Here’s the title poem from Paul Lee’s collection, “Us: who made History”, which will be available from Original Plus shortly.
Us: who made History
We were not in the lifeboats pulling away
from the sinking Titanic. Our crucifixes
lined the Appian Way, Spartacus alone
remembered. Our bones fill charnel pits
and ossuaries across the world. All breathe
the dust the crematoria belched. One
of us is born every ten seconds, each
of us unique. We are said to be too many.
We were the moved, the shaken, the ones Napoleon
called crapauds, fit only to fight his wars.
Yes, we deferred, we followed, but were
we ever really fooled? We are the queue,
the column, the crowd, the mob, the mass, the rabble,
the market, consumers, patronised and condescended
by those whose blood was red as ours, whose shit
and piss shared the sewers. We built their world.
What was your pyramid a monument to,
Pharaoh? Where is your empire now, Caesar,
your thousand-year Reich, Fuhrer, your union
of republics, Comrade General Secretary?
You die, you are dead, like us, a class
including all. Dust hath closed Helen’s
eye. Your deaths, attended, single, are remembered
and recorded. We die in anonymous millions,
en masse, for we are to spare, mourned, if at all,
by a few, not the millions filing past tombs
in public mausoleums, memorials to the monsters
hating or indifferent to their own kind, who ordered
genocides, Gulags, final solutions, famines,
intifadas, pogroms, deportations, massacres,
exiles, ethnic cleansings. Our hunger
for power was petty, our appetites small.
By Emma Lee