Hero — a poem by Kevin Higgins

Image: Jaymo.
Image: Jaymo.

Hero

By Kevin Higgins

The day you fall, bawling into the world
in a village northeast of Salisbury;
in faraway Florida, Sidney Poitier is busy

being one day old. In Moscow heavily scarved
women mark the anniversary:
Lenin – One Month Dead Today.

Your two older brothers soon join him.
And your father, Gabriel, scarpers.
You are ten years old. It is nineteen thirty four

and all down to you. Mission schools,
then university. You are a teacher.
Your only son dies of cerebral malaria.

For subversive speech,
you are under arrest. Ten years.
You study law. The Party

chooses you. Rocket launchers
and Chairman Mao. You look in the mirror
one morning and see: His Excellency Comrade President.

Your name on the lips of a continent.
In the final act you start gifting
farms the white man stole

to your friends. One for everyone
in the audience. As the supermarket shelves empty,
your life fills up with dead people.

The country may be living on Styrofoam and grass
but will sing your name
one last time. The air fat with laughter

as you step into the TV to say
“We don’t cheat; but on the other side…
all sorts of irregularities.”

A foreign journalist is arrested
on the tenth floor
of a hotel near the airport.

Silence,
but for the sound of an occasional dog barking
on Samora Machel Avenue.

Outside your office the sign:
Mugabe is right. It is two thousand and eight
and all down to you.

Song of Songs 2.0: New & Selected Poems is published by Salmon and includes a substantial number of new poems as well as selections from his six previous poetry collections. Click here for more information.

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Kevin Higgins

Kevin Higgins has published four collections of poetry with Salmon, the most recent of which is The Ghost In The Lobby (2014). His best-selling first collection, The Boy With No Face, was short-listed for the 2006 Strong Award for Best First Collection by an Irish poet. His poetry is discussed in The Cambridge Introduction to Modern Irish Poetry and features in the generation defining anthology Identity Parade –New British and Irish Poets (Ed. Roddy Lumsden, Bloodaxe, 2010) and in The Hundred Years’ War: modern war poems (Ed. Neil Astley, Bloodaxe, April 2014). A collection of Kevin’s essays and book reviews, Mentioning The War, was published by Salmon Poetry in 2012. Kevin’s poetry has been translated into Greek, Spanish, Turkish, Italian, Japanese, Russian, & Portuguese. In 2014 Kevin's poetry was the subject of a paper 'The Case of Kevin Higgins, or, 'The Present State of Irish Poetic Satire' presented by David Wheatley at a Symposium on Satire at the University of Aberdeen. He was Satirist-in-Residence at the Bogman’s Cannon (2015-16). '2016 - The Selected Satires of Kevin Higgins' was published by NuaScéalta in early 2016. A pamphlet of Kevin’s political poems The Minister For Poetry Has Decreed was published in December by the Culture Matters imprint of the UK based Manifesto Press; Song of Songs 2:0 - New and Selected Poems will be published by Salmon in April 2017. His poems have been praised by, among others, Tony Blair’s biographer John Rentoul, Observer columnist Nick Cohen, and Sunday Independent columnist Gene Kerrigan; and have been quoted in The Daily Telegraph, The Times (UK), The Independent, and The Daily Mirror. The Stinging Fly magazine recently described Kevin as "likely the most read living poet in Ireland." Last summer Kevin was suspended from the UK Labour Party, of which he is an overseas member, for the crime of writing satirical poems about Hilary Benn MP, John Mann MP, and Jeremy Corbyn’s critics in the media.