Off the Shoulders of the Front Lines

by Matt Broomfield

Cover photo courtesy of the poet.


off the shoulders of the front lines
there are mothers stirring great big pots of beans
to feed the solid-bellied women
in the killing machine

off the shoulders of the frontlines
there are families displaced three times
each time in the rotting belly
of a winter year and with no safe
third country left to stagger to
and so planting tomatoes out the front
of their blanket-lined tents as if to say:
fuck you

off the shoulders of the frontlines
there are roads where we chain-smoked
back-and-forth across a land which yesterday
we considered to be ours, where we lit the sky
with pistol fire on the night that daesh fell,
roads which were just roads
and now are axes, conflict lines

off the shoulders of the frontlines
the analysts always open
their awful gargoyle mouths,
saying should and shouldn’t have
saying might have been saved
like this was ever about strategy
about anything but flames

off the shoulders of the frontlines
there are some roach motherfuckers
triple-spooning sugar into watery tea
folding camps out of creases
in the syria civil war live map
there are some unnamed monsters
in the renamed border towns
returning fire from hospital windows
so the bodies can be saved

off the shoulders of the frontlines
new fronts open all the time
in private conversation
in scratch cemeteries
about how to keep this thing alive



Matt Broomfield is a poet and revolutionary who has been living and working in North East Syria (Rojava) for over a year, in solidarity with the women-led, direct-democratic revolution there. Among other projects, he has worked with local media structures to help bring the voices of the revolution to the outside world. Since arriving in Rojava, he has published poetry for Agenda, Glass, Argot, Rise Up Review and Poets Read The News, as well as essays for It’s Going Down and Red Pepper.

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