Ignited by the 1915 film of the same name, Cathy Bryant's poem addresses the ugly reality of how nations are formed. Illustrated by Peter Strain.

We’d like to picture brave explorers
mounting ridges and coming upon valleys;
lines making maps of sturdy pioneer faces
as wagons roll in, and the building begins,
and the settling, planting, trading.
But most nations are born with a flag
dipped in blood, weapons and a desperate
or arrogant idea. See Europe’s countries
re-draw their lines and change their names
like hemlines and hairstyles - ra-ra skirts,
tucker boots and teabag tops with Yugoslavia,
Czechoslovakia and the CCCP, through grunge
and back to leggings and ballerina flats
and the Balkans remade in sweatshops
and reshuffled into torn remnants of
cultural identity and angry patriotism.
And with every change, death and suffering.
Nations born not in sunshine on wagons;
birth always, always a bloody battle where
cords are torn and children scream.

'Birth Of A Nation' was published in our 8th issue, The Birth Issue, which has now sold out. To ensure that you never miss a future issue of the print magazine, subscribe from just £10 a year.