The Peace Deal
You’ve made holy hostile,
displayed what's sacred in a cage of bones.
Hard shell rain masks your fragility,
but our bits of grit grow inside you,
lodgers in our homeland.
Small wonder we make defensive fists,
flare up into our own oblivion
as you bark bullets at brothers and babies
deny us all a future.
We’ve forgotten where the boundaries used to be,
crossed into indecency too many times,
processes ceased, war's volcano erupts
over all our lives,
encases us in cold, hard selves
makes us refugees from love.
Our grievances hang
like raindrops on a washing line
waiting for their turn to fall.
For a moment in the dark
it's still as premonition
is one lifetime of land
worth so much death?
Would our children want this?
Could we just end it now?
Not with a deal like Versailles
when anger rose again like nausea,
but with something that simply says
break the shells open,
come, there’s room beside me still,
say it in all the languages
in all the nations across all time
so we really understand.
Make it the war humanity won.
Featured Entry by JC
‘Genocide! Are you fuckin insane, old man?’
The boy leaned back, looping hands behind his head in such an utterly relaxed manner you’d have sworn the hardwood seat under his skinny shanks was a padded armchair. When a laugh erupted from his swollen, cupid lips I found it hard not to flinch. Those artificially reddened labials both revolted and fascinated me. How such disgusting objects could make teenage girls swoon was an utter mystery.
Now the same thick lips were moulding themselves into a sneer. ‘Not saying my music doesn’t kill. It knocks ’em dead – but not literally.’
I took a deep breath. ‘Mr Jeremiah, you seem unwilling or unable to comprehend your situation.’
His eyes narrowed a fraction, the only indication that my less than fawning reply had unsettled him.
‘Just Jeremiah, Grandpa,’ he drawled. For the first time he looked at me closely. ‘Even you must have heard of Jeremiah.’
I had but only because of my twelve-year-old daughter. Thank God she wasn’t yet of an age to attend this creep’s concerts. Grandpa indeed! At thirty-four I was the youngest ambassador Earth Corps had ever stationed on a foreign planet. Nevertheless I could hear myself adopting the stiffened tones of someone twice my age.
‘You knew the rules and regulations regarding visitors to Harmony. You signed documents to that effect.’
He shrugged. ‘They gave me a heap of paperwork. It’s the same on every planet. If I tried reading everything I was asked to sign I wouldn’t have time to do my concerts. My manager boils it all down for me.’
Are you saying your manager failed to stress the vital importance of staying covered up in public?
He leaned forward. ‘Hey, I gave it a go. All I can say is, you try putting on a performance in those long, fuckin robes. They’re suffocating! Besides, the chicks paid to see me! So what if I threw the hood off?’
‘Followed by the robes themselves. In the minutes before local authorities ran on with blankets you pranced about the stage in your underwear.’
He grinned. ‘The fans loved it – screamed in ecstasy. Those girls couldn’t get enough. Wish I could have seen through _their_ robes.’
‘The ones at your concert were only a fraction of the girls who witnessed your antics. Half the planet was watching on their home screens.’
Again he shrugged. ‘I gave them their money’s worth. I’m telling you they loved me. Their fricken texts came pouring in. Half of them wanted to marry me.’
‘All of them wanted to marry you.’
‘I take it you don’t bother to read your texts either.’
The smirk finally began fading from his face.
‘Did you never wonder why the laws of this planet make unmarried males and females cover up in public?’
He shook his head. ‘Some religious thing?’
‘No. Not some religious thing. Some chemical thing.’
Jeremiah looked at me with fish eyes.
‘Five hundred years ago Harmony was settled by a group of pilgrims searching for a haven. They claimed this planet as their own, put down roots and then cut themselves off entirely from Earth and its colonies.’
‘How could they do that? Surely the Home world would insist…’
‘They were able to do it because they’d brought with them an arsenal of weapons so numerous and so deadly that Earth Corps balked at sending in forces. The people of Harmony threatened war if not left alone. Earth thought it politic to stay clear and allow this arm of the galaxy to remain in peace.’
He blinked. ‘But they let _you_ come to their planet. And me.’
‘New times, new leaders. Only in the last few years has Harmony begun responding to Earth’s diplomatic overtures. Cautiously they are opening their doors. Every world has something to offer. No planet should be an island.’
‘Where’s their gratitude then? I’ve given them my music – bit o culture. Why have they shut me in this cell and allowed no visitors but you?’
‘You really don’t know?’
He stood up, throwing out his arms and snarling, ‘I really don’t care. You’re Earth’s ambassador. It’s your job to get me out of here. And I mean now. This has gone on too long. I have friends in high places.’
‘Who want nothing to do with genocide.’
‘Genocide? There you go again. I haven’t killed anyone, you moron.’
‘Ever since your concert influential voices on Harmony’s Council have been calling for war. They claim Earth sent you as a secret weapon targeting their chemical imbalance.’
‘A genetically inherited imbalance in their brain chemistry. It can make them respond with emotion before reason but mainly it causes depression. During puberty the effect can worsen.’
At his blank look I tried a new tack. ‘Tell me, Jeremiah, how many teenagers have fallen for you since you attained stardom?’
He preened. ‘Well, plenty.’ His bow lips puckered as he relished the thought. Then he saw my expression. ‘So what? Kids get crushes. It’s part of life.’
‘And what do you do about the myriad of love notes you receive?’
‘Do? Nothing. What’s to do? I move on. They get over it.’
‘Because crushes are childish.’
‘And maturing teenagers learn this painful lesson. They learn to set their sights more realistically and to stem those rushes of emotion – at least until they see signs that their love will be returned.’
‘Couldn’t have put it better, old man.’
‘Except when their brains have a chemical imbalance.’
‘Do you remember the high you got from your first teen crush – when you fell so completely for some beautiful girl? Remember your devastation when it all crumbled to dust?’
He shrugged. ‘Sure. Felt like my world had come to an end but I got over it.’
‘It helped that your brain’s chemistry was in balance. If it hadn’t been you might have become suicidal.’
Jeremiah paled as my words sank in.
‘Are you saying…?’
I signalled to a guard who entered with a tele-screen. He hung it up, turned it on and walked out.
‘What I’m saying is, I can’t help you, Jeremiah.’
His eyes weren’t on me. They were on the endless stream of coffins moving slowly through streets packed with mourners.
I walked to the doorway and spoke softly. ‘There won’t be a war. This morning Earth agreed to a peace deal. The price was you.’
But it is all going to change. He wanted my room when I went away for college. I did not let him have it even though I knew I was not coming back. In reality, all that he wanted was me. He never said it and I never had any insight into what was portrayed so blatantly by his light brown eyes, which were the same as mine. He was germinating into becoming more like me. That was not necessarily a bad thing. Not necessarily a good thing either. It would involve spending countless hours in bed, studying, just to avoid the living room confrontations. It would also involve performing brilliantly at everything. Two sides to every coin, they say. They are right. He was going through a pain of his own and for me that was a lucrative situation to take the first step. I wanted to talk to him, hoping that pain and pain are like cold and cold. Cold kills cold.The pain could act as an ice breaker. After all, we’d all had enough of the snow cones by now. I was hoping to spring ‘spring' into action.
I see him shut his french books. I call him out to the yard. It is covered by a beautiful layer of green grass longing to be stepped on. It is the place that carries memories of us playing cricket and breaking into a fight. Our parents always thought it was just some good old sibling rivalry. It was not. There are corn fritters, on a table, with some orange soda. There is also a brand new cricket set. He is only sixteen and his fantasy of the old bat and ball game hasn’t been lost under the worldly pressures yet. There’s a handmade standing card, placed strategically so as to be visible as soon as someone enters the surroundings. It reads out, ‘You Win, Brother’. My peace offering.
He comes out looking surprised. He sits down at the table I have set for him. I know he wants to, but he will not cry. Instead, he looks up at me, accepting my offer without any hesitation and complying with his half of the deal; forgiving me for every single time I have been cold to him. He probably did not even need an apology; there was but only a longing for love in his heart. He needed nothing else. But it was necessary for me to see this brother and sister have their first date.