The Oranges of Revolution

There is a spectre haunting the world, and Western governments do not know how to respond. From the Arab Spring and the UK riots of 2011 to civil wars in Syria, Iraq, South Sudan and the Ukraine, our rulers pick and choose their favourites, colour-coding the ‘good’ revolutions and demonising those whom they cannot control as ‘terrorists’. Clare Saponia carefully explores these confused and violent struggles, as if peeling a blood orange – skin, pith, flesh, pips, juice – from cause to consequence, aspiration to betrayal, defeat to renewed hopes for social justice. The Oranges of Revolution is a book about democracy and power, despotism and resistance, imperialism and revolution.

Sample Poems

On a roll

You seem to be on a roll. So,
(whilst you’re at it) why not take out
Tunisia, Morocco, Syria, Egypt, Yemen,
Bahrain, civilised Saudi Arabia,
The Ukraine?

Why not take out Uganda, Rwanda,
Zimbabwe, Cuba, Venezuela,
The Ivory Coast? Why not take on
the whole damn planet (except, well,
the obvious…) whilst you’re at it? Why not

invite them to high tea at No.10, form a club
for Democratic Despots and drizzle a little
diesel oil in the beverage of their choosing;
replace their scones with SCUDS and jam
with the bloods of their own freedom-fighting
millions? Hypocrisy is just so hip, darling! The
killer-coalition runs full-moons around liberty.

For your own good

We want rules without getting into semantics.
We want black and white, shoot and ceasefire;
we want to sabotage and dope up and then
go cold turkey on the whole goddamn lot.

No, don’t get into semantics, whatever you do:
modern democracies are going to eat, shit
and murder wherever they like. Anyway.
Having freedom is about blocking everyone else’s.

Yes, you keep the wars out of our memory: you bury them
behind the British Broadcasting Craporation, you use
heavy-duty bleach and delete what was there;
you sandpaper the truth, leave the shell smooth and
shiny – as chaste as a baby’s birthday suit. You coat
the hood of the planet with glue and iron filings. You
attach hundred-weight magnets and let history do the rest.

But you don’t leave your marks. You walk without shadows
and white-iced footprints tack the path from idiocy to greater,
more obtuse acts of idiocy. Never to be naked. Alone. Never
to be liberal. Again. Except when it comes down to babysitting

foreign dollars:

yes, sex in the city, and watch how the banks all coo
at the adorable infant parading through Cheapside
on the one and only black steed that could pass
for pantomime; the powers-that-be who duck and
cringe and stutter at yet another dagger of disrepute.

You run amok, and far from the motherland
with those long, fancy strides. You mothball lies,
truly handsome, insincere, invisible
to the human eye. But we’ve seen,
you see. We’ve heard how you repackage terror and treason
on dummy-bomb-runs, shield the offending article
between baby transmitter and paedophilic papers
the pope lost his grip on: there’s treason and reason
you cannot distinguish. There’s a plug to pull
on Whitehall wollies and an even bigger one
in Washington, where the truth is left to bathe
in a typhus-tub only the FBI may breathe.

Hey ho, honeytraps abound it seems:
a heady adhesive now jumps the gaps
where honey used to muffle peace – Congress,
in the meanwhile, so unaccountably


when we ask: do you have ambitions
for freedom? You talk of human wrongs
not rights. You talk of secrets stacked up
to the ceiling in order of stolen consequence,
the terrine of life and sentence you prefer
not to eat in eight, even pieces? You prefer
to reserve judgement on the matter and
prioritise bedtime over war crime. You

answer questions with more questions
you’re likely to dribble over in sassy
Picasso patterns. Blue Period. Red period.
You get stumped by the traffic lights in three
shades of electric green and accidentally dilute
civil liberties. The CIA has promised to be
selectively colour-blind. Forever.

Gadaffi Duck and the looniest of Looney Tunes

They’d like you to believe
this is just another simple lesson
in altruism. But then again
they’d like you to believe
a lot of things. They tell you

packs of stories of shrunken,
poisoned dwarves fed on protein
supplements; they dress painstakingly

in dark-dust-grey top hats
and baggy pin-striped suits,
too short in the leg to take you
where you want to go. They pass
mildew-rimmed housing facilities.
Beneath railway bridges

unnoticed. They

take pills and scream their tonsils out
like Liza Minnelli in Cabaret, fungal
hallucinations breeding gout
off the high-life. Their predecessors
no more original. No less brutal.
Brutality is a subjective habit,

don’t you know?

They swig down malignance
with the shady remnants
of their morning Coco-Pops-milk.
It deletes their memory.

The scale of their ambition
depends on how savagely
they’re allowed to deal
with unnamed,

They don’t like to let on
that this can be achieved
single-handedly; that they
don’t need the paltry opinions
of their bumbling war cabinets.
They prefer to head for the forests,
crouch down around the campfire
chanting spells, telling bedtime tales
of heroics and barbarics and how
they saved democracy

once upon a time. They horde

stuffed camel heads and flog them
as precious collector’s items
at some later date. They keep
a few back as a token of nostalgia.
No hard feelings. The camel heads
have fewer fleas

since they were detached
from their necks. ‘And anyway,’
comes the bottom line, ‘if you
won’t stuff your own folk, we will.’
A whisper follows: ‘there’s no room
for tribal politics here, dearest. Either
you massacre your own people
or we’ll do it. That’s the pro of democracy:
we give you that choice. Cost not an issue –

military bonuses cover anything from
enemy earlobes to a whole set of fingernails,
authentic copies bound for immediate sale
on EBay – fingertips inclusive as part of
a full complimentary manicure pack. Our boys

in green take pretty pictures of their holiday
highlights so those cheap, irreplaceable thrills
don’t have to join the ranks of the ephemeral.
Remember: the most important part about
mass-killing is bragging about it. Insurgency

rocks and rolls but always swings to one side;
the side our boys like to take pot-shots at
in the name of target practice, all art
for art’s sake – don’t you know?’
How aesthetic can you get?


‘One can’t emphasise too much just how passionate and gutsy Saponia’s uncompromisingly polemical poetry actually is.’

The Recusant