The Virus of Nationalism

This poem which I wrote in 2000 seems even more apposite today.

The Virus of Nationalism

Driving to work
I heard it on the radio
a woman speaking in erudite terms
of war
a General speaking of his real experiences
of war
while the blossoms of spring
were sitting pretty on branches
she spoke of the
virus of nationalism
both within and without

Sometimes it creeps up on me
and nips my shin
with razor sharp teeth
I whack it away
with a sharp flick
of the wrist
But it is only partially stunned
always lurking somewhere
in the dark
ready and waiting
to start
a war

while the blossoms of Spring
sit pretty on branches

A Hundred Year Old Humpback Whale

Here is the poem I’ve chosen for January 2018. Written in Gartmore, Scotland in 2001.  A reminder that we share the planet with wonderful creatures.

A Hundred Year Old Humpback Whale

A hundred year old Humpback whale
swims onto a northern beach
after one hundred years
in deep oceans
A slumped and clumsy form
laying on a shingled beach
so that if you could roll it over
you would see indentations of
small stones in its ancient skin

The newspaper says
it swam to the beach
to die
– it was very weak
– it was humanely killed
A hundred years spent
swimming across oceans
ended by human hand
on dry land

How can we know
what that whale wanted
More likely, “Air! More Air!”
to give itself a few more moments
Leaving its watery home
to take a chance on land
What did it have to lose?

But in its dying breath
did it realise its mistake?
or, loving the deeps
more than the land
preferred not to be drowned
by its loving watery home?

We will never know
A whale’s life is not ours
We breathe the same air
but sing our own
quite different songs


While a president encourages wars and discord a five year old Mexican American girl in an elementary school in California breaks down barriers

At a book signing in an Elementary school in California

A little girl
No more than five
Puts her head close to mine
And whispers, “¿Hablas español?”
I answer, “No” in English
Then whisper back.
The few words I know

She smiles in recognition
A new world opened
To the two of us
Barriers broken
Divisions meaningless
In our eyes


Sue Bates

Autumn 2017