Garden of death

A glade in the forest
Broken metal through the trees
crusted with a shroud of white snow
and traces of black poison dust.

The soldier walks slowly, carefully
across the glade.
Last summer’s grass fading and broken
frozen in the cold.

Thick gloves and radiation suit
detector in his hand
looking for the cluster bombs
between the trees
waiting to bloom
like spring flowers
of death
at a touch.

His friend walks carefully behind
detector too
looking for a different threat
the needles of death
a few centimetres down
that do not explode
that just glow
with traces of radiation
as they will still do
4,000 years
after the cluster bombs
have dissolved with the leaves.

They work carefully
one in fear of sudden death
the other in fear of slow death
walking through the lethal maze
a little outside the village.

They pause
the broken head
of a child's doll
beside a broken tree

The children don't play here
any more.
They never will.

The echoes of time
rattle with the canons
of the A10 Tankbuster
silencing the other killers
70 times a second

Nato's angels of death
dancing in the sky
over Serbia's angels of death
cowed in their last seconds
by the same fear
they in their turn had cast
minutes before.

The soldier and scientist slowly move on
through the garden of death
saddened for the village children
who will die more slowly
than their friends
who played their last game
in this frozen glade
a year before.

And the masters of war
still lie and deceive
in their corridors of power.
The child killers
with confident voices
and devious friends
secure in their technologies
of hate and fear.

Down in the village
two young volunteers
play with the traumatised children
the ones who played in the tank
when the photographer asked them to.

They are teaching
how to paint and sing
how to purge the memories
of bombs and guns
torn limbs and dying friends.

They play the candle game
one for each lost friend
and one for each soldier.
one for the pilot
one for the general
and one for themselves
They were all children once.
One day, sooner or later
they will all
join the angels
beyond the garden of death.

Afon Clearwen
11 January 2001

"The Team was in Kosovo in November 2000 and was able to visit 11 of the DU-targeted sites …most of the sites visited by the Team had also been used for mines and cluster bombs during the Kosovo conflict. The Team therefore was accompanied throughout the exercise by specialized military EOD (Exploded Ordnance Disposal) officers. The presence of mines and cluster bombs was a major impediment to studying many of the sites more fully."

from UNEP report

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