Thursday, February 21, 2013
While Poetry Holds the Mirror
In returning this morning to a poetry anthology from the early 1970's, I was again amazed at how little things have changed. We appear doomed to repeat the same mistakes over and over again, brandishing our weapons and then using them, whether they be guns, bombs, or drones. I urge you to familiarize yourself with what is happening, and not just how we are using drones to conduct warfare around the world, but how they are being used right here at home. The FAA has issued 30,000 permits for drones here in the U.S. which have the capability of gathering and cataloging our every move. Many drones are armed, which means they can be detonated anywhere, at anytime, with no advance warning. I don't know about you, but I don't sleep as well as I used to.
I'm very concerned about the direction this country is taking, our utter disregard for human life in other parts of the world. What our government refers to as "collateral damage," is really the tally of those we've killed along with the intended target, and that number continues to grow. The official number of children killed in Pakistan since early September of last year still stands at 176, children murdered by our drones because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time, but it's a number which has really grown to just under 300. Somehow it never gets updated.
This poem by Olga Cabral, rediscovered in my anthology this morning, reveals the sad, awful reality: war has become a way of life and greed is commonplace. Poets continue to hold up the mirror that reveals the truth, a truth we may not like, may even blanch at, but ignorance is not bliss, it's just ignorance, and in this day and age there is no excuse for not being informed. Change the geographical location from Vietnam to, well, pretty much any place in the world where we are taught to believe the Other exists, and here we go again:
"Another Late Edition"
This morning the sun
for the first time in 7,000,000 years
reported late for work.
A major disaster was declared,
the major crawled underneath Manhattan
with his Mark Cross survival kit,
governments in Saigon
chased each other through revolving doors,
molten metal fell from the eyes of Bartholdi’s Statue
which went public and was sold at noon
on the Stock Exchange.
Leaving our dinosaur footprints through the streets of cities
what future tarpits will reveal our bones?
what amber of what eye
preserve this age?
Sheriff Rainey shifted his plug
of Red Man tobacco
and spat clear to Washington,
staining the White House and the white walls of the Capitol
with dark runnels of derision.
Whose blood? Whose Blood
on the Lincoln Monument?
Chaney’s. Goodman’s. Schwerner’s.
They are dragging Walt Whitman through the streets of
(Bearded Jew from Brooklyn.)
They’ve got a rope around Abe Lincoln’s neck.
(What’d we do that’s wrong if we
killed two Jews and one Nigger?)
Then all the ovens of Maidanek
opened their mouths.
I saw the enemy, a seven-year-old boy.
I heard him screaming for his cooked eyeballs.
I saw the granny blazing like a bundle of reeds,
heard the infant wailing in a winding-sheet of flame
in a village of thatched huts
hit by napalm.
The stones hate us.
The eyes are bitter.
Every tree is out to strangle us.
The grass mistrusts us.
We are strangers here at a million bucks a day.
They say the richest man in the world has just
foreclosed Fort Knox.
A million bucks a day can buy
a President. A war. A world.
But not one hair of the head of the
in a village that went up in napalm.
~ Olga Cabral
Olga Cabral was born in the West Indies and then moved to New York (1909 - 1997).
Painting "Under the Palms," by Winslow Homer.