Blue Tarpaulin

I am blue plastic, a simple thing

Mass produced, distributed in panic, witness to horror, immune to it

I have no weight, no voice, no sight

I am received into the shaking arms

of orphaned children, skeletal widows

and with me comes a kind of hope

beyond the comprehension of those who finance my manufacture

I have no bones, no arms, no brain,

but I am the world's unlikely protector in the places it prefers to forget

I am a stretcher for a bleeding mine victim

I am shoes, twisted with twine onto a leper's stumps, rainy season

I am the bed on which babies are born

I am the shroud in which the massacre victims are covered

I have been traded for food, bought for sexual favours

I have been a church, a hospital, a school

I have travelled to the world's worst places

to squalid camps too long extant, and never-ending war zones

I have no heart, no hands

but sometimes I give more than those who do

My shelter comforts the homeless

I collect rainwater to alleviate thirst

I envelop bags of grain to keep them dry

Secured by metal-lined perforations, I protect boxes of medicine

on trucks climbing mountain passes to plague-filled outposts

I am a roof, a wall, a house

Make me a frame and I will make you

a dwelling for a dozen belly-swelled children

Or a dying room for a moribund mother with AIDS

ignored by government and family

From slits in me

the desert eyes of unveiled women peep nervously at their world

watching out for the big white water truck, the white jeep, the white tank

Hoping it will be a white tank

Since here, a sad perversion of God's colours

makes green the hue of warring military

In bombed out villages I provide so many roofs

that from overhead choppers

I look like one big ruins-and-blue patchwork quilt

What a sorry bed to lie on

I am a simple thing

I have no love

I have no politics

I am all-seeing of man's brutal follies, although I have no eyes

I ask no recompense

I make no comment

I do so much

I am blue plastic with white letters

and a well-meaning symbol

that sullies fast with desert dust and mountain muck

Until the letters have faded

into a shade somewhere between nightmare and desperation

But my blueness stays

all around the world

desert, mountain, riverbank, plain

A humble, dirty, plastic blue, ubiquitous, necessary


I am the most that can be done, under the circumstances