John Agard: Flag

Agard’s Flag is (as far as we know) a rare example of a poem exploring the nature of flags, a somber and nuanced look, far from the patriotic outbursts that tend to characterize flag poetry.

Flag

What’s that fluttering in a breeze?
It’s just a piece of cloth
that brings a nation to its knees.

What’s that unfurling from a pole?
It’s just a piece of cloth
that makes the guts of men grow bold.

What’s that rising over a tent?
It’s just a piece of cloth
that dares the coward to relent.

What’s that flying across a field?
It’s just a piece of cloth
that will outlive the blood you bleed.

How can I possess such a cloth?
Just ask for a flag, my friend.
Then blind your conscience to the end.

from Half-Caste and Other Poems (Hodder Children’s, 2004), © John Agard 2004

John Agard is a celebrated Guyanese playwright, poet, and children’s writer living in south-east England. You can hear him reading Flag at Poetry Archive, and see (and contribute to) an annotated text at Genius.

agard-in-flag-makers
John Agard at a flag maker’s shop.  From BBC Bitesize.
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Author: SDM

Ethnography * Technology * Design

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