Note to Self

Note to Self

look at fence, wall, checkpoint, detention centre

look at wire, breeze block, sheet metal,

look at sandbags, concrete road-blocks and portacabins

look at reinforced glass and interlocking door systems

consider that the factories that made them

are all staffed by humans and how it took others to erect them

in our specially selected zones of exclusion

and that on some level those people

knew what they were doing


think of small components for very large weapons

how someone dreamed up each piece of them

and check out our latest technological solutions

for the crisis of humans moving from one place to another

watch a human resource put their night vision goggles on securely

and check their thermal imaging system

for the outline of something warm and human

on the shift where they clock out clock in to an automated system

remember no camp could exist

without people to build it


look at legislation and its deceptions

where international protection

means much swifter deportations and indefinite detention

where everything is a metaphor for something,

look at getting a handcuffed person on a plane

to extradite them and see that a second person

is on the sweet end of those handcuffs

and has no particular meretricious distinction

except for those invented by officialdom

to make them feel different so they can do

what would otherwise be unthinkable


remember that someone starts that plane and flies it

and before that some yawning human rubber-stamped

the letter to warn application number 237

that someone was coming to get them

and then went home to take their own children swimming

and before that again some other person in an office

deliberated about a place that they had never visited

that they wouldn’t be seen dead in

and determined that it was a safe country

in the legal definition

as if that meant anything


remember that there’s never been a wall

that someone didn’t build

or a border that was anything but abstract,

think about how there’s never been a noose that no-one fashioned

and remember that on both ends

of all this all this infrastructure there are only humans;

it is us that’s doing this.


Sarah Clancy


Poem copyright © Sarah Clancy.

First Published in: The Copenhagen Review



Sarah Clancy is an Irish poet from the West of Ireland. She has three books published at the moment. In an interview in 2013 she said: “People are always describing me as a political poet, but I actually have a whole load of love poems as well. I often get a bit awkward. Activism is not a hobby; it’s just something you have to do. I am always described as an activist, but I think that’s because it’s what interests me the most and I talk about it a lot.” (


Image, thanks to:


Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) (Some rights reserved)

Guards from Camp 5 at Joint Task Force Guantanamo escort a detainee from his cell to a recreational facility within the camp.

Joint Task Force Guantanamo Public Affairs

Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Kilho Park

Date Taken:10.27.2011




Right2Water Demo Galway Nov 1st Sarah Clancy reads

“And Yet We Must Live In These Times”

Tags assigned to this article:
Irish poetpoetrySarah Clancy

Related Articles

Manchester celebrates Syrian arts and culture

A fortnight of exhibitions, film, theatre, live music, talks by writers, panel discussions and interactive art workshops exploring Syrian arts

Isaki Lacuesta gana una Concha de Oro arriesgada y abstracta

DONOSTIAKO ZINEMALDIA Contra todo pronóstico, porque no gustaba a la crítica, «Los pasos dobles» de Isaki Lacuesta fue la ganadora

On World Poetry Day, Support Imprisoned Poets

March 21 is “World Poetry Day,” as declared by UNESCO

No comments

Write a comment
No Comments Yet! You can be first to comment this post!

Write a Comment