Duncan Forbes

Old News

We can remember where we were
When President Kennedy died,
Or rather where we heard the news
Of that momentous motorcade,
The assassination which defined
Both who we were and what we are,
Till afterwards Jack Ruby shot
Lee Harvey Oswald in the gut
And ramified the complex plot.

We thought that Cuba and its aims,
The missiles and the missile sites
Would somehow lead to World War 3,
And held our breaths while Kennedy,
Castro and Kruschev all conferred,
Expecting Hiroshima again
And Nagasaki bombs’ hard rain
To detonate their megatons
And to obliterate our homes.

And I remember Vietnam
But on the television news;
The war in black and white went on
In corners of the living room
With napalm and B52s,
The Mekong Delta and Saigon
Recaptured by the Vietcong
And all the body bags which groaned
My country right or wrong.

Do you remember where you were
When the Berlin Wall was built
In warfare designated Cold?
The blocks of concrete ran between
The DDR and West Berlin
And the Iron Curtain culled and killed,
Until in 1989
The Brandenburg divide was scaled
And both Berlins were overrun.

And what were you and who were you
When the World Trade Centre fell
And this new century felt new
As both the towers, twin towers, collapsed
In powder, rubble, smoke and flames
Against a sky September blue,
The girders melted in the heat,
And trapped executives in frames
Threw down their lives from fire to street?

And the Boxing Day Tsunami
What did you make of that?
A quake below the ocean floor
Which felled a town and islands flat
And watched to see how well or far
The earthbound world would float,
Which drowned the railway and the farm,
The tourist and the fishing boat,
The coconut farm and yacht.

Yet when they landed on the moon
And saw from there our planet-home
Like a blue dot, a sphere alone,
The image came to underline
Our human insignificance
In the infinitude of space,
While precious years and squandered days
With all that we remember since
Diminish into vanished time.

is poems have won a Gregory Award and First Prize in the TLS/ Blackwells Competition. His work has also been widely published in journals, magazines and anthologies as well as being broadcast on radio both in the UK and the US. A selection was included by Faber in Poetry Introduction 5. He has read his poems at over 50 venues and at various literary festivals. He has judged poetry prizes and run creative writing groups. He has lectured on, and taught, literature and History of Art.