I’ve never done anything but dream. This, and this alone, has been the meaning of my life. My only real concern has been my inner life. FERNANDO PESSOA

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Tell Me Lies

Although this poem is all over the media at the moment, I make no apology for reproducing it here. It's probably Adrian Mitchell's best known poem and it's still as devastating as it was when it appeared in the 1960s. I first read this poem in the Penguin paperback Children of Albion: Poetry of the Underground in Britain (1969) - edited by Michael Horovitz. Mitchell famously read it at an anti-Vietnam protest rally in Trafalgar Square in 1964. Over the years he kept changing the last verse. You can see a video of Mitchell himself reading the poem here. This is the poem.

To Whom It May Concern

I was run over by the truth one day.
Ever since the accident I've walked this way
So stick my legs in plaster
Tell me lies about Vietnam

Heard the alarm clock screaming with pain,
Couldn't find myself so I went back to sleep again
So fill my ears with silver
Stick my legs in plaster
Tell me lies about Vietnam

Every time I shut my eyes, all I see is flames.
I made a marble phone-book, carved all the names
So coat my eyes with butter
Fill my ears with silver
Stick my legs in plaster
Tell me lies about Vietnam

I smell something burning, hope it's just my brains.
They're only dropping peppermints and daisy-chains
So stuff my nose with garlic
Coat my eyes with butter
Fill my ears with silver
Stick my legs in plaster
Tell me lies about Vietnam

Where were you at the time of the crime?
Down by the Cenotaph drinking slime
So chain my tongue with whisky
Stuff my nose with garlic
Coat my eyes with butter
Fill my ears with silver
Stick my legs in plaster
Tell me lies about Vietnam

You put your bombers in, you put your conscience out,
You take the human being, and you twist it all about
So scrub my skin with women
Chain my tongue with whisky
Stuff my nose with garlic
Coat my eyes with butter
Fill my ears with silver
Stick my legs in plaster
Tell me lies about –
Iraq
Burma
Afghanistan
BAE Systems
Israel
Iran

Tell me lies Mr Bush
Tell me lies Mr Blairbrowncameron

Tell me lies about Vietnam

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