Dreams of Wolf Creek, Kansas

The Wolf River, Kansas by Albert Bierstadt, c. 1859

I sometimes dream of eastern Kansas,
in those days before the wars,
when the white men fought each other
to be the right men behind the doors,
deciding the lives of men red and black,
to remain the preeminent beast,
over this land he said God was his alone,
from the left coast to the east.

I think of the man in the village,
sitting on the bluff above Wolf Creek,
and how once he ruled wherever he stood,
a wandering Pawnee being anything but meek.
And I know his time is passing,
his wandering no more his choice.
Soon the white man will fight everyone
over the black man who still had no voice.

In my dream the lodges moved westward,
if they ever moved at all.
Because illness, greed and the great lord God
seemingly turned on the Pawnee, Otoe and Kaw.
And that’s why I dream of eastern Kansas
in those days before the wars,
because a native man might still call his own
his land, his freedom and his lores.

Free-write rhyming thing, an exercise I tried to get the juices flowing. For whatever reason, the name William Stafford and the words “Lawrence, Kansas” kept clanging in my head. I searched for some art that might help stimulate some creative spark and found that picture by Albert Bierstadt of Wolf River in Kansas, circa 1859. Then I let loose the reins and my claybank muse cantered me here.

© 2018, Joseph Hesch

This Much I Know

Vandana Shiva in Cologne, Germany in 2007 courtesy of Elke Wetzig (Elya) under CC BY-SA 3.0

“….this much I know. I do not allow myself to be overcome by hopelessness, no matter how tough the situation. I believe that if you just do your little bit without thinking of the bigness of what you stand against, if you turn to the enlargement of your own capacities, just that itself creates new potential. And I’ve learned from the Bhagavad-Gita and other teachings of our culture to detach myself from the results of what I do, because those are not in my hands. The context is not in your control, but your commitment is yours to make, and you can make the deepest commitment with a total detachment about where it will take you. You want it to lead to a better world, and you shape your actions and take full responsibility for them, but then you have detachment. And that combination of deep passion and deep detachment allows me to take on the next challenge, because I don’t cripple myself, I don’t tie myself in knots. I function like a free being. I think getting that freedom is a social duty because I think we owe it to each not to burden each other with prescription and demands. I think what we owe each other is a celebration of life and to replace fear and hopelessness with fearlessness and joy.”  Vandana Shiva (born 5 November 1952) is an Indian scholar, environmental activist, food sovereignty advocate, ecofeminism, and alter-globalization author. Shiva, currently based in Delhi, has authored more than twenty books.

The Roots of Bombs

Thích Nhất Hạnh during a ceremony in Da Nang on his 2007 trip to Vietnam courtesy of mettabebe under CC BY-SA 2.0 license

“We often think of peace as the absence of war, that if powerful countries would reduce their weapon arsenals, we could have peace. But if we look deeply into the weapons, we see our own minds- our own prejudices, fears and ignorance. Even if we transport all the bombs to the moon, the roots of war and the roots of bombs are still there, in our hearts and minds, and sooner or later we will make new bombs. To work for peace is to uproot war from ourselves and from the hearts of men and women. To prepare for war, to give millions of men and women the opportunity to practice killing day and night in their hearts, is to plant millions of seeds of violence, anger, frustration, and fear that will be passed on for generations to come.” Thich Nhát Hanh, Living Buddha, Living Christ

Something Helpless

A portrait of Rilke painted two years after his death by Leonid Pasternak

“How should we be able to forget those ancient myths that are at the beginning of all peoples, the myths about dragons that at the last moment turn into princesses; perhaps all the dragons of our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us once beautiful and brave. Perhaps everything terrible is in its deepest being something helpless that wants help from us ….

“…..So you must not be frightened if a sadness rises up before you larger than any you have ever seen; if a restiveness, like light and cloudshadows, passes over your hands and over all you do. You must think that something is happening with you, that life has not forgotten you, that it holds you in its hand; it will not let you fall. Why do you want to shut out of your life any uneasiness, any miseries, or any depressions? For after all, you do not know what work these conditions are doing inside you.” Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

Jung Drops in for Tea

A sunny, frigid, late winter day. Later this week the temperatures will moderate and there will likely be a sap run.

I’ve taken to avoiding news feeds in the evening, and try to limit my intake of news during the day; I also spend too much time fact checking. Anyway, the sheer volume of hatred towards those who are vulnerable, and the environment, is simply overwhelming, a tsunami that threatens to devastate all I love in the world.

Of course, none of this craziness is new. I imagine Jung dropping by for a spot of tea. I can imagine him sitting there in the sun, drawing on his experiences leading up to World War Two, and expressing empathy for our situation. He would point out that we may easily become what we fear, and draw parallels between Islamic extremism and the behavior of extremists on the Christian right. Then he would wish us well, grab a cider doughnut for the road, and retreat to his hermitage.

I’m finding it difficult to take much solace in the knowledge that we humans fall off the cliff every now and then. These historical moments simply create way too much suffering, and I just can’t settle into any kind of detachment. If we learned anything from the events of the past hundred years, it is that any profound change requires acts of both personal and societal repentance and reparation.I understand there is only so much any one person or group can do to turn the tide, even as we must try. In the meanwhile, history moves forward under the watchful eyes of angels, even as many of us dig our heels in and resist.

© 2018, words and photograph, Michael Watson

A Defense of Activist Poetry

51pv4fg0wpl-_sx329_bo1204203200_By now, those who pay attention to poetry and in particular the poetries of witness and activist poetries, know well that it follows from a long tradition. Yet others, especially cultural and political conservatives, argue “protest” poetry or “political” poetry both do not constitute “Literature,” and that such poetry cannot help but be time-bound little more than contemporaneous commentary. I have been told that some of my poetry is “journalistic,” and that I am caught in a “fashionable” trend from the mid-1950s that has no literary roots beyond, possibly, the Beats. Such arguments simply are nonsense.

unknownCarolyn Forché’s volumes Poetry of Witness: The Tradition in English 1500–2001 and Against Forgetting: Twentieth-Century Poetry of Witness demonstrate, with excellent examples, a long history of social and political engagement in English poetry. In fact, one might claim just the opposite of the (usually disguised political) claims that the tradition began in the middle of the 20th C. could be made, that solipsistic confessional poetry that is more autobiography than engaged in the world emerges from that time, in counter-balance to a history of poetry engaged in the outside world.

For this post, I provide two examples of poets from the first half of the 20th Century who engaged in the world.

*****

The first, two poems come from the well-known poet William Butler Yeats: Easter, 1916, written in response to a political protest forcefully broken up by the British, who executed 16 of the protesters. The poem, written in September 1916 and published in 1928, ends with a powerful commentary on the protest, the execution-martyrdom that resulted, and, prophetically, the continuation of the Irish struggle: “A terrible beauty is born.”

Easter, 1916

I have met them at close of day
Coming with vivid faces
From counter or desk among grey
Eighteenth-century houses.
I have passed with a nod of the head
Or polite meaningless words,
Or have lingered awhile and said
Polite meaningless words,
And thought before I had done
Of a mocking tale or a gibe
To please a companion
Around the fire at the club,
Being certain that they and I
But lived where motley is worn:
All changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

That woman’s days were spent
In ignorant good-will,
Her nights in argument
Until her voice grew shrill.
What voice more sweet than hers
When, young and beautiful,
She rode to harriers?
This man had kept a school
And rode our wingèd horse;
This other his helper and friend
Was coming into his force;
He might have won fame in the end,
So sensitive his nature seemed,
So daring and sweet his thought.
This other man I had dreamed
A drunken, vainglorious lout.
He had done most bitter wrong
To some who are near my heart,
Yet I number him in the song;
He, too, has resigned his part
In the casual comedy;
He, too, has been changed in his turn,
Transformed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

Hearts with one purpose alone
Through summer and winter seem
Enchanted to a stone
To trouble the living stream.
The horse that comes from the road,
The rider, the birds that range
From cloud to tumbling cloud,
Minute by minute they change;
A shadow of cloud on the stream
Changes minute by minute;
A horse-hoof slides on the brim,
And a horse plashes within it;
The long-legged moor-hens dive,
And hens to moor-cocks call;
Minute by minute they live:
The stone’s in the midst of all.

Too long a sacrifice
Can make a stone of the heart.
O when may it suffice?
That is Heaven’s part, our part
To murmur name upon name,
As a mother names her child
When sleep at last has come
On limbs that had run wild.
What is it but nightfall?
No, no, not night but death;
Was it needless death after all?
For England may keep faith
For all that is done and said.
We know their dream; enough
To know they dreamed and are dead;
And what if excess of love
Bewildered them till they died?
I write it out in a verse—
MacDonagh and MacBride
And Connolly and Pearse
Now and in time to be,
Wherever green is worn,
Are changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

– William Butler Yeats

Yeats’ poem, Nineteen Hundred and Nineteen, comments powerfully and bitterly on violence, war, oppression, and the loss of our own humanity in modern times. The poem, in six parts, has a history of difficult critical reception—critics had a hard time reconciling it with others of Yeats’ works. However, since the later part of the 20th Century, his poem has had a more thoughtful reading by the critics, possibly giving weight to saying he was “ahead of his time.”

Nineteen Hundred and Nineteen

I.
Many ingenious lovely things are gone
That seemed sheer miracle to the multitude,
protected from the circle of the moon
That pitches common things about. There stood
Amid the ornamental bronze and stone
An ancient image made of olive wood —
And gone are Phidias’ famous ivories
And all the golden grasshoppers and bees.

We too had many pretty toys when young:
A law indifferent to blame or praise,
To bribe or threat; habits that made old wrong
Melt down, as it were wax in the sun’s rays;
Public opinion ripening for so long
We thought it would outlive all future days.
O what fine thought we had because we thought
That the worst rogues and rascals had died out.

All teeth were drawn, all ancient tricks unlearned,
And a great army but a showy thing;
What matter that no cannon had been turned
Into a ploughshare? Parliament and king
Thought that unless a little powder burned
The trumpeters might burst with trumpeting
And yet it lack all glory; and perchance
The guardsmen’s drowsy chargers would not prance.

Now days are dragon-ridden, the nightmare
Rides upon sleep: a drunken soldiery
Can leave the mother, murdered at her door,
To crawl in her own blood, and go scot-free;
The night can sweat with terror as before
We pieced our thoughts into philosophy,
And planned to bring the world under a rule,
Who are but weasels fighting in a hole.

He who can read the signs nor sink unmanned
Into the half-deceit of some intoxicant
From shallow wits; who knows no work can stand,
Whether health, wealth or peace of mind were spent
On master-work of intellect or hand,
No honour leave its mighty monument,
Has but one comfort left: all triumph would
But break upon his ghostly solitude.

But is there any comfort to be found?
Man is in love and loves what vanishes,
What more is there to say? That country round
None dared admit, if Such a thought were his,
Incendiary or bigot could be found
To burn that stump on the Acropolis,
Or break in bits the famous ivories
Or traffic in the grasshoppers or bees.

II.
When Loie Fuller’s Chinese dancers enwound
A shining web, a floating ribbon of cloth,
It seemed that a dragon of air
Had fallen among dancers, had whirled them round
Or hurried them off on its own furious path;
So the platonic Year
Whirls out new right and wrong,
Whirls in the old instead;
All men are dancers and their tread
Goes to the barbarous clangour of a gong.

III
Some moralist or mythological poet
Compares the solitary soul to a swan;
I am satisfied with that,
Satisfied if a troubled mirror show it,
Before that brief gleam of its life be gone,
An image of its state;
The wings half spread for flight,
The breast thrust out in pride
Whether to play, or to ride
Those winds that clamour of approaching night.

A man in his own secret meditation
Is lost amid the labyrinth that he has made
In art or politics;
Some Platonist affirms that in the station
Where we should cast off body and trade
The ancient habit sticks,
And that if our works could
But vanish with our breath
That were a lucky death,
For triumph can but mar our solitude.

The swan has leaped into the desolate heaven:
That image can bring wildness, bring a rage
To end all things, to end
What my laborious life imagined, even
The half-imagined, the half-written page;
O but we dreamed to mend
Whatever mischief seemed
To afflict mankind, but now
That winds of winter blow
Learn that we were crack-pated when we dreamed.

IV.
We, who seven years ago
Talked of honour and of truth,
Shriek with pleasure if we show
The weasel’s twist, the weasel’s tooth.

V.
Come let us mock at the great
That had such burdens on the mind
And toiled so hard and late
To leave some monument behind,
Nor thought of the levelling wind.

Come let us mock at the wise;
With all those calendars whereon
They fixed old aching eyes,
They never saw how seasons run,
And now but gape at the sun.

Come let us mock at the good
That fancied goodness might be gay,
And sick of solitude
Might proclaim a holiday:
Wind shrieked — and where are they?

Mock mockers after that
That would not lift a hand maybe
To help good, wise or great
To bar that foul storm out, for we
Traffic in mockery.

VI.
Violence upon the roads: violence of horses;
Some few have handsome riders, are garlanded
On delicate sensitive ear or tossing mane,
But wearied running round and round in their courses
All break and vanish, and evil gathers head:
Herodias’ daughters have returned again,
A sudden blast of dusty wind and after
Thunder of feet, tumult of images,
Their purpose in the labyrinth of the wind;
And should some crazy hand dare touch a daughter
All turn with amorous cries, or angry cries,
According to the wind, for all are blind.
But now wind drops, dust settles; thereupon
There lurches past, his great eyes without thought
Under the shadow of stupid straw-pale locks,
That insolent fiend Robert Artisson
To whom the love-lorn Lady Kyteler brought
Bronzed peacock feathers, red combs of her cocks.

– William Butler Yeats

If you are viewing this from an email subscription, you’ll likely have to link through to this site to view the video here of Yeats reading Nineteen Hundred and Nineteen.

*****

unknown-1For the second example, I move to a lesser-known writer. John Cornford, the great-grandson of Charles Darwin, died during the Spanish Civil War under “uncertain circumstances at Lopera, near Córdoba in 1936.” We have no idea how much he might have contributed to poetry, had he survived. However, his poems written during the Spanish Civil War did survive, and were published posthumously. Born in 1915 in Cambridge, England, he was a committed communist. “Though his life was tragically brief, he documented his experiences of the conflict through poetry, letters to family and his lover, and political and critical prose which spoke out against the fascist regime and its ideologies.”

Sandra Mendez, a niece of John Cornford who also holds the copyright to his work, created a song from his poem “To Margot Heinemann.” The YouTube below is her performing that song.

If you are viewing this from an email subscription, you’ll likely have to link through to this site to view the video here of Yeats reading Nineteen Hundred and Nineteen.

These are just two of many examples that could be drawn from the long history of English letters. Engaged poetry, poetry of witness, activist poetry, political poetry—all comprise an important aspect, perhaps the most important aspect, of what we call “Poetry.”

– Michael Dickel

Select Resources and Links
Burt, Stephen. The Weasel’s Tooth: On W. B. Yeats. The Nation.
Dickel, Michael. Curator / Editor. Poet Activists: Poets Speak Out. The Woven Tale Press.
Rumens, Carol. Poem of the Week: Poem by John Cornford. The Guardian.

THE POET AS WITNESS, an interview by Jamie Dedes with Michael Dickel

© 2016, essay, Michael Dickel, All rights reserved

Moon Child

Once in a while you excel yourself.
Are you blue, because we thought no more of you
as the driving force for life on Earth
or potency behind the waves of bitches and whelps
Thrilling moments … or contemplative
of a thriving, muddy, salty, riverine universe of life
waiting for you to draw the pelagic
covers repeatedly over the fruits of sustenance.

A force of nature, fully formed
yet so much smaller than the mother of your birth,
you hold sway, in countless ways
you touch our lives and drive us through our days.
Humble, unassuming, even unnoticed
by those who hurtle, mindlessly, and make no time
for the wisdom of our insignificance
or feel the difference between our age and yours.

As necessity tramples over truth
most days, we hide in fear of the darkening,
of the madness that ensues.
Does not the hunter choose your waning dark
to spike the nervous memory,
and remind us of the untamed wolf pack?
We may not ever tame you
but your mother is dying a slow and painful death.

Oh super blood blue moon,
does not your God and our God sing the same tune?

© 2018 John Anstie

Sunday

Walking home from church.

Like seeing the sun rise
over the week ahead,
mind full of penitence,
a righteous child, wrapped
in reverential warmth and
a sense of duty fulfilled.

That place of comfort,
as short lived as chocolate,
such pleasure lies in this;
some selfless, priceless
kind of self-indulgence
in your own kind of God.

Who can resist that path
to an easier peace where,
one day a week, the ad-man
cannot get to you; where
you miss nothing; where
those urges play no part.

Where has Sunday gone?

© 2018 John Anstie

Obligations

Palestinian heart beats
in an Israeli chest
You, o my brother,
O you, Habibi!

The surgeon holds hearts in his hands
one in his left, one in his right
both drenched in blood

Two hearts weigh exactly the same:
priceless beyond measure: a tangled root,
a debt that cannot be paid

Palestinian heart beats in an Israeli chest
and the Israeli weeps: will he ever be able to
look a Palestinian in the eyes

the same way again?
Will he ever be freed
from the obligation of brotherhood?

Palestinian heart beats
in an Israeli chest
You, o my brother,
O you, Habibi!

© 2018, Wendy Brown-Baez

A Taste of Honey

A Taste of Honey

It is sweet to take a breath and say yes
and it is sweet to know that children are growing

in the dark and will be brought to light in time
to cancel death’s bitter bite. It is sweet waking up safe

and sure, unafraid of what the day might
bring, such as hunger and no food to be gleaned

or thirst and no clean water. Or three hours
allotted to race the rubbled streets in search of

groceries or news of kinsmen. The icy fear
of not knowing where the next bomb will land,

who is next to be buried. It is sweet to drink gourmet
coffee in the welcomed rain, warm hands

on the cup. When you bite into an apple, it
fills your mouth just as it did your ancestors’

hundreds of years ago when they prayed
for you to come in honor of their vision.

It is sweet to take a breath
and say yes and sweeter still to hear the echo

of that yes in the eyes you meet, the smiles
you pass on the street that keep tugging

on your insides while the world has its
flirtation with pain. It is sweet to stand

in the rain and no longer feel
that there are only tears.

© 2018, Wendy Brown-Baez

A Poem for Oliver

A Poem for Oliver

Rocking next to the Christmas
tree, the child in my arms sleeps.
Colored lights slide over his face, our peace
as reverent as if we knelt in church.

Let his breath come even and soft, let him
fidget, held beyond waking and dreams.
Let his brightness never fade, let him be wild
as the stars slung across the sky.

Let him reap the fruits of love. In his tiny hand
sugar cookies leave a sticky sweet.
I think carefully on this world he has
entered. The TV tells me all

I need to know of grief: shattered homes
from last month’s storm, gunshots ring
out in bloodied streets, foreclosure notices point at
where a family once lived, moved on to some other sorrow.

But snuggled safe, this child knows
neither hunger nor fear. The worst that has
happened is a tumble and a pinched thumb, a brother
leaving him behind a shut door.

I intend to keep it that way but we can’t keep him
from life. His heart will be broken—he will lose
and be lost, cry with rage and pity. But with
his brightness around him I pray it is not too soon,
nor lasts any longer than he can bear.

© 2018, Wendy Brown-Baez

Finding

“Where can I find peace and happiness?
It’s not where it was last time.”

And

“I found this empty can of loneliness
Buried among the full cans of energy.
Somebody must have supped it
Then put it back.”

And

“I want the fresh bread of life but all you’ve got are out of date.”
“It’s still ok to eat, Sir. This is “best before”.

And

“This crisp packet of comfort just split open.”
“I’ll put that here, love. Go and get another one.”

© 2018, Paul Brookes

Luck, Blind and Veiled

with mocking hand,
to danger and doubt
tha sets up the overpraised.

Never have prizes
obtained calm peace,
care on care weighs
them down, an

fresh storms vex their souls.
Great kingdoms drahn
by their own weight,
an luck gives way ‘neath
burden of herself.

Sails preggers with favouring breezes
fear blasts too strongly;
tower which rears its head
in the clouds is brayed by rain.

Whatever Luck raises up,
she lifts but to bring down.
Modest outlook has longer life.

Happy them as is content
with common lot,
with safe breeze
hug shore, and, afeard

to trust their skiff
to bigger sea,
with modest oar

© 2018, Paul Brookes

Yon Dream Cross Had

Al tell thee best dream av ad
in any midneet while folk were fast on
a sees a reet cross tree,
a ghoast in plated gold
ringed by shiny moon fascinator,
jewels like worth summat glow worms
rahnd base, five more ont cross beam.
Throngs o’ God’s angels tacked on it. This were no scam artists cross but every heaven spirit and earth folk had peepers on it: a see universe agog

And me, aware of wrong doing,
that native wood-beetle, eyed it too
felt a shiver of glory
from that cross barkskin beaten gold
wi jewels suited a cross a Jesus
and tha knows through all that gold barkskin
rattled folks bloodless yammering
how bleeding as stained crosses rightside.
Harrard an horrored
a that sullied wi leaked blood.

a lay there yonks
in agog sorrow fort Saviourcross
till me lug oyles heard glimmering cross pipe up:
“Ages since, I fetch back I were hacked
dahn at holt-edge, lugged off, hauled
shoulder heaved, squared top on a hill
adsed to a cross to carry wrong doers.
Then I see Christ, his balls ready fort hoisting. For us there’s no flitting, no shirking on God’s mind to: I might a fell on these folks. Then
God himsen, med himsen naked, to naked balls,
laid on us afore throngs of eyes
when saving on folks flitted in his bonce.
A shuddered at his touch, afeard splintering,
A had hold, I were raised as a cross,
hold heaven king high, afeard cracking. They tapped dark iron in us: scars tha still can see,
A cannot bear ’em stroked. They jeered at both on us. A felt his blood seep from his side
as he sighed himsen upards.

Av seen pain on this hill
saw Christ as on vicious rack
then roilin’ storm clouds, death to sunblaze,
covered o’er that blaze on God: a glowering gloom creation’s sorta: Christ on cross tree.
A see folk come forard, a felt splintered
as if added, but gev ne sen.
I were in their dannies, gore-wet, nail gashed.
They laid him art, a dead-weight atter ordeal,
final knackeredness. Then afore
murderers peepers, those folk mrd
a stone oyle and set Christ inside it.
Then late int day flitted knackered : left
Christ by himsen.

Long atter soldier’s lottery natter and cold rigor on Christ’s limbs,
us kept our places, drahned wi blood.
Then they sets to
felling us,
bury us in delved grahned, but disciples, friends fahned us…
put on us barkskin o’ gold an silver.

so nar tha knows, how sorra warped
me flesh, how malice worked with spintering iron. Now it’s time for earth foak and whole marvel on creation to cow eye this sign.
God-son were racked on us, so now ma glimmerin’ haunts heavens, can heal
all who afeard for us. Am honoured
by Christ above all forest trees as God favoured Mary above all women folk.’

Then by mesen, thrilled, me spirit high, let mesen rave that I can seek what a av seen,
saviour-cross: a peace with mesen that yearns a help on earth. Few mates still livin’ nar : most are int manor on heaven, av fetched upards. Now, daily, I listen art
fort cross-tree in my earthly nappin’,
to lead us from this flitting life
into great manor of heaven
where God has set a right feast.

May God-Son and Ghost be mates,
who were nailed to death for folk ages since :
a saviour as gin us life,
that we may put wood int oyle in heaven.

time for the temple whores to sleep with insanity

800px-castle_bravo_blast


does it bloom, this horror,
from my nonEuropean roots
from the scent of cinnamon in my blood?
the brown and yellow tinges of my skin?
or is it just your old soul and mine and
this intuition we share on the ground
of one another’s battles, witness the fuming
anger feeding disenchantment in the street
and the acquisitive tendencies of the elite,
cowardly saber-rattling, cut off from authority,
from that innate expressively honest power
of our erotic selves, our instinctive selves,
the non-rational knowing that embodies
strength, nothing weak or pornographic
in its expression, a profound antithesis
to the pornography of war and hate that,
in the end, is about impotence, about the
emboli of narrow minds, grasping oligarchs
fomenting tribal dissents for their own ends
or dropping bombs like a child bangs pots –
to overwhelm the fear of thunder, a game
of chicken, of the hawk-hawk play toward
a mutually assured destruction . . .

just a matter of time 

as we stand the ground of one another’s
battles where peace would be revolutionary and
the unholy alliance of wealth and fear-mongering
might burn itself out, find its way into justice,
but here we are, once again, in thrall to the
sociopaths that have us bloodied and bound ~
their eyes are the aged face of clockwork orange,
numb to the obscenities of maim and murder …
where is the will of the cup to overcome
the sword? time for the temple whores to
sleep with insanity and take the war out of it

© 2017, poem, Jamie Dedes; Photo credit ~ July 9, 1956 nuclear weapon test on Enewetak Atoll, an image of the National Nuclear Security Administration and as such in the public domain

Peace in the house…

Peace in the house, A–Z
an incomplete guide

 

Average the
costs
contained in
conflicted—
me;

brave the
challenges
chanced by
characterizing as human—
them;

consider
another
analogy
announcing—
I

decide
altogether
all people could be,
altruistically—
we;

eviscerate
guilt
guile
grand schemes of—
us;

forget
everything
everyone
ever told—
you—

generically and
specifically this, a
species of
spelled out—
our

historically
transfigured
transfixed
transferred—
other,

(those)

ischemic
stories
stuttering to a
stop—
we

join
together
today not
tomorrow to change—
ourselves;

knowing
nothing,
no longer
noting—
I;

lingering
longingly
looking
lost—
we

make
connections
contacting
considerations, again—
we…

nested in:
not us,
not them,
nothing more than
seeing the tear

(in someone
else’s eye).

Opening
crying eyes
almost,
finding—
them;

possibly
possibility
potentiality
probability—
peace;

questions
forming
to know,
not to tear
down;

restoring
connections
lost
to fear;
then

saying
what comes
from hearts
broken
un-broken,

they
offer
a slice
something almost
broken open,

undulating
sweet tastes
of light
promising—
they;

view
us as
we view us
and we view
them

with
similar
intent
to build—
us;

xylophone
bell tones
singing
together—
we;

yearn
for this
peace
to be—
our;

(reality)

zeniths—
like lemon
and orange—
sweet and sour
all together.

—Michael Dickel ©2018


Abecedarian
Related to acrostic, a poem in which the first letter of each line or stanza follows sequentially through the alphabet.

The Poetry Foundation

Peace Conceit

Peace Conceit

וַיִּנָּ֣חֶם יְהוָ֔ה כִּֽי־עָשָׂ֥ה אֶת־הָֽאָדָ֖ם בָּאָ֑רֶץ וַיִּתְעַצֵּ֖ב אֶל־לִבּֽוֹ׃

And then G-d regretted
that G-d had made man on earth,
and G-d’s heart was saddened.

—Bereishit (Gen.) 6:9–13

…neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain
—Matthew Arnold, Dover Beach

On this dark morn, while we sit by
where gulls are heard, the boats asway,
swells rising high on trembling bay,
I yearn to say— please touch my hand,
caress this old frame, kiss me again.

But no voice stirred. So, in cold storms
two faces cast gazes where form ends.
Masks fly for bait to make hearts sigh.
For conversation, we seek words
that toss olive twigs as bread for birds.

Pleas out of phase— touch me again,
kiss my old shame, caress my hands.
No reply justifies tumbling waves,
foghorn echoes, our souls’ dismay.
No warmth wraps us. The last doves’ve died.

—Michael Dickel ©2018


In the positive sense, a conceit originally referred to an extended metaphor with a complex logic that governs a poetic passage or entire poem. By juxtaposing, usurping and manipulating images and ideas in surprising ways, a conceit invites the reader into a more sophisticated understanding of an object of comparison. Wikipedia

Less conventional, more esoteric associations characterize the metaphysical conceit. John Donne and other so-called metaphysical poets used conceits to fuse the sensory and the abstract, trading on the element of surprise and unlikeness to hold the reader’s attention.The Poetry Foundation


 

She Was So Pretty When We Were Young


I knew her when I was younger,
she’d smile at me every morning
when we’d stand up in class and
talk to the flag and the cross.
She was so pretty then, adventurous
and friendly, the Supermodel-in-training.
She helped all the kids, even new ones
transferred in from other neighborhoods.
But some big kids mistook her friendliness,
for weakness, twisting it into some
unspoken promise of a good ol’ time.
They used her in indulgent perversions
of power and possession.

When we got older, those big kids
corrupted her, trotted her around, showed her off,
gave her a new face, new boobs, new persona.
My friend became so addled by all
of their push, prod and promises that,
in the end, she’d do whatever the big guys said,
even nod hollow-eyed when they lied about her.
I barely recognized her in her obit t’other day.
You may have missed it, being so busy
doing what they let you think you want to do.
I’m told they laid her next to her mom,
who men used, debased and scarred until
she was unrecognizable, too.

I wrote most of this poem, originally titled “Liberty Has Fallen,” almost four years ago. I based it on my friend Kellie Elmore’s prompt of a picture called Fall of Liberty, which I think was something like the one illustrating this marginally updated version. In four years, not much has changed. Maybe just the volume’s turned up.

© 2014, Joseph Hesch

Why Do You Love to Hate Me

My elder brother, why do you love to hate me,
Neither am I a boxer or a punching bag,
Yesterday was just about a mere comment that graduated into a serious conflict,
Must we fight to showcase might,
Why don’t we just sit down and reason like men and not just big boys,
I fighting back from slavery to bring peace home.

Sister, why do quarrel over quagmire questions,
Must we agree on everything for us to live harmoniously together,
Don’t we have to disagree in order to learn from the wiser,
Then why do we fight over opinions and errors that can be corrected,
I am rowing too hard to bring our big brother peace back home.

Dad, I miss mum fulfilling presence,
The ugly squabbles have drowned the beautiful love,
Our age refuses to buy into your exchanges,
Please don’t shout over over our heads,
I can’t stand my parents fighting in the 21st century,
Please go sell all your treasures and buy peace and then sleep in peace,
With tranquility of freshness blowing gently on your home.
Oh, what is sweeter than sweet peace of mind and soul overshadowing the struggles of life.

© 2018, Agufa Kivuya

Rest Now, Rest

Your face is a map
of all the wars
you ever fought,
physical, mental,
against others,
against yourself.

You think those lines
might have softened
when your heart ceased.

You think you might
have had some peace
then, some peace,
you would think,

some peace,
I would hope,
if your splintered life
had not disproved the possibility
of its existence.

© 2018, Edward Lee

The Never Ending Fall

There is no calmness quite like it,
its warmth caressing
your tumultuously tumbling mind,
a damp cloth on a fevered forehead.

All the white noise behind your eyes
suddenly ceases
with the decision made,
the route mapped,
the end in sight,

The end of it all,
an unholy trinity
of pain, noise,
despair,
all done,
gone,
as you will be gone,
nothing of you left
but the body you once inhabited
and the memories
alive in the minds
of those
who didn’t really know you
after all.

© 2018, Edward Lee

We Interrupt Your Regularly Scheduled Programming

Any one of us
could change the world,
simply by turning to the stranger beside us
and saying hello;

a stranger could become a friend,
a silence a sound,
a gesture a levelling
of these walls we build around ourselves,
creating our own narrow worlds
within the greater, wider world.

We, humans,
all of us human,
need only one world,
as big as it needs to be,
while as small as the distance
between us and a stranger,
not these millions of unideal worlds,
noiselessly colliding with each other,
fragments of ourselves
lost forever.

© 2018, Edward Lee

anthem . . .

still we sing
give peace a chance
still
the young die
for
the ghosts
under
old men’s beds
and for
flag draped
corporate greed
once
our voices
were strong
and
could be heard
throughout a generation
our arms
were linked
for
human dignity
but
time
has eroded
the bedrock
of
our song
and
death
has pried
our arms apart
so
many
of us
stand alone
repeating
those words
as if
the dead
will rise
if we but
only
say
our life’s mantra
for
every
life lost
to
the lust
for
domination
oh
we have sung
these words
so
very long

 

A Regiment of Leaves

A regiment of leaves dry, dull, dark, dead,
Flying, flapping, fluttering in the wind,
Rustling, rattling, flattering, sputtering
And a small piece of advice stuttering
About how once they were so vividly green,
Glittering, glistening, ah what a scene!
They were so excited to have eavesdropped
To the the secret of love and never stopped
Until they dropped dead like shot down birds
Or buffalloes or any hunted herds.
Yet I don’t lament their fall and absence
For next spring they’ll come back to existence.
They’ll come back as green as ever again,
Canopies to cover the naked plain.
Oh those young regiments who won’t come back,
Confined before time in graves cold and dark,
Sent to fight in futile wars and battles
And got killed in everlasting struggles.
They won’t be seen next spring or any spring,
They’re gone forever but the pains still sting.

© 2018, Osama Massarwa

Bloody Revolutions

Hemmed in on all sides, left and right closing like a vise.
When the gauntlet is thrown down, you better think twice
about your plan for freedom, because they’ll strike you down.
Violence births violence, it all comes around.

Venezuela and Cuba are examples of this, how a people downtrodden
take the party’s whips, until fed up with utopia, they push back and are killed
for party, for community, for unity, ideological blood spills…

Hemmed in on all sides, left and right closing like a vise.
When the gauntlet is thrown down, you better think twice
about your plan for freedom, because they’ll strike you down.
Violence births violence, it all comes around.

American values are shipped the word round, we infiltrate cultures,
raze them to the ground, then rebuild in our image, a slow-bleeding wound…

Hemmed in on all sides, left and right closing like a vise.
When the gauntlet is thrown down, you better think twice…

-© 2018, Joshua Medsker

~ The Edge After ~

Photo by Yasin Akgul/AFP/Getty Images – Guardian.com under a Creative Open License

When war is your “normal”,
How do you find peace?
Is it the breaths between bombs,
When the dust motes circle,
Sparkling in sun beams?
Is it the silence of the dead,
The lack
Of thudding thunder,
Or bloodied wonder of whistling
Missles overhead?
Is it as simple as securing
A safe path through the tumbled
Rubble of what used to be your school?
Is it found in the tiny, yellow flowers
Heads bobbing in the breezes
In the middle
Of a minefield?
Is it the warm comfort
Of a hot meal on nights
When you dared to light a fire?
Is it the softly repeated prayers,
Whispered balms for a tired mind?

When war is your “normal”,
You find peace in the small things,
In quiet moments of reprieve —
Of “not war”.
The kinds of punctuated pauses
That had no drumbeat,
No percussion,
“Before”.
When war is your “normal”,
It is hard to remember
That there ever was a
“Before”.

 © 2018, Corina Ravenscraft

 

Peace

We all have heard the moral
That one should always be honest
Because honesty is rewarded.
Yes! We all should be like
That honest woodcutter
In the story ‘The Woodcutter and the Axe’.
But is it only about rewards?
Is it only about getting a silver axe?
A golden axe?
Honesty is not about getting more
Or receiving the best.
It has more to do
With our character
Being our true selves and
That which helps us find
Peace within ourselves.
Sky
When I look at the sky
I don’t think about its vastness
Nor the changing colours.
I only think how I can
Climb so high
How I can touch it
With my own hands
How I can colour it
With my own painting brush.

© 2018, Sravani Singampalli

Gesture

The marchers rally behind him.
His left hand flashes a peace sign.
The right brandishes
a sign like a sword:
“War is Fascism
Fascism is War.”
A reporter asks a
question. He sidesteps.
Instead he parodies
the President:
“Without peace
there is no security.”
That night he pulls into his parking lot.
A Lincoln straddles two spaces,
including his.
The street lamp illuminates
a Trump Pence bumper sticker.
He keys the Republican’s car.

Her bumper sticker proclaims:
“Visualize world peace,”
which should surprise no one
who sees her driving the
tie-dyed Tesla with
peace sign on the hood.
At the Elemental Fern
a waitress spills a latte down
her $500 Reformation coat.
She rattles the table with her fist
Screams for the manager,
demands the waitress’ dismissal,
abandons her check.
No tip.

“The peace of the Lord,” he says
as he clasps the hands of the couple
in the next pew. “Peace of the Lord,”
he repeats to the grandmother and
the soldier and the smoker with
nicotine stains enveloping her hands.
In a moment he will lead
a reading from Isaiah,
“They will beat their
swords into plowshares,
their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up
sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war.”
His wife stayed home,
unwilling to show off
the black eye and bruises
adorning her cheek.

We demand peace from nations
but ignore the
consuming rage
within.

© 2018, poem and illustration, Phillip T. Stephens

III

III.

Is this World War Three

are we destined to stay apart

regardless of the peacemakers

and the efforts of the meek

to spread giving as a

worthwhile commodity

Will the pain be daily

these unexpected jolts

of molten fear

followed by losses

we cannot afford–

this is not something

we saved up for

Will children grow up questioning

if there is any point

in following dreams

or is there a way to keep

God’s peace close, and hope

as an option, instead of a

faraway fantasy

© 2018, Pleasant Street

A Tale of Two Cities

(Raanana, October 9, 2015)

It was the blessed of cities
It was the cursed of cities,
A city located halfway between heaven and earth
And a city halfway between earth and hell,
A city where stones are cool and soft
From evening breezes and countless feet
A city where stones are hot with blood
And sharp with crashing down on heads,
A city purchased with the blood of David
From Jebusites for more than it was worth,
A city worth more today than the blood of all our children,
One city’s Mount Moriah where Isaac was bound for sacrifice
Another’s Al-Masjid al-Aqsa where Mohammed ascended,
A city protected by youthful soldiers
And a city defiled by youthful soldiers,
Jerusalem the capital of Israel
And al-Quds the capital of Palestine
But in truth the capital of no earthly nation,
A city twice destroyed
A city indestructible,
A city about which everything said is true
And one about which nothing said is true.

© 2018, Mike Stone

On a Passage from the Mishna

….(Raanana, November 17, 2017)

It is written that whoever saves a life
It’s as though he saved a world
And whoever snuffs out a life
It’s as though he snuffed out a world,
And why is that?
It’s because that when we walk
We walk with an entire world in front of us
And we walk with a whole world behind us
On either side of us
Above and below us
So we are six worlds saved or destroyed
And who can know from whence will come the savior
How he’ll look or what he’ll do,
So whoever saves a life
It’s as though he saved himself
And whoever kills a life
It’s as though he killed himself.

Note:
The fourth chapter of the Mishnaic tractate of Sanhedrin “whoever destroys a single life … is considered … to have destroyed the whole world and whoever saves a single life … is considered … to have saved the whole world” sometime prior to 250 A.D.

© 2017, Mike Stone

News from the Front: Guernica Is Draped

“Shortly before Colin Powell’s February 5th 2003 UN Security Council fraudulent power point presentation – where he made the case for invading Iraq – UN officials, at US request, placed a curtain over the tapestry of Picasso’s Guernica, located at the entrance to the Security Council’s chambers. As a TV backdrop, the anti-war mural would contradict the Secretary of State’s case for war in Iraq.” Saul Landau, from “Fallujah, the 21st Century Guernica”

in the formal glass & steel palace
of power, Guernica is infamously
draped so power and its plans will not be embarrassed
by all those inconvenient very famous screams
or by that equally famous walleyed pall of death, suspended
in the air like a steel claw
over Guernica

the wild-eyed horse’s famous scream is draped, his long
teeth are draped, the famous one-eyed man looking wide-
eyed up into his own tiny but also very famous
death is draped, and the big wheel of pain
is draped, and the shame we ought to carry like
a ball and chain is draped and the god of unintended
consequences who steady dogs the gods of war with bad
dreams of futures, unforeseen, is draped, is draped
is also draped

and who or what will carry that scream, always,
already further into our memory because
our memory is now draped and our memory alone
is the true habitation and the secret name
of that horse, his teeth, that one-eyed
man, that claw diving down on us from
a sky, torn and dark, and that long, and for-now,
very famous scream

(This poem was formerly published by the Sonoma County Peace Press (Feb/Mar 2014, Vol29 #1)

© 2018, John Sullivan

A Taste for the Juicy Zobo-Blood

I
After fuddled in thought,
Around 12 a.m.,
In the serene night
I depleted my thought
Which was flitting through my mind.
My thought I proffered no ears
But nature reasoned with me.
When depleted,
It was just like a cannikin tipsy with water
And then disgorged.

II
Night piggybacked me
Decoying me to drift off
And letting me not to take to heart
The scene of dratted, bloody war –
Which my eyes caught
In the placid gyring screen
(Men were moved to war)

III
What stirred men to bloody war ?
What impelled men to gyre in war ?
In the serenity perception of mind
Heart will proffer them answer
After the taste of juicy ZOBO-BLOOD
Running spill from their heart.

© 2018, Martins Tomisin

Steal a Glance at the Sky

Look!
Hey, look up
see the sun sitting still on the cloudy sky
flaring on the days of worry
and slitting through the sky;
eyeballing on the earth
with a beautiful smile
and then gyring on the placid sky

Look!
Hey, look up,
the sun is still sitting still on the sky
as the cloudburst withdrew
like a bat that must flinch In flinch
from the morning-rosette.
Look,
all you who draw hot tears
from its sad face
all you who draw sword
against your neighbour
all you who feed fat on bloody wars.
Look at the gyring sun;
sunny, while rain drizzled the earth
and unmoved by the cloudburst:
It glisters all day in serenity
and bring harvest to men.

© 2018, Martins Tomisin

Song of Kashmir

The Mughal Emperor Akbar is depicted training an elephant; public domain

I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” Nelson Mandela


Everyone feels the need to belong to someone or somewhere. Everyone has a history and needs a teacher to receive knowledge as ‘fear can be overcome by knowing.’  Hence the saying ‘knowledge is power’, but power for the cause of good and peace.

All Families have a history, some are historical themselves like the Kings, Rulers, Emperors and Leaders. There have been families in the History of Religion where we find the exemplary lives of the Messengers, their strength of character and the lessons they taught to their people. Histories have been written in royal courts and in this part of Asia, a good example is in the time of the Mughal Kings.

In the court of Emperor Akbar there were three scribes sitting with their quills, inkpots and papers writing all that happened in the court each day, what orders were issued what cases were heard and decisions taken. They recorded events, wars, births and deaths and weird happenings …worth remembering. So what is worth remembering in a kingdom a country and a family…a family history would include the same a family story. Stranger are the personal stories that happen all over the world. Many remain untold and unheard. By a stranger chance I was ordained to write one…

I too loved to have a family home town. A place I could say was my ‘village’, an old wooden house, a rough garden, a small yard and a cooking space smelling of freshly kneaded wheat and the sweet aroma of tea, cool evenings and summers under the shade of the trees or by a small stream. I was always asking questions about my birth place, our real home, what was the place like, where was it, who lived with us, how come we were there, from where did we get the fresh veges and how. So many questions kept troubling my mind but I got very few answers and so limited information. There was no record in any book or diary form. I wanted to know more about my ancestors but more so about what happened to bring us to another place?

I had strong reasons to take up my pen and trace words on paper, which were consolidated by the following guiding inspiring and most encouraging message I received:

If you really believe that what you’re writing is important, that what you’re writing right now could change someone ‘s life, then do it.

My need to belong made me ask questions of my father and mother but I never got a real chance to sit with my Grandfather Maulvi Mohammed Hasan, a prominent educationist, who I remember smoked the traditional Indian hookah’…had good command over the English language, knew a large body of Shakespeare’s plays by heart and loved to solve the crossword puzzles in one of the best English daily, The Statesman. The newspapers reflected English dominance.

“You were born in a dominion,” said my aunt one day. “We are Kashmiris. We left everything there.” Everything? “Yes. We had to save our lives as war had broken out and we had been blessed with a new country, Pakistan. We were extremely excited but events were not so grand nor safe, people were being killed.”  My family had dreamed, hoped, desired and prayed for the new green land to become our homeland but he would endlessly talk about Kashmir: the food, the rice, the tea, the cherries, the fresh weather … but all in memories some things remembered, some forgotten.

It really doesn’t matter whether the narrative is factually accurate or not. After all, memory distorts events from the past. Rather, the narrative becomes part of the family theme that takes on almost mythical dimensions. The oral tradition is the way stories, tales, myths and adventures have been handed from generation to generation from the beginning of time. Do you know your family narrative? If not, why not find out if family members can relate them to you now? It’s never too late. The fact is, remembered or not, we add to the narrative in the present to hand down to our children and grandchildren. And so a story of family life reflecting manners cultural traditions habits social customs and a mixture of Punjabi Kashmiri living routines…

Keeping my own high interest and spirit of inquiry, one day I sat down. My father was resting holding a paper and pen ready. I said quietly “Father please tell us about your journey to this newly created country?”

“Why do you want to know. It is not easy to talk about it now’

You can’t be brave if you’ve only had wonderful things happen to you.” Mary Tyler Moore

Grandfather Maulvi Mohammed Hasan was born in 1892 in Jammu Kashmir. Migrated from Kashmir due to famine.

FAMINE?

Here I have brought in information about the Great Famine that caused many Kashmiris to leave their land. Many shifted to Amritsar Gujranwala in Punjab and to Sialkot near the border. Dr. Ernest Neve’ writes in his book Beyond the Pir Panjal Famine 1877-1879.

In some parts of the valley including Srinagar it is said that population reduced by more than half. Heavy rain fell in Autumn before the crops were gathered in. The rice and maize which are the staple foods, rotted.During the Winter the rains continued.The cattle died from want of food.”

Spring harvest failed due to bad weather. The authorities made a fatal mistake and ordered a house to house search for seed grain. People hid the seed grains for their own eating, this aggravated the situation. Famine continued until October 1879.

There is a Kashmiri saying

‘Haki’mas ta hakimas nishh- tachhtan khodayo’ O God save me from physicians and rulers’. 

The rulers heavily taxed the local people taking from their produce, earnings and wheat, etc., which left hardly anything for the peasant worker or the agriculturist. In the famine, people ate oil-cake, rice, chaff, bark of elm and yew and even grasses and roots. They became absolutely demoralized like ravenous beasts.  Those who died could be seen as corpses lying in the streets and open spaces, or pulled and dragged into holes where dogs kept wandering sniffing and eating.

Pestilence and cholera broke out and whatever edible stuff was available was extremely expensive, prices were sky high.”

1888-1892 Srinagar was a City of Dreadful Death it was previously known as the Venice of the East but now small pox spread all over killing many childre, thus child population became the most affected.

Father continued the historical story and I kept writing for long, till I realized that he was tired. “Yes, the Famine affected large areas of India.”

Pakistan it was afterwards, peaceful, till war broke out again…and so the story of migration kept moving through pain suffering with gaps of joy and peace and the solace of being together again, though in difficult times.

War broke out and all life changed again…there is so much more to share but for the moment here is my …

Song of Kashmir
Born in Freedom Chained
In Pure Dust, on Pure Earth she stands,
She never saw her Land;
The land where she was born
Heaven on Earth she was told
Pardise Lost! She realized
Cries of Freedom, freedom
She heard; coffins covered in black
She saw; no smiles on faces forlorn,
Clothes all tattered and torn
Hills and mountains, of greenery shorn;
Gone was the beauty of dewdrops
shining in the morn,
She brought the blood and the birth
She brought the life and the soul
And Hope, and the Unseen Dream
She never saw her Land
Why she was here, where she was
She could never own the name KASHMIR

© 2018, Anjum Wasim Dar

Reluctant Immigrant

Reluctant Immigrant

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” Emma Lazarus

Plaintive song sung in childhood, beloved melody that touched my heart,
Often tired, sometimes wretched, always poor, though not homeless

Before I understood the words, I knew the yearning
to belong, to fit in, to be accepted—we were outsiders

Immigrated to the west, escaped, searching for a better life
I left family behind, severed ties for years, survived

He was forced to flee the genocide, board the boat,
Fighting his friends to go to his wife and child, already dead, they said

Landed in New York, no English, cooked for men like him in the hostel
Once a proud Armenian, now a conquered, bereft, shamed man

Reluctant immigrant to a strange land, mourning his home, far away
Arranged second marriage, nine children born on a farm, a life lived, survived

Trauma lived and re-lived, DNA passed down the generations, his story lost
No golden doors for him, just a desire to blend in…and forget

Grandfather to father, father to daughter, I stop the cycle of abuse
Exiles that no God, no Lady Liberty could return home, sheltered here

Safe now, loved, loving others, a good life carved out of pain and shame
He survived that 1915 holocaust, I am, we are, his legacy, immigrants yet.

© 2018, Lisa Ashley

Refugees Rule Each

Nation. The seat of power
is one that must travel.

If it was to ever stop
the populace would revolt.

Folk who stay in one place
are a public nuisance

who don’t get rid of their own
trash, who have a reputation

as thieves from the greater majority
who are travellers. Stayers

Put pressure on others as they insist
on a place to put down roots,

occupy a piece of land when all
land is in common to be used by all.

Stayers cordon off land with fences
which restrict travel and onward journey.

From A World Where (Nixes Mate Press, 2017)

© 2017, Paul Brookes

Our Edge

Each time it is a border,
an end of the road,
a new building,
where I am asked same questions
“What’s your name?
Where are you going?
Why?”

I am discovering my story,
remembering where I have
been, but I recall it as
a
border,
an end of the road,
a new building,
where I am asked same questions
“What’s your name?
Where are you going?
Why?”

© 2018, Paul Brookes

My Daddy

Each time it is a border,
an end of the road,
a new building,
where I am asked same questions
“What’s your name?
Where are you going?
Why?”

I am discovering my story,
remembering where I have
been, but I recall it as
a
border,
an end of the road,
a new building,
where I am asked same questions
“What’s your name?
Where are you going?
Why?”

© 2018, Paul Brookes

.. wouldst thou be pm, an abbreviation..

archaic or dialect question, in appropriate. a lowly start

with slight misgivings, i come arrived from the country, an immigrant

here.

if the task came to me unlikely, i should sew profusely. a safe bet in that

something grows decently.

do you know how to stitch a lie, when all about grow honesty? mine was

white last year,

now nothing germinates.

the question is irreverent, no disrespect meant. forgive me, this is the second

time. this time,

i shall stay.

despite my nationality.

© 2018, Sonja Benskin Mesher

. the questionnaire .

is this a mill, or is it a shop,
is it both, when did the looms stop?

twenty years now sir, yet you can see some
working elsewhere.

shall i write it down, all the pattern,
and most of the history? it has different fibres,
yet mainly wool in it.

these are made in yorkshire, the bags are italian,
yet i am from wales, an immigrant they say, yet we
are all from another place originally.

we came from the sea.

so let us move things about.

cloth by cloth.

© 2018, Sonja Benskin Mesher

. another country .

grandma came from malta, or was it

gibraltar, anyhow dad was very dark.

his hair remained so, with help and support.

i came from england to live here with you

#thebear.

also from another country.

i hear there is trouble in the village.

yes. i am scared they will shout

and say go home.

another country.

© 2018, Sonja Benskin Mesher

The Visitor

…..(Raanana, January 10, 2018)

A multiplication table,
Two times two is four,
She could read a multiplication table
And you’d swear it was poetry
But when she’d read you her own poem
It’d sound like her skin was torn from her soul,
Like she’d invented meaning in your mind.
She was a visitor,
She didn’t come from here.

© 2018, Mike Stone

Call of the Whippoorwill

…..(Raanana, January 30, 2018)

O Whippoorwill, O Whippoorwill,
I alone do hear your plaint.
It comes from deep inside my breast,
Would that I could let it out
To fly free singing,
But no such birds exist here
In the promised land.

Note: This poem expresses how I often feel as an American-expat-Israeli-immigrant in Israel.

© 2018, Mike Stone

The Old Colossus

…..((an alternate plaque for our Statue of Liberty))
…..(Raanana, February 16, 2018)

What have I done
What
have
I
done
to warrant these insults and injuries
to our once rich lands,
our once free skies,
and our once clear waters?
You’ve stripped me of my soil,
you’ve fouled my air,
and you’ve diverted and poisoned my waters.
Have you found another land,
another sky,
or another water to love?
Or have you no soul anymore
to love any land,
any sky,
or any lake or river?
Take what you will from me
then leave me alone
and I will recover without you
but what will you do without me?
What
will you
do without
me?

[Note: This poem is addressed, not to fresh-off-the-boat-or-plane immigrants, but to those who have forgotten that they are immigrants and take their country for granted.]

© 2018, Mike Stone

The Partition

Born in Srinagar Kashmir, migrated to adopted country Pakistan in 1950 with my mother and sister..travelling in a refugee convoy, escorted by soldiers crossed the border at Sialkot.

Title: Partition
(Inspired by T S Eliot )

August is the cruelest month, bare branches
Sprouting tiny greens,
life bursting from the lifeless,
A rising,
mixing sorrow of defeat with defiance,
Spring rain drizzles consistently,
snow suddenly surprised us
We stopped in the plains,
leaving the mountains’
Went in half daylight so we should have
Known the path,
and the unknown traversed rarely,
So we should have known the faith,
and the faithful and the Emperors of Ice creams-
Not long ago, when I was a child,
was carried across borders
frightened, slept in a camp for two nights,
-wonder how Mother felt? She never spoke
About those days, then on we
came to Murree Hills, and felt free
And I knew not, was I taking refuge or was it a
New land?
What was left in enemy hands, where
Are the roots that make a family?
Out of the masses who survived who committed
Suicide-you cannot say or guess even for you
Have seen only images and heard only broken voices
Who lost half the thought in trying to forget
Spoke not all-scenes of horror
Heaps of bodies cut and slayed
Blood splattered on trains roads and fields
Death, for a cause? Yet not so or was it?
Many went South, separated, lost, confused-
All said ‘we shall go back, one day’
The Day never came-
And then the beginning of the end-
One by one
Who has seen Spring again, after the Fall
Providence persists prevails
Acceptance and non-acceptance is, what ails
Unreal cities, unreal people, so unlike what
Was expected-
War War War and again War-
When will it end, fear strikes within
Shelter is scarce, fashion abounds and all
Is a show off! Young dead glorified
on the mini screen, what are they dying for
now? Half the barren land, minerals in ranges
The enemy changed and we thought ’this is Right-
People crowd the roads , daily beggars are children
And who said ‘we shall have enough, and peace”
Mountains and Rocks
Mountains are dangerous, no rocks will give
Shelter, there is no water, nor wells
A waste it becomes, filth in the drains overflowing
And the big man’ said’ we have worked hard’
But the mountains will not protect,
Truth is linked , Faith is strong
It will not be long when the Shadow
Will turn to Light and the darkness will go-
Go in the shadow of the mountain
Sit by the stream and clean all
The mind and soul, wash away to the sea
Impurity, or else be prepared to face,
a tsunami, or the jolts and shakes
there is still a chance-look! Be the Dance
not the dancer, in the circle of life
Come to a still point with Nature
Where nothing matters anymore-
Think and feel, help and heal, the needy
Feed the hungry, for I can see-there comes
Someone-keeps close and watches , ever present
Who leads us on unseen and the Third we say
Who helped us –its not our doing but The Mercy
Of The Merciful-
Bow bow bow –pray pray pray…
Welcome love from above , eternal peace will stay

© 2018, Anjum Wasim Dar

From the Desk of a Shotgun Survivor

Drop your weapons America!
And make your country great again.

The fact is the increase of reoccuring incidences of gun violence in America today is a symptom of a sick society’s dependency on weapons. A gun, a mechanism designed to cause harm, has become a central figure in the lives of too many Americans. And we are all paying the price for it.

More and more of our citizens are worshiping a piece of steel above God, family or vocation. I do understand why this has happened: In essence, God, family and vocation have eluded these forsaken people … and afterall we all need something to lean on.

For many, a gun is no longer a a tool, but a “crutch”. It is used primarily to alleviate a person’s insecurities, while falsely boosting confidence, self-esteem and personal power. Sound familiar? Sort of reminiscent of that Leonard Cohen song: “And everybody knows that you live forever Ah when you’ve done a line or two…” don’t you think?

Guns are the next “opiate” to hit the scene. And gun advocates and gun manufacturers are as irresponsible and as greedy as some doctors and the pharmaceutical industry are this country.

Today, in hospital emergency rooms all over America, sick people are being convinced: “You have the right to control your pain.” And in bars and at dinner tables around our nation, that same propaganda is pushed out sounding something like this: “You have a right to defend yourself.”

Unfortunately, people who are in spiritual and emotional pain are turning to their guns for relief and that relief comes in the form of violence. One day a man is praised for being a “great guy”, the next day … he has shot his wife. Same guy, with the same gun cabinet, with the same permit to carrry. He was never a problem before! Right?

Well here’s the problem: A gun as a “prop” doesn’t support a person’s personal growth. It is like giving a child who can’t swim a life jacket instead of teaching the child the skills he needs not to drown.

I know how to make America great again: Give up the “cruch” and challenge yourself to be stronger. Or encourage the people you love to be the best versions of themselves without their guns.

Do the unthinkable: Drop your weapon.

Written by Evelyn Augusto for Guns Don’t Save People Poets Do: Dueling with words to stop gun violence. 2018

Sex and the Second Amendment

skeptic

This “Skeptic’s Collection” column was first published in October of 2014. But in light of the recent mass shootings in, e.g., Las Vegas, NV, Sutherland Springs, TX, and Parkland, FL, it seems appropriate to reprint it now, especially given that the bravery, eloquence, and conscience of the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in the latter city seem to have eventuated — at least so we may hope — a kind of moral conversion of the public debate on gun control. This column may well also be published as an essay in the Be-Zine, the other e-periodical for which I write. That is quite all right. To quote Mao Zedong:  “Let a hundred flowers bloom”. I want to add my modest impetus to the newly “woke” consciousness regarding the Second Amendment.

A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed. – Second Amendment

I was always taught that, in order to maintain amicable relations in social settings, there were two topics to be avoided like Ebola:   religion and politics. (OK … OK … technically, there’s also a third: John Boehner’s sun-tan lotion, but that’s off-topic.) I think we are now in a position to form an Unholy Trinity by adding a third item to the to-be-avoided list: gun / Second Amendment issues. But, really, we seem to be at the point that the three are really the same thing – hence my “Trinity” metaphor — because it is becoming increasingly difficult, at least among many people, to separate religion from politics from Second Amendment issues. This circumstance is abnormal, both constitutionally and historically. It is constitutionally abnormal because, for each of the rights enshrined in the American Constitution, there is a corresponding and correlative limitation or qualification. E.g., free speech, yes, but no yelling of “Fire!” in a crowded theater (or “Movie!” in a crowded firehouse, courtesy of Woody Allen). Except perhaps for the “free exercise” right of clergy-penitent confidentiality, no right, even the most sacrosanct, is “absolutely absolute”.

Historically, reasonable limitations on gun possession and usage were likewise the rule rather than the exception. Many gun owners and aficionados still have no problem with reasonable and prudent gun regulation, and we should not paint all gun owners in a common color with a common brush. But among the communicants of the Orthodox Church of the National Rifle Association, it is a matter of irreformable dogma that any limitation of any kind, however modest and reasonable, on the ownership of any kind of weapon threatens the very foundations of the American Republic. If Federal courts had adopted the same attitude toward the First Amendment that the NRA adopts toward the Second, falsely yelling “Fire!” in a crowded theater or publishing fraudulent claims about commercial products would count as protected speech. All constitutional rights, without exception and including gun rights, are — or should be — subject to reasonable, prudent, and common-sense restrictions. The alternative is anarchy, the “state of nature”. 

I have neither the time nor the space for an exhaustive survey of the landscape of the restrictions on the Second Amendment that are embodied in the case law. If you would like an excellent, though even then far from exhaustive, such history, you can do no better than to read Michael Waldman’s moderate, reasoned, and intelligent The Second Amendment: A Biography , which is available in both book and Kindle form. Suffice to say that, prior to the decade of the 1980s and the rise of the National Rifle Association as an organization promoting, not only gun education and safety, but also and latterly a hyper-fundamentalist perspective on the Second Amendment, the subject of gun control and regulation was nowhere near as volatile, fraught, and dominated by extremist elements as it is today. Waldman notes that “[a]n iconic photo of Dodge City – that iconic frontier town – shows a sign planted in the middle of the main street [reading] ‘The Carrying of Fire Arms Strictly Prohibited’,” and cites Chief Justice Warren Burger, a Nixon nominee with whom no one would ever confuse Barney Frank or Bill Maher, asserting that “the idea of individual gun rights in the Constitution is a preposterous [Chief Justice Burger’s word — JRC] ‘fraud’.”

Gun rights were further curtailed by Miller v. Texas, and the NRA even backed President Roosevelt’s National Firearms Act of 1934, which levied heavy taxes on the types of weapons used in the Depression-era bank-robbery epidemics, and outright prohibited the transportation of machine guns and sawed-off shotguns across state lines – measures that today would cause Wayne LaPierre, Ted Nugent, and Charlton Heston to simultaneously throw embolisms … even though Heston is dead. (Mr. LaPierre is on record as asserting that there is a God-given natural right to own firearms, based on the natural right of self-defense. So … crash course in natural rights theory for Mr. LaPierre:  natural rights pertain exclusively to ends, not to means. Yes, you do have a natural right to pursue the end of self-defense, but there is no natural right to own, as means to that end, e.g., Glock-9s, AR-15s, and MAC-10s, because Glock-9s, AR-15s, and MAC-10s are not natural objects.) The Firearms Act was challenged in court, but the Supreme Court upheld its constitutionality in United States v. Miller in 1934. Writing for a unanimous Court — !!!! –Justice James McReynolds denied that a sawed-off shotgun “at this time has some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well-regulated militia, [and therefore] we cannot say that the Second Amendment guarantees the right to keep and bear such an instrument. Certainly it is not within judicial notice that this weapon is any part of the military equipment or that its use could contribute to the common defense”. Miller set a precedent that would allow a Congress so inclined to classify certain weapons types as beyond the ambit of the types of weapons that could be possessed for personal defense. Of course, in today’s political climate, any member of either House who actually voted for such a measure would probably sign her or his political death warrant.

But two game-changing decisions by the Supreme Court – United States v. Heller in 2008, followed by McDonald v. Chicago in 2010 – complicated the gun-control issue to a degree that participants in those previous controversies could scarcely imagine. In the Heller decision, the Court, by a 5-4 vote, asserted, not only that there is an individual right to gun ownership untethered to military service, but that that individual right is fundamental. In constitutional law, the term “fundamental right” is not merely a term of art: it has a very specific and narrowly technical meaning. Once a right has been christened as “fundamental,” that right becomes one of the supporting and load-bearing pillars in the edifice of “ordered liberty” comprising America’s constitutional culture, and as such is a defining parameter of the Nation’s legal character. Free exercise of religion is a fundamental right, so is freedom of speech, etc.

Different as they are in other respects, fundamental rights share two salient features: (1) the Government may abridge fundamental rights only to achieve some “compelling governmental interest”, but even then (2) in order to be fully constitutional, the abridgement must be achieved by the “least restrictive means”. (In practice, this often further entails that any proposed abridgement of a “fundamental right” must be subject to a strict-scrutiny level of judicial review. I say “often … subject to strict scrutiny” instead of “always … subject to strict scrutiny” because, for any given case before the Court, the level of judicial review, being a matter of separation of powers doctrine, is always a prerogative of the Judicary.) If those two quoted phrases sound familiar, they should: they were the two criteria used, via the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) of 1993, to assess the constitutionality of the contraceptive mandate of the Affordable Care Act, a classic case of a decision that concerned a fundamental right – in that case, “free exercise”. The Court decided that, while the Government did have a “compelling … interest” in the availability of means of contraception, that the mandate, being violative of the Greens’ religious beliefs, was not the “least restrictive means” of achieving that goal. The reason that Heller exponentially complicates the gun-control issue is because finding an individual Second Amendment right and christening that right as “fundamental” means that any restriction or abridgement of any individual’s or group’s gun rights is subject to the same two stringent criteria as the contraceptive mandate:   “compelling … interest” and “least restrictive means”. Basically, individual gun rights are placed on an equal constitutional footing with freedom of religion. On that basis, it is not at all clear that FDR’s Firearms Act of 1934 could have been upheld.

The other game-changing decision was McDonald v. Chicago two years after Heller, in 2010. By way of cutting to the chase, we may say that the McDonald decision took the momentous step of “incorporating” the Second Amendment against the States. This has the effect of imposing the operative “infringement” clause of the Second against State governments as well as the Federal government: anything the Federal government is prohibited from doing by the Second, State governments are likewise prohibited from doing. McDonald had the same effect vis a vis the Second Amendment that the Gitlow decision of 1925 had vis a vis the First: McDonald overruled and superseded, e.g., Cruikshank. (Granted, Cruikshank was an invidious attempt to use Louisiana state gun law to essentially disarm African-American people in the wake of the infamous “Colfax massacre” of 1873, but the motivation behind Cruikshank is irrelevant for our purposes.) Incorporating the Second Amendment against the States via McDonald means that people who work for rational, reasonable, constitutionally consistent gun control – i.e., the kind of gun control that was the rule rather than the exception prior to about 1980 – can no longer adopt a State-by-State strategy, because the Supreme Court has declared the Second Amendment to embody a fundamental right to individual gun ownership, which makes it necessary for State efforts toward gun control to meet the same exacting two-criteria challenge – “compelling … interest” and “least restrictive means” – that prevail at the Federal level.

But all the foregoing begs the question of why, prior to roughly 1980, it was possible to pass reasonable, prudent, rational, moderate, and constitutionally consistent gun restrictions — the kinds of restrictions that qualify, restrict, and hedge about all other constitutional rights … even rights deemed fundamental — but that for the past at-least-30 years have been virtually impossible to pass, despite horrific provocations like the Newtown, Aurora, and Gabby Gifford shootings and, at least for exhaustive background checks, around 90-percent support in the American population as a whole.  You want my take on it?  Funny you should ask. The gun-control debate in the United States has, at this point, virtually nothing to do with the Constitution.

Gun control  legislation is all about sex.

And to answer your next question … yes, I am quite serious.  The gun control issue, at this point, is essentially cultural, not jurisprudential.  Culture is in the saddle riding the law … rather like slavery in the antebellum Nation.  I had believed this for a few years, but a couple of days ago was gratified to discover that constitutional scholar Michael Waldman agrees with me.  In The Second Amendment:  A Biography he notes that

[i]ncreasingly, it is clear that the gun issue is not one of evidence-based public safety policy, but of culture.  The rediscovery and glorification of the Second Amendment reflects that divide … The desire to buy a gun for protection has raw emotional elements, and it certainly may reflect aspects of racial panic (especially … after the country elects an African-American president). … In parts of America … having a gun was a deeply rooted cultural tradition, part of what it meant to be a man.

Waldman’s reference to incipient “racial panic” engendered among some by the presence of a Black man in the White House is certainly well taken.  It hearkens back to antebellum and Reconstruction fears in the South, by now part of many people’s collective unconscious and by no means just in the South, of armed slaves. In that sense and to that extent, many are to this day haunted by John Brown and Harper’s Ferry.  But I would argue that, if anything, Waldman’s allusion to the historical role of guns as being part of the male rite of passage in American culture is perhaps even more relevant, especially given the additional role that guns have played in the protection of oneself and one’s community and family — all traditionally male roles. In American culture, proficiency with a gun has historically been a hallmark, even a “metric”, of a man’s “manliness,” his masculinity. Given the obvious Freudian and phallic overtones of guns vis a vis male identity, many — not all by any means, but many — men’s anxiety to and hostility toward any form of gun control legislation is merely a sublimated form of what Freud probably would have called “castration anxiety”.  (Not for nothing is the colloquial expression “shooting blanks” often used to describe a man’s reproductive potential after a vasectomy!) Gun control is a form of emasculation.  So any form of gun control legislation — any form whatsoever, however modest and reasonable — is seen — again, almost always on an unconscious level — as posing the following question to (some) men:  Excuse me, sir, what part of your genitalia could you reasonably and moderately and in a constitutionally consistent manner do without?  The obvious answer:  Absolutely none, and don’t even think about trying! 

The subliminal association of gun control and emasculation is also even more problematical when one considers how the cultural  image of men — husbands, fathers, lovers, etc. — has been devalued in American culture, really ever since the early 1960s. Yes, there have been positive images of men as husbands and fathers. TV series like Father Knows Best and Leave It to Beaver hardly count, because they date mostly from the 1950s. (Granted, the fathers and husbands in those series were unabashedly and unapologetically patriarchal. No one would ever confuse, e.g., Ward Cleaver with Alan Alda. But the point is this:  they were invincibly competent … Yoda without the inverted-syntax speech patterns and floppy ears.)  But series like The Waltons in the 1970s did depict men as — certainly far from perfect — but often and even as a rule wise, gentle, temperate, and possessed of integrity.  Think “Ralph Waite” and the late “Will Geer” at this point. 

But, by and large, men as husbands and fathers have been far more often depicted as lovable and well-intentioned, but bumbling and, at best, only marginally competent:  harmless but hopelessly inept.  Remember, it was Dick Van Dyke, as Rob Petrie, and not Mary Tyler Moore, as Laura Petrie, who tripped over the ottoman at the beginning of every episode of the old Dick Van Dyke Show in the ’60s. (Ironically, this is also the cultural period when women were simply assumed to be subordinate to men in both political and domestic life. Also in the life of most religious communities.)  So the period when men were seen as mostly harmless but bumbling incompetents coincides with the time when the political climate was most amenable to gun-control legislation — the time, generally speaking, when Chief Justice Burger asserted that the idea of individual gun rights was a “fraud”. Men were expected to live down to these expectations, and part of that package was suppressing the obvious sexual and phallic dimensions of gun ownership and usage:  if men are indeed merely overgrown adolescents, the last thing one wants to do is put an AR-15 in their hands. (So how did literal adolescents at Columbine, in Virginia, at Newtown, and in Parkland get their hands on such weapons if that was “the last thing” we wanted? Fair question. Keep reading … ) Moreover, this period also runs in parallel with a time when other affirmations of masculinity were in decline:  getting a job (since remaining at the same company or even in the same profession for a working lifetime was becoming more difficult); marriage and family (since marriage rates were declining, along with birth rates); various religiously derived parameters (with the decline of organized religion); etc., etc. For many men, guns became one of the few remaining instruments for defining and affirming masculinity. That suppression set the stage for what we see today as backlash expressed as gross overcompensation in the form of radical hostility toward any and all proposed gun legislation:  (one more time: some, though not all) men are going to strenuous lengths to recover (what they regard as) their lost sexuality and masculinity. If Freud were still around, he probably would fulminate darkly about “the return of the repressed”.

 

The real problem, therefore, is not constitutional but cultural:  there is a scarcity, verging on complete absence, of rituals and “markers” and “metrics” whereby men are initiated into manhood, into masculinity. In fact, it would only be the mildest exaggeration to say that there are no such instruments at all that could serve as rites of passage.  (This is not to imply in any way whatsoever that the situation is any better, or even any different, for girls / women. Western culture — especially but not exclusively American culture — is historically abnormal in that respect for both sexes.)  At least for men, the Supreme Court only compounded the problem by codifying this state of affairs into law by ruling as it did in Heller and then proceeding, via McDonald, to levy that interpretation of the Second Amendment on the States as a guiding principle of gun-related jurisprudence.  Now we have the worst of both worlds. The Second Amendment serves as a kind of cultural and psychological lightning rod, attracting, and facilitating overcompensation for, men’s insecurity and anxiety about the loss of their identity as men.  Guns are to many (not all) men what the blue security blanket is to Linus in Peanuts — with the critical difference that Linus never used his security blanket to kill a couple dozen schoolkids or to slaughter movie-goers or to try to assassinate a congresswoman. Unless and until the culture evolves much more benign rituals, institutions, and rites for marking the attainment of masculinity, we will be stuck with violence, often against women, in the form of guns, domestic violence, and semi-automatic weapons being carried into Starbucks … and churches. 

Both metaphorically and literally, we will keep hearing things go Bang! in the night.

© 2018, James R. Cowles

Image credits

“Second Amendment” … Nick Youngerson / Alpha Stock Images … CC by SA 3.0
Declaration of Independence and pistol … Kaz Vorpal … CC by SA 2.0
“Stop Gun Violence” billboards … InSapphoWeTrust … CC by SA 2.0
Lady Justice committing suicide … Mike Licht CC by SA 2.0
Minuteman … Aldaron … CC by SA 2.0
“Penis-Pistol” … Dunks58 … CC by SA 3.0
Petrie family … CBS network … Public domain

A Moral Failure


“Cowardice asks the question – is it safe? Expediency asks the question – is it politic? Vanity asks the question – is it popular? But conscience asks the question – is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular; but one must take it because it is right.” Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. from his speech, A Proper Sense of Priorities, February 6, 1968, Washington, D.C.

When we speak or write about gun control, the fingers point to second amendment rights, to the suggestion that a complex problem may resolve with the application of one strategy, or to the NRA position and lobby. Democracy is messy, but safety and citizen rights are the concerns rational people hold in common.

No matter the side on which we stand, we are guilty of a moral failure. Gun control is not going to be the entire answer. It’s a beginning and as the U.K., Australia, Japan and Germany have proven it’s a huge and rewarding beginning. I think that most who advocate gun control understand that the issues of violence in America are complex. Not the least of other initiatives would be mental health interventions, mitigating poverty and youth unemployment, creating more educational opportunities and subsidizing arts programs, revisioning our materialistic values, fostering the reimagination of masculinity, and honoring our stated religious convictions. Many of us understand gun ownership as the gateway drug to violence and murder, a contradiction to those convictions. The U.S. is predominantly a country of the Abrahamic traditions and the law we share: “Thou shalt not kill.”

© 2018, Jamie Dedes

A Letter from Vermont: A Near Miss

A lovely morning, the bright mid-February sun illuminating the very air as it bounced off last night’s fluffy snowfall. Now clouds have begun to fill in from the west, turning the day chilly and dank.

This coming week is forecast to be as much as 30 degrees F above seasonal norms. There will likely be sap runs and some adventurous souls will likely sunbathe if the sun appears long enough. We are also into Winter break at many of our schools, with families taking off to the ski slopes or to warmer climes for the week.

Speaking of school, our small state was stunned this week when a young man was arrested for planning an attack on the small rural high school he once attended. The eighteen year old had been in a mental health treatment program in a nearby state, but had come home to carry out the well planned attack.

All this began unfolding on Tuesday, the same day as the Florida high school shooting, and reminded us that we are not immune to the epidemic of mass gun violence. We Vermonters pride ourselves on having created a pretty fair place to live and to raise children, so it came as a shock that one of our own kids could live with such fierce hate and intent to harm others.

As far as we know the young man was not motivated by racial or ethnic hatred, as was the youth in Florida who chose to attack a predominantly Jewish high school. Rather, the Vermont youth had previously attended his chosen target high school, and knew some of the students and teachers there. His rage seems to have been more personal.

As always, following actual, or potential, acts of mass violence, we are left to ponder what is truly happening in our society that encourages Caucasian males to plan and carry out mass killings, and what we might do about it. (Virtually all of the mass shootings during the past ten years and more have been conducted by Caucasian males.) I don’t know the answer to either of these questions, although I am certain our leaders’ encouragement of violence in support of ideological goals must contribute to the problem.

While mass shootings rose significantly last year, along with the rhetoric of violent change, during the first six weeks of this year mass violence has been particularly virulent. Yet those in power appear unwilling to reign in either their hate speech, or the availability of the assault rifles that are the weapons of choice in mass shootings, weapons that may be purchased for less than $500 US when purchased with abundant ammunition.

Here in the U.S. the level of everyday violence is rising, along with a sense of unease and vulnerability. Now, when we say goodbye to our loved ones in the morning we collectively find ourselves wondering whether our partners will arrive safely home from work and our kids from school. We also wonder how we are to create needed change when the gun lobby uses its wealth, and the greed of our politicians, to block any and all attempts to make meaningful change.

Here in Vermont there is a long and healthy culture of hunting for subsistence, and rifles and shotguns are often family treasures as well as tools. The idea that those weapons could be turned on our loved ones, friends, and students remains abhorrent to most of us, even as the likelihood someone will use guns to create mass tragedy and suffering, even here in Vermont, increases.

After this week Vermonters are talking about mass violence from very personal perspectives, a conversation that promises to last well beyond this fall’s election cycle.

© 2018, essay and photo, Michael Watson

Two Lamentations

A Priest’s Lament

 

Labyrinth Digital landscape from photo @2018 Michael Dickel
Labyrinth
Digital landscape from photo
@2018 Michael Dickel

i
Starting from the outside,
the labyrinth’s path moves closer,
further, closer, as it takes a poet
deviously toward the center.

Mosaic patterns, partly broken
by frost, perpetually bloom there.
Gray, mossed-stones line the path—
they frame the wanderer’s flower.

ii
We wandered that desert
for forty years. All we had
for communication were
specially designed tents

built from detailed plans—
each folding floorboard
and floating nail exact—
a cellular plan from God.

iii
That lonely God longed for
our calls, the return of a gift
we could not understand.
We just turned on each other

instead. We hoarded words
into locked arks as though
we owned them or understood
what they meant. We didn’t.

iv
We meant to know more. Ever since,
with poor reception, a limited data plan,
we still pretend we can call God
whenever we want. We pray

for every child shot in school
as though words could unlock
such cruelty. We pray that we
will not long be held responsible.

v
I long for the days before
those instructions were given,
before we built the tabernacle,
before we transformed the tent

to stone on top of a mountain,
before we thought we knew
what God wanted us to do,
before we decided we were priests.


Poem of separation (kodesh, kodesh, kodesh)

 

(vi)
A wandering God longs for us
from outside a forty-year labyrinth,
folding time, returning space, locked
into receiving words that cannot be given.

We thought we knew.

(vii)
On the seventh day, God rested.
We have not seen or heard
Creation since. Our language
overwhelms the world.

We thought we knew.


—Michael Dickel


Poet Tree Labyrinth Digital Landscape @2018 Michael Dickel from photos by Terri Carrion and Michael Dickel
Poet Tree Labyrinth
Digital Landscape @2018 Michael Dickel
from photos @2018 by Terri Carrion and Michael Dickel

This two-poem sequence was written at Lake Jackson, Tallahassee, Florida, during Michael‘s participation in the 100 Thousand Poets for Change Residency Program 2018, in the days following the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School mass killings in Parkland, Florida. The 100 Thousand Poets for Change organization has planned poetry events as gun violence protests for peace and memorials for Parkland. More information with a schedule can be found here.


 

The No Peace Piece

Birthed in the minds of power-mad men,
Forged in the mouth of a dark thundercloud,
My sole purpose to kill,
I make murder a thrill;
The cause of many
A burial shroud.

A tool of war-mongers and lovers, alike,
Eat bullets, spit fire, life snatched in a flash.
Life of violence,
Ringing silence,
Endless echoes left,
Bereft and shrieking,
After the crash.

Image borrowed from globalwealthprotection.com

Were I not here, you’d find another way,
To kill each other, one by one,
Each day.
Death-bringer, me.
“Equalizer”, I be.
Men, women, children…
None are safe from The Gun.

~ C.L.R. ~ © 2013