Murder does not begin with piles of glasses,
Gases, gates and railway tracks
Or the clack clack clack of a million boots in tune
Or the phosphorous perfume of the jagged ack ack ack
The weapons stash
Or lives mown down, the slash of knives, the twisted iron fence
Or gashes carved in innocence.
Murder begins with not wanting to cause offence,
Politely keeping up pretence,
Ignoring what they say for dulce and decorum’s sake,
Murder begins with the proffered hand you shake,
The gift you take,
The offering to heal the rift because the coffin’s beckoning
And the clink of coins in coffers
Making conscience-cleansing reckonings.
Murder begins with parental pacifist cajoling,
With smiles kept because the camera’s rolling,
Familial ignorance unmentioned for another year.
Murder begins with the lie that it was different then.
Murder begins with the lie that those who do nothing we can still call good.
Murder begins with the lie that anger’s worse than apathy and indifference,
That one voice cannot make a difference,
Murder begins with the lie that it’s a social crime to be pedantic,
That hatred’s just semantics,
That a joke is just a joke
And words are less than sticks and stones,
That peace is worth the price you pay
That nothing’s worth the fight today
And you should only speak if you’ve got something nice to say
Think twice today
The mercury is high today
The sun is bright today
There’s no clouds in the sky today
So bite your tongue before you give advice today
Just because there might one day
Be someone, perhaps, someone not yet born, in a war torn land you couldn’t point to on a map lying watching her dreams go out one by one like the stars disappearing behind the mortar smoke at night one day
Because you made this one small oversight today.
Murder begins with mutterings on the train,
With gazes turned away at not quite racist utterings,
With the rain that makes it easier not to go out today.
Murder begins with words you file away as fact
And ends with acts you laid down years before as laziness and tact.
Murder begins with you, listening to this poem, as the first line blurs
And ends with piles of glasses,
Gases, gates, and railway tracks
And tomorrows you laugh off today because they’re simply too absurd.