The 26th of May

Or the 8th of Prairial

By Duncan Riley



Like a gathering tide the crowd flowed down the asphalt,

Its edges lapping against the banks of that concrete jungle,

Until suddenly it crashed up against that black rock, spurting flame,

A great chain of humanity, like a line of sulfur, awaiting a spark,

Until a great torch, spurting smoke, whirled through the air,

And a millennia’s worth of grievances burst against the wind.


Stones whistled; glass shattered,

Batons fell; bones broke,

Angry words took wing from tired voices,

Only to be chased off by bullets,

A haze of gas hid a thousand crimes,

And we know from which side all these crimes derived.


Some will talk of property,

Others of law and order,

Some will speak of peace,

And others of disorder,

All I can ask of you is,

“When a storm has been gathering for five hundred years,

Can you really fault the lightning?”


I don’t know whose fault it was, who started this,

Whether to blame those men like ghouls in their helmets and their armor,

Or to hurl my rage at men in suits, now safe abed, far from the clash of arms,

I don’t know where this world of horror began, nor where it will end.


All I know is that when I see a boot crushing a human being,

I will side with the human being, not the boot.

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