Saturday, 22 October 2011

You think this is hard?

You think this is hard, girl? I'll tell you what's hard.
It's hard, trading your fur coat, the only valuable thing you were allowed to bring,
For a handful of eggs, through the barred window of the cattle truck. It's hard,
Living in a small hut, in a small village, thousands of miles from home, out on
The steppes. It's hard, picking cotton all day, and fighting a losing battle with
Bed bugs all night. It's hard, seeing your father taken away for questioning,
Seeing him come home, and seeing him die days later, kidneys destroyed.
It's hard waking in the cold dawn, trudging from hut to hut, collecting one cow
Here, one cow there; saddling up the horse and riding out with the cattle onto
The steppe; spending the whole day out there, furtively stealing a drink of warm
Milk to assuage the gnawing hunger, hoping no one notices the fall in yield.
It's hard doing that when you're nine years old. It's hard being hungry all day and
Hungry all night. It's hard meeting a dog with a loaf in its mouth, a steaming,
Stolen loaf. Fighting the dog and taking the bread. Resisting the need to
Devour it there, bringing it home instead for your nine year old son. It's hard,
Seeing your mother for the last time, at the far end of a corridor, isolated
in the typhus ward. Holding the ends of her shawl, waving a hand. It's hard
Coming back the next day to find out she's dead. It's hard, having your tonsils
Removed on a bench in siberia, a bottle of vodka your anaesthetic. Its hard
Cutting your finger off, and sewing it back on yourself, crooked, as your mother
Trudges back across the frozen wastes, walking miles in the dark. It's hard,
Finding kindling, small sticks and reeds, tied in a bundle on your back, your feet
Frozen, all feeling disappeared. It's hard, living in a woodshed, catching cats in
Sacks for the villagers; a raw cat's head tossed to you to eat in return. It's hard
Sleeping for two days next to your brother who's dead - you're too young to know,
So you just swat away the flies that swarm around his eyes, hour after hour. It's
Hard, when finally, the villagers take him away from you, just you and your sister left.
It's hard when you steal a chicken, and the terror of being caught and what they will
Do to you makes you plunge your arms, holding the chicken, into a pot of boiling water.
It's hard, crossing the sea in unsuitable boats, orphans, all lousy and starving.
It's hard, landing on a harsh beach, living in quarantine, not knowing who will
Take you or where you will go. It's hard being beaten for sneezing and wasting
The medicine, because there's no more. It's hard being punished when one boy
Wets the bed, and all of you have no breakfast. It's hard having tapeworm, and
No medication, parasites living inside you and coming out through your skin.
It's hard being really alone. It's hard being really without. You think THIS
Is hard, girl? This is a feather bed.

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