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Pressing Times

(with a certain influence from Adrienne Rich)    [1]

Ignore the English subtitles and we have –
bleeding eyes,
screaming nights,
bullet to the brain,
bloated bellies,
toothless wailing
in an indifferent homage
to suffering.
So far the words have played
their silent tune of the six o’clock news:
“From you I want more than I’ve ever asked.”
Truth the tacit exchange
for the advertiser’s thirty seconds
in a sell-out to sight and sound
on the sanitised waves
reaching deep into the shallow walls
of suburbia.
Halls of power
and the creeping lie,
“a typewriter’s torrent, suddenly still.”
We all wait for the intermission of facts,
for the intercession of faith,
where truth, once told,
accumulates a following
on a pilgrimage of ‘so they says’.
I know “it’s worse than that, much worse,”
waiting for the weather to punctuate
time and place and person
in a hail of Western excuses
and analyses from the dark studio.
You lie to me in lurid ties,
in exclusives and exposés
and expedient ‘live’ coverage
with a cold candid camera
cut on the editing-floor of sincerity,
a piecemeal press panting for the ratings
and ranting for the demographic ear.
“Acceptable levels of cruelty, steadily rising,”
tease us in surprising glimpses
of a horror that surpasses the time-slot’s calling
from the dry reporter’s falling lot
and feigning care for the sensitivities
of the couch-bound grandmothers
grandly crocheting their ‘in my day’ dismissals
into the tangled tapestry of compromise.
You spoke into the lens these lies,
one watered-down half-truth upon another,
smothering the sanctity of ‘duty’:
the public demands more than you offer,
where often enough is not enough,
truth as a rough allotment,
dry crackers in a five-course meal,
polished with a sweet and bitter Chablis
of human interest.
And only half-interested in the names and places
and forlorn faces
of this dead child
or that seismic aftermath,
you devour your TV dinner
with all the insouciance of a seer
dried up of all vision and incredulity.
The black lines of the pressing page
only whisper their Soweto sins
and drowning ferries in a Timor torrent
and White House wheeling and dealing
on the manicured lawn of law and order.
Speak to me of these things
and spare no breath
from the broadsheet
and the camera’s discrete
and disconnected reality.
My ears are bigger than your tepid words,
where the world waits for its stories to be cast
broadly and without finesse
through the airwaves
on their way to market share
and filtered in the financial backrooms of industry.
The moiety of truth teases me
from the frontlines of the by-lines
in a war for credibility,
crushing the poppies of a techno-battlefield
in which satellites make all moments the same
and journalists joy-ride
their bloody palms across our flat Sony screens.
“Whatever you bring in your hands, I need to see it.”


[1] Adrienne Rich, ‘To the Days’ from ‘What Kind of Times Are These’ from Dark Fields of the Republic (1995), p.5.

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