Hero

Kevin Higgins

The day you fall, bawling into the world 
in a village northeast of Salisbury; 
in faraway Florida, Sidney Poitier is busy 

being one day old. In Moscow heavily scarved 
women mark the anniversary: 
Lenin – One Month Dead Today. 

Your two older brothers soon join him. 
And your father, Gabriel, scarpers. 
You are ten years old. It is nineteen thirty four 

and all down to you. Mission schools, 
then university. You are a teacher. 
Your only son dies of cerebral malaria. 

For subversive speech, 
you are under arrest. Ten years. 
You study law. The Party 

chooses you. Rocket launchers 
and Chairman Mao. You look in the mirror 
one morning and see: His Excellency Comrade President. 

Your name on the lips of a continent. 
In the final act you start gifting 
farms the white man stole 

to your friends. One for everyone 
in the audience. As the supermarket shelves empty, 
your life fills up with dead people. 

The country may be living on Styrofoam and grass 
but will sing your name 
one last time. The air fat with laughter 

as you step into the TV to say 
“We don’t cheat; but on the other side… 
all sorts of irregularities.” 

A foreign journalist is arrested 
on the tenth floor 
of a hotel near the airport. 

Silence, 
but for the sound of an occasional dog barking 
on Samora Machel Avenue. 

Outside your office the sign: 
Mugabe is right. It is two thousand and eight 
and all down to you. 

from Frightening New Furniture (Salmon Poetry, 2010) 

Page , Poetry Ireland Review