When one is pushed off a high building, bound to a plastic chair
is there any sense of relief – that one is freed from the barbarism, I mean?
Does a crazy stillness prevail, am I feeling out for God’s hands,
stretching hoping fantastically for lift? Whispering someone’s name.
Does the smash hurt?
I imagine it like a splintering,
the clash of enormous cymbals
and then lights-out.
If the lights remain on,
darkened but still working
standard operating procedure in the city of Raqqa requires
anyone standing around to finish off the culprit with stones.
Do these creeps throw against
the miserable unworthiness of the transgressor,
or in praise of the God they love
with so much bitterness?
When those twins killed the Charlie Hebdo crowd,
and in the street finished off the prostrate policeman
through mouth-holes in their balaclavas
“We have avenged the Prophet”.
These mind-bending questions occur to me seated
on a train stalled before Reading, my forehead
pressed like a child’s against the safety glass
luminous with morning light, window gazing
at a gang of men in bright uniform
planting birch whips across a grass embankment.
The train is experiencing signal failure and
the avuncular-sounding conductor is on the tannoy
apologising. “Ladies and gentlemen…”
When one is stoned, do the blows blunt soon,
or does each sting unbearably? The latter I imagine.
Sharia Penal Codes require observers to select
stones not too large to kill by one or two throws
though not too small to be called a stone.
These rules make sense if you wish to draw the thing out,
impress a hard lesson upon any children in the crowd.
Down there is an allotment, winter locations of black soil
lines of pale leeks, little wooden huts for drinking tea and radio.
“Ladies and gentlemen…” There is still time to think about
a 16 year old Iraqi Kurd from a town called Bashiqa
famous for its olive groves who fell in love with a muslim boy.
When her father caught up with them
he turned her over to his friends
who stripped her and used
blocks of concrete against her for 30 minutes.
The retribution was filmed by men barging
with excitement to see all their frustration,
each of life’s gnawing little reverses –
that absence between what they believe they are entitled to
and what they got – avenged, made replete by skilled male hands
slinging correction down upon the whole infuriating phenomenon,
so soft and un-biddable and now humiliated all the way down to her ghastly sex,
prostrate and mewing and around her the tall men grand and ogling,
free to touch themselves and holler and then stride home,
spitting and calling for food.
“Ladies and gentlemen…”
Our train gives a gentle tug and we are on our way.