James Graham – Simon Bolívar

Simon Bolívar

His battles are best not told
in a poem. Like Agamemnon
he sent men to their deaths,
but the Homeric does not suit him.

At the expense of blood
he scoured away the last conquistadors,
herders of slave-miners, pilferers
of Inca gold.

But he did better: a refusal
fit for modern epic. Called Liberator,
welcomed in Lima, Bogotá, Caracas
with flowers and songs, he was offered
the coveted jackpot prize that fires
Caesars and Buonapartes:

Dictator. He reflected,
and refused. Giving
the following reason:

You cannot make a just society
with instruments of repression.
It must be done by talking, voting,
thinking: the long hard way.
However much is left undone
when we are old, we must bequeath.

Let us begin.


James Graham was born in 1939 in Ayrshire, Scotland, in a rural cottage lit by oil lamps. He was a teacher for thirty years, but would rather have been a best-selling author. Apart from teaching and writing, he has done a good deal of protesting – from CND to Stop the War, joining demonstrations and heckling politicians from Harold MacMillan to Tony Blair. Most recently he has been an active campaigner with Amnesty International.

His work has appeared in numerous print and online magazines, and his third collection is due to be published by Troubador Press later this year.