharon in their tents.

“This poem means a lot to me because it was written in a highly collaborative way. A friend was putting together a collection of poems inspired by the band, the Cure. I was talking about to a musician/ songwriter friend about the differences between songs and poems, the similarities and differences. We both liked the Cure and we kicked a few ideas around together. It was his idea to be inspired by the Cure song ‘Killing an Arab’ and very topical as war and terrorism on the news all the time. I was struck by the intertwined lives of the ordinary people sitting in cafes and just wanting to feed their families and how faceless modern warfare was too, and also how helpless many of the soldiers are too. My friend had visited the middle east and told me of his experiences there. All of this mixed together to create this poem. I like it because it’s a kind of cut up, fragmented, inspired by lots of things and my friend’s influence too, whose creativity and bravery touched me.”

Jessica Mookherjee is a poet of Bengali origin. She grew up in Wales and now lives in Kent. She has been published in many print and online journals and anthologies including Agenda, Ink, Sweat and Tears, The North, Rialto, Under the Radar, Poetry Wales, Clear Poetry, and the Bloodaxe Anthology Staying Human. She was highly commended for best single poem in the Forward Prize 2017. Her first collection is Flood (Cultured Llama, 2018) and her second, Tigress, is published by Nine Arches Press. She is co-editor of Against the Grain Poetry Press. She has a new pamphlet to be published in the autumn called Playlist, with Broken Sleep Books. Jessica works in public health and is a board member of the Poetry Society.

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