Confession at the Black Temple Gallery

Issue FourteenIssue Fourteen PoetryPoetry

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This work contains material that some readers may find disturbing; please continue at your own discretion.

Confession at the Black Temple Gallery
After the film The Angels of Testimony by Meiro Koizumi

Anne Collins

On the screen
an elderly Japanese man, a former soldier
trembles and weeps
as he recalls the crimes
he and his fellow soldiers committed
in the second Sino-Japanese War.

He tells of the brutality done
to women      and children.

Rape – it’s always rape. Gang-rape,
then cruel, hot murder.

This 90-year-old man, frail and ashamed,
haunted by these acts,

Watching this film, I think about
Colonial Australia, Spain, Vietnam, Iraq, Bosnia,
Afghanistan, Syria and now Ukraine.
And how women suffer
the worst sexual violence
simply for being women
in their homes, their streets, their towns
caught in a chilling moment of history.

At school we learnt about wars
and war crimes committed by “the enemy”.
But when did men learn
to treat women as the enemy?
Rape is the long-favoured strategy
of invading armies.
When a group of women held banners
saying: ‘Remember Women Raped in Wars’,
they were despised for it. On ANZAC Day
only certain memories are permitted.


No amount of remorse
would ever be enough, said the old soldier.

But still old men
send young men to wars.
All were once boys
learning the rules
and the thirst for adventure
in playgrounds.
Of those who return from the theatre
of war traumatised,
many are neglected or despised for it.

I have sinned,
the old man on the screen is saying
over and over.
A group of young people
like a background chorus
shout Stab! Stab! Stab!

His confession in all its harrowing detail
is without any blessing.
The gallery, a de-consecrated church.

Bless me Mother for I have sinned.

And the many mothers, wives and sisters
still suffer the suffering
of their hardened husbands, sons and brothers.

Outside the sky is crying
a bleak rain.