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‘War Baby’

Beautiful? Yes. Curled unborn on a statesman’s tongue.
My lips are stoppered by my thumb. But his round
wet mouth births missiles, cradles such fire.
His speech has launched me. I wail, my frail cartilage
rammed into shells. I’m his navy ship in dark waters.
I’m his warhead, his ice-white arc in the night.
Touch my hot fontanelle. Push your finger
to my new-born’s skim of hair, my milk-blossom skin.
Between my unfused bones there’s a crater
scorched and blackened by mortars.
My navel. My cord. My cordite.
Father, you’re mortal. You will choke, still
you sing me lullabies to the rattle of falling
cartridges, teethe me on a Stinger’s rim.
Marvel how quickly I grow, load the breech, press
your lesson to my shoulder, take aim.

“‘War Baby’ was written in response to an assignment from Sarah Hesketh’s excellent course Drop the Dead Poet: Making Poetry From the News. The task was to take a recent news item and write something, paying careful consideration to tone. In the end, it turned out to be an opportunity to explore my own strong, but jumbled, feelings towards Trump’s announcement ordering air strikes on Syria, whilst trying to take a wider, less time-bound, stance on war and its consequences.

I’m sure I would not have written anything quite so ‘political’ without the help of the course. I also discovered how important it is as a writer to have your boundaries tested, and to push beyond them into uncomfortable new territories.The original version has been reworked following great feedback and suggestions from the course tutor and group members via the on-line chat. Thanks to them, and The Poetry School, for propelling me so safely away from my comfort zone.”

Claire Cox was born in Hong Kong and has an M.A. in Creative Writing from Oxford Brookes University, where she was awarded the Blackwell’s Prize for best student. She is currently researching for a poetry-practice PhD at Royal Holloway for her thesis Voices from the Epicentre: the Poetry of Disaster. Her poems have appeared in magazines including Magma, Lighthouse, Envoi and Butcher’s Dog.


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Greg Goebel