Afghanistan National Flag Flying against a beautiful sky


Alumnus Ben Michaels (St Peter's, 2010) writes an opinion poem about Afghanistan

Published: 14 September 2021

Author: Ben Michaels


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Afghanistan is this summer’s blockbuster.

I'm at the cinema watching Scarlett accost her

Co-star, who kicks butt in leather and black.

The fashion this season: burqas are back!


The President uncannily performs

The role of gormless

Even better

Than his predecessor.

Who knew the strength of this drug cartel?

It’s not like we had the Intel.

But it turns out those boots on the ground

Working together with Afghans, let civilians sleep sound.

Suddenly the pace quickened,

And the plot inevitably thickened

With the intensity

Of a natural disaster hitting a city.

It’s a shit storm

It’s a sand storm that hits whoever won’t conform,

Buries them alive,

Desiccates their crying.

A plane takes off with people hanging on,

Terrorist pickups roll in and on

Chinooks Ministers and VIPs evacuate

Or, rather, flee for their lives would be far more accurate.

Nail bars whitewash their fronts

(These actors do their own stunts),

Pretty girls censored black or white

Because it’s immodest, just the sight.

Fighters discharge their automatic guns,

Bullets fly and get everyone,

But mostly women

Because extremists say they’re prone to sin.

All those bodily fluids

That spill when extreme gun-toting dudes

Take charge

And Jihadis live large.


Fields of red,

Poppies like souls, growing dead

In cinematic scenes -

The audience ODs

Bored now, we’re watching with the detached ease

Of some date night geezer:

Really, who’s losing sleep over this?

Even when we know Nato made that promise.

But this isn’t fiction

And there’s no safe prediction,

However the ending it's all the same -

This film is crediting our name.

A tortured stare

Clammy, mortuary air

Breathes on the glass and mists,

Hit lists - drip, drip.


Suspension of disbelief is over

And the popcorn and perfume odours

Are actually burning explosives and heroin.

This is a patriarchy, no space for a heroine.


The aperture’s shrinking,

Bin Laden’s winking,

The windows are black so we can’t see

But we know what’s going on behind them, don’t we.

Ben read Archaeology and Anthropology at St Peter’s College (2010-13) and is now building up writing work - 'especially looking through the prism of my degree at current affairs and exploring how these affect lived experiences.'