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Every three years journalists wishing to cover wars and natural disasters for the BBC and other news organisations have to "refresh" their hostile environments training. This poem was inspired by my last refresher course as a participant - I now lecture on them.

Hostile Environments Refresher Course

Screen_shot_2017-12-05_at_08.50.24by Patrick Howse09 Jun 2014

(A defence of my profession)

We needed refreshing:

We went through the regular ritual
Of proving ourselves worthy to witness;
We ran around Berkshire dressing fake wounds,
And talking our way through theatrical roadblocks.

We told our stories:

Of rockets and bombs and Stoic acceptance
Of the worst that could possibly happen;
The strength of teams that share horror
And the callous indifference of those who stay away.

We heard silently

About the Tsunami baby, one of thousands,
Dead for days, eaten by maggots, fought over by dogs;
About the good man who, with generator fuel
Cremated the corpse, and then wept.

We shared his guilt:

We go, we see, we report a cleaned-up fraction,
And then we leave, we go home, we live.
But the nearest many come to Justice
Is for us to tell their story, and care enough

To weep later.