Poetry Reminders For Putin Apologists Dressed in Progressive Clothes

The following are two poems I wrote around 2017-8 in the thick of  Assad’s war in Syria. Particularly in Italy where the  demographics are  greatly skewed towards an elderly population, the lens many people on the Left are adopting today to read the invasion of Ukraine by Putin’s army and the  grassroot resistance stops either at  WWII,  the Cold War or, at best, at  the Fall of the Berlin Wall. The past eleven years with the experiences of uprisings  and resistance in North Africa and the Middle East have magically disappeared  from many of the  so called non institutional Left horizons, yet many lessons can be garnered there.

Many an  elderly commentator waxes nostalgic for a resistance that exhibits purity, or is ‘moral’, as described today by a very well known commentator in Italy’s leading Left daily, who even went so far as mentioning Syria ‘s Kurdish “Rojava” resistance as a shiny example  fulfilling the parameters of purity that could win the hearts and minds of the ever-so demanding West progressives. But  not even such morally upstanding struggle would qualify as a resistance  that could be justifiably aided.  The commentary was made to attempt  to justify the distance between the Italian Resistance during WWII and the rightful  international assistance to the Partisans from what is happening today in Ukraine. As it turns out, the commentator’s argument is that it was justifiable to aid the Partisans at that time because  the Allies were already  formally nations at war with Italy, the boots were on the ground and there was a possibility of winning the war, as the Allies themselves were doing the bombing. In all conscience I am greatly embarrassed by these calculations and arguments when I think of Ukrainians resisting under the direst of circumstances and people in Russia expressing their dissent and paying the price for it.

Many of these vocal  commentators were conspicuously absent when it came to discussing the deaths by sarin poison delivered by Russian and Assad rockets in Douma and Eastern Ghouta in Syria in 2018, didn’t bat an eye as Russian artillery and air raids destroyed hospitals in cities like Aleppo. I guess they were not as worthy as other resisters whom the progressive European and US left could more easily identify with. They did not fall within the customary Left tropes. Today, many of these same people who were silent about what was happening in Syria and were actually berating anyone who mentioned it accusing them of being US apologists,  are denouncing the US hypocrisy on the subject by posting pictures of the US bombings of similar buildings, yet  they sure did not spend many words when it was happening in Syria by  Assad and Putin’s hand.

And in the spirit of ever present fixation on post-truth concepts of performance and dominance of narration, what has been chased out of the picture are actual dead bodies or recently birthed ones. One might call these bodies, dead or alive,  the proof of the pudding,  yet these days their very existence is contested and relegated to the domain of partisan truth.  In my poem “Clutching at Life”  I was appealing to the conscience of many who upon seeing the dead bodies of people, children and adults, poisoned by gas kept referring to them as “the alleged dead”. And now, with the landing in Europe of a topos deeply loved  by right wing US pundits and talk-show hosts, i.e.,  the concept of “crisis actors” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crisis_actor , even a Ukrainian woman in labour having to flee a maternity hospital shelled by Russian and even probably the baby, have to prove to the ever demanding European progressives that they are indeed victims and not impersonating victimhood for propaganda purposes. My second poem “For Aleppo” speaks to that kind of callousness, one that I find particularly pernicious when practiced  in a country like Italy that endlessly proclaims a Gramscian hatred for “the Indifferent’ and has been fed for seventy years a steady diet of  WWII Italian Resistance narratives.




Clutching At Life


When the alleged dead shall rise
to haunt us in the deep of night
with their lungs
gasping for air
their eyes full of horror
clutching at life
as it gallops away
shall we beg them
to quietly return
to their alleged heavens
and hells
and leave us
in our earthly limbo
our foreheads bleeding
from the thorns
scratching our conscience
that no balm can ever assuage?



For Aleppo

April is the cruelest month of all

said the crow

as she sat in mourning

near the crumbled wall

sheltering ten tender bodies

next to the last pediatrician

who wouldn’t leave the city


In the olden days,

there had been a port

near these very same walls

and  Jonas had been dragged there

by an obstinate old whale

who wouldn’t let him

escape the gift of prophecy


Can’t turn your face away

from the evil that was wrought

upon your fellow beings

on the land, the air and the sea


Can’t turn away

cried the crow

as she pecked the salt

of indifference and deception

to make its gullet

turn it into tears.