Yes Minister

We’d set it up for you to talk

to the woman who spoke English, who’d

opened a secret school for girls –   

as featured on the Taliban’s

list of Allah’s also-rans.


She thanked you for Great Britain’s part

in ending such a tyranny

and then described in moving terms

her undercover past, the fear

now tempered, since the West was there.


Don’t leave us this time – her final plea.

We won’t, you said. We’ll see it through.

She smiled, and you moved on, to charm

a minister or a general.

I didn’t think that I’d recall


that brief encounter ten years on

when you were plugging your memoirs

to a strategy forum in Whitehall.

Afghanistan, I heard you say,

would have to find an Afghan way.


I asked you whether you remembered

that trip; her words; your words; her smile.

You shrugged, and said in politics

sometimes it wasn’t possible

to finish all you’d hoped to do.


Well yes, it’s true each body bag

is a weight we carry, you and I,

and bled votes for those who’d stay the course.

But what should I say, were I to meet

her once again, on that Kabul street?

First published in Snakeskin 248, February 2018