Wildpeace

Yehuda Amichai (1924 – 2000)

Yes, all of this is sorrow. But leave a little love burning always like the small bulb in the room of a sleeping baby that gives him a bit of security and quiet love though he doesn’t know what the light is or where it comes from.

Yehuda Amichai

Sonnet

by Yehuda Amichai

My father fought their war four years or so,
And did not hate or love his enemies.
Already he was forming me, I know,
Daily, out of his tranquilities;

Tranquilities, so few, which he had gleaned
Between the bombs and smoke, for his son’s sake,
And put into his ragged knapsack with
The leftovers of my mother’s hardening cake.

He gathered with his eyes the nameless dead,
The many dead for my sake unforsaken,
So that I should not die like them in dread,
But love them, seeing them as once he saw.
He filled his eyes with them; he was mistaken,
Like them, I must go out to meet my war. 


Wildpeace

by Yehuda Amichai

Not the peace of a cease-fire,
not even the vision of the wolf and the lamb,
but rather
as in the heart when the excitement is over
and you can talk only about a great weariness.
I know that I know how to kill,
that makes me an adult.
And my son plays with a toy gun that knows
how to open and close its eyes and say Mama.
A peace
without the big noise of beating swords into ploughshares,
without words, without
the thud of the heavy rubber stamp: let it be
light, floating, like lazy white foam.
A little rest for the wounds—
who speaks of healing?
(And the howl of the orphans is passed from one generation
to the next, as in a relay race:
the baton never falls.)

Let it come
like wildflowers,
suddenly, because the field
must have it: wildpeace

Where Can The Crying Heart Gaze?

Naomi Shihab Nye (1952 –

Burning the Old Year

By Naomi Shihab Nye

Letters swallow themselves in seconds.   
Notes friends tied to the doorknob,   
transparent scarlet paper,
sizzle like moth wings,
marry the air.

So much of any year is flammable,   
lists of vegetables, partial poems.   
Orange swirling flame of days,   
so little is a stone.

Where there was something and suddenly isn’t,   
an absence shouts, celebrates, leaves a space.   
I begin again with the smallest numbers.

Quick dance, shuffle of losses and leaves,   
only the things I didn’t do   
crackle after the blazing dies.


Blood

By Naomi Shihab Nye

A true Arab knows how to catch a fly in his hands,”
my father would say. And he’d prove it,
cupping the buzzer instantly
while the host with the swatter stared.

In the spring our palms peeled like snakes.
True Arabs believed watermelon could heal fifty ways.
I changed these to fit the occasion.

Years before, a girl knocked,
wanted to see the Arab.
I said we didn’t have one.
After that, my father told me who he was,
“Shihab”—“shooting star”—
a good name, borrowed from the sky.
Once I said, “When we die, we give it back?”
He said that’s what a true Arab would say.

Today the headlines clot in my blood.
A little Palestinian dangles a truck on the front page.
Homeless fig, this tragedy with a terrible root
is too big for us. What flag can we wave?
I wave the flag of stone and seed,
table mat stitched in blue.

I call my father, we talk around the news.
It is too much for him,
neither of his two languages can reach it.
I drive into the country to find sheep, cows,
to plead with the air:
Who calls anyone civilized?
Where can the crying heart graze?
What does a true Arab do now?

We Saw It In His Eyes

A Life of Austerity

By Peter Hartley

My grandfather was always old. The more
I think of him the more I call to mind
He seldom left his kitchen. We would find
Him sitting in an upright chair, the door
Pine-panelled, high ceiled, lino on the floor,
And he would sit there all day long behind
A newspaper. The place for me defined
Him like the horrors of the First World War.

You see it spoke of his austerity.
He dwelled, like all the old in reverie,
A lifetime in his prime. Sometimes he went
To sleep, his nightmares we could only guess.
Sometimes again we saw an immanent
Serenity, a twilight peacefulness.


One hundred years ago the returning soldiers from World War I helped spread the Spanish Flu epidemic, the last great pandemic, to all corners of the earth.  Peter Hartley’s memories of his grandfather in sonnet form are touching testimonials to the his grandfather’s humanity.  The difference between that virus pandemic and COVID-19, is the Spanish flu killed young adults equally as well as old. 

When reading about the Spanish flu pandemic in the past, I had a sense of isolation from it, an arms length detachment.  No matter how many health experts sounded the alarm that it could and likely would happen again, it felt like something that was in the past, despite SARS, Ebola, etc.  Our experience of relative safety because of public health strategy and modern vaccination technology for generations was ignorant bliss.  Despite the paranoid rantings of anti-vaxers we have lived the past 50 years in undreamed of respite from childhood diseases in human history, and unfortunately taken it for granted.  There is certainly reason for optimism heading into next year that things will get better,  but I also have a sense of realism in what 2021 will bring before this is brought under control with effective vaccines. 

How will this pandemic experience shape poet’s writing in the future?  I could retreat into my kitchen for a couple of years to write and read if I didn’t have a job I had to attend.  I would need a wood stove in my kitchen for winters and a kennel for the dog in another room on those occasions I want peace and quiet, all things for me to consider putting on my checklist of what to do if this continues beyond 2021.  What will our grandchildren write about us one day, sitting in our chairs reading, looking off into the distance?


A Biscuit Tin

by Peter Hartley

Put in a biscuit tin behind a door
Beside the hearth among old dog-eared snaps,
Of long-forgotten kith and kin perhaps,
His father on a bicycle we saw
Who died in nineteen ten, four years before
All hell broke loose. Amid the other scraps
We found inside their careless little wraps
Were all his letters home from the Great War

One hundred years ago, and all forlorn
His honourable discharge creased and torn.
Could he still hear the pounding of the guns
Resounding to a barrage from the Huns?
For if by chance upon the Somme one day
We saw it in his eyes he didn’t say.

Of Praise The Little Versemen

Ford Maddox Fordjpg

Ford Madox Ford (1873 – 1939)

“Yes, a war is inevitable. Firstly, there’s you fellows who can’t be trusted. And then there’s the multitude who mean to have bathrooms and white enamel. Millions of them; all over the world. Not merely here. And there aren’t enough bathrooms and white enamel in the world to go round.”

Ford Maddox Ford, Parade’s End

 To the Poet Before Battle

By Ivor Gurney

Now, youth, the hour of thy dread passion comes;
Thy lovely things must all be laid away;
And thou, as others, must face the riven day
Unstirred by rattle of the rolling drums,
Or bugles’ strident cry. When mere noise numbs
The sense of being, the sick soul doth sway,
Remember thy great craft’s honour, that they may say
Nothing in shame of poets. Then the crumbs
Of praise the little versemen joyed to take
Shall be forgotten; then they must know we are,
For all our skill in words, equal in might
And strong of mettle as those we honoured; make
The name of poet terrible in just war,
And like a crown of honour upon the fight.


Is war inevitable?   Is it a terrible cancer of the human condition?  Is it inevitable that the outcome of viewing those as different than ourselves, the “other” who obstructs our path to obtaining our objectives eventually becomes our enemy?   I hope not.  I lean towards a pacifist mindset that we can do better as a species.  I find  the current predicament of glorification of military service as something that gets more attention than preventing conflict in the first place a contradiction of good leadership.   If we want to praise open communication, conflict resolution and peace keeping in our communities and schools, then why can’t we do the same across nations?

I find interesting Gurney’s idea of the role of “little verse men” in making sense of the aftermath of war.  Equal in might is pen to the sword is not a new concept, nor is the poet warrior.  Both concepts have been around for thousands of years.   But why isn’t there equally as strong a history in literature of poetry of peace, poetry of arbitration, the poetry of negotiation and truce? Poet peace makers rather than  poet soldiers.  Writing in muddy, blood stained notebooks may sound more noble than a peace keepers reasoned speech, but which takes more courage?


One Last Prayer

by Ford Madox Ford

Let me wait, my dear,
One more day,
Let me linger near,

Let me stay.
Do not bar the gate or draw the blind
Or lock the door that yields,
Dear, be kind!

I have only you beneath the skies
To rest my eyes
From the cruel green of the fields
And the cold, white seas
And the weary hills
And the naked trees.
I have known the hundred ills
Of the hated wars.
Do not close the bars,
Or draw the blind.
I have only you beneath the stars:
Dear, be kind!

It Is Not As You Knew It

Ivor Gurney (1890 – 1937)

A sense of beauty is every hindrance to a soldier; yet there would be no soldiers – or none such soldier had not men dead and living cherished and handed on the sacred fire. 

Ivor Gurney

The Soldier

by Rupert Brooke (1887 – 1915)

If I should die, think only this of me:
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is forever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust who England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England’s, breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.
And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives Somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.

River-Severn-Wales

Severn River, Wales 

To His Love

by Ivor Gurney

He’s gone, and all our plans
are useless indeed.
We’ll walk no more on Cotswolds
Where the sheep feed
Quietly and take no heed.

His body that was so quick
Is not as you
Knew it, on Severn River
Under the blue
Driving our small boat through.

You would not know him now…
But still he died
Nobly, so cover him over
With violets of pride
Purple from Severn side.

Cover him, cover him soon!
And with thick-set
Masses of memoried flowers –
Hide that red wet
Thing I must somehow forget.

What Being In The Army Did

Iraq US Troops
A U.S. Army soldier from A Co. 1st Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, passes a bullet-riddled wall during a patrol Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2010 in Hawija, north of Baghdad, Iraq, on the last day of U.S. combat operations in the country.(AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)

What Being In The Army Did

by Graham Barnhart

Things you’d expect.
Taught me a trigger’s weight—
its pull—depends on the gun
and doesn’t matter much
if you practice
proper follow through.
Follow through here means holding
the squeeze through the kick
like you won’t have to do it again,
like you’ll never have to do it again.
The army taught me torsos
and tailgates
are useful for gauging distance.
That swaying grass
or flags or scarves
can estimate windspeed,
and traveling from an artifact
to a fundamental constant
requires loss.
It takes me sixty steps
to walk one hundred meters.
Assuming my body weight
and leg lengths remain
roughly constant
and I’m using a compass,
which means I’m moving
in very straight lines, then sixty
ten times is a kilometer,
and sixty
one hundred times is ten.


       Incandescent War Poem Sonnet

By Bernadette Mayer

Even before I saw the chambered nautilus
I wanted to sail not in the us navy
Tonight I’m waiting for you, your letter
At the same time his letter, the view of you
By him and then by me in the park, no rhymes
I saw you, this is in prose, no it’s not
Sitting with the molluscs & anemones in an
Empty autumn enterprise baby you look pretty
With your long eventual hair, is love king?
What’s this? A sonnet? Love’s a babe we know that
I’m coming up, I’m coming, Shakespeare only stuck
To one subject but I’ll mention nobody said
You have to get young Americans some ice cream
In the artificial light in which she woke.

We Wanted To Save Them All

Anna M. Evans

Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.

Rainer Maria Rilke 1904 letter

My Life As A Polish Nun During WWII

by Anna M. Evans

We ran an orphanage in old Gdansk,
which overflowed in nineteen thirty-nine.
Daily, the Germans rolled by in their tanks.
We kept our heads well down and toed the line.
But any child that came here in the night,
no questions asked, was never turned away–
starving, beaten, sick, half-dead with fright,
Christian or Jew–with orphans, who can say?

We had to teach the Jewish ones the creed,
so the Gestapo wouldn’t know our game.
The irony of sowing that small seed,
it wasn’t lost on me, though not our aim.
Children are dear to God, gentile or Jew.
We wanted to save them all; we saved a few.


 
Today’s poems are examples of how the sonnet structure remains relevant.  A wide variety of writers continue to explore the structure that 14 lines imposes and the power that it also unleashes.  Rhymed or unrhymed, free verse or experimental, the idea of connecting your writing to the past and writers that have influenced your imagination is something all poets wrestle.  Anna M. Evans has contributed a number of fine sonnets during her career and I applaud her use of the first person in imagining the stories of others and bringing them to life in the sonnet form in the poem above.  In her imagination the sonnet becomes a polaroid picture, a snap shot of literature that challenges me to fill in the blanks, even if the margins are slightly faded. 
 
I would be curious to know if Warren even considered the fact that her poem was fourteen lines?   She did not employ rhyming or limit number of syllables, she let the ideas flow to a grand conclusion.   Her words made me step back and think.  I realized that for someone who normally buys lots and lots of new music; I haven’t purchased a single new CD or record of new music since the start of the pandemic. I have only bought a few old used jazz records, trying to create a different vibe to the growing monotony of staying at home.  
 
Do you have a favorite new pop song from 2020?  Please share. 

Something is Coming Toward Us

By Alli Warren

Flaunting in the atrium, ostentatious at the gates
I saw a shooting star thru a window on Alcatraz Ave
& cladding struck up against those who demand
We stomach the stick and tend the commode
They’re selling trees in the paint store! trees in the paint store
Datebook chips in the soft skin of our wrists
On NBC, CNN, and NPR broken windows are weeping
We’ll have 35 apples and shrieking in the thickets
Aloft in the air golden and golden the dial among the mounds
So much is stunted in understanding of what a light can be
They storm the scrimmage line and clear-cut bran and germ
We want the petal unto itself, the unalterable vessel
The arc end of the precipice grows 1.9% annually
What was popular music like before the crisis?

Which Me Will Survive

President Elect Joe Biden

Dreams

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
 
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.
 
Langston Hughes

Who Said It Was Simple

By Audre Lorde 

There are so many roots to the tree of anger   
that sometimes the branches shatter   
before they bear.

Sitting in Nedicks
the women rally before they march   
discussing the problematic girls   
they hire to make them free.
An almost white counterman passes   
a waiting brother to serve them first   
and the ladies neither notice nor reject   
the slighter pleasures of their slavery.   
But I who am bound by my mirror   
as well as my bed
see causes in colour
as well as sex

and sit here wondering   
which me will survive   
all these liberations.


And so it begins, my long slow exhale, the beginning of a release of four years of stress and tension. For the majority of the record number of Americans that voted for Biden, voted for change, his victory is one of enormous proportions. It is historic. For the 70 million plus that voted for Trump it is a disappointment. The reality of this day is not one of decisive healing in this nation, rather it is the stark chasm left from this long divisive campaign that exists as a scar in this country and it is not going to be washed away easily. Trumpism’s rejection of political norms, rejection of science, rejection of decency and his four year assault on the idea of the historical role of political leaders at the federal level to provide a leadership of care for all, rather than just your parties special interests, I fear is going to remain long after Trump leaves the White House. The map of dots of urban blue surrounded by a sea of red counties, red states, that are the homes of good people, people as convinced their vote was correct for Trump as the path to the future of America, as the people like myself that voted for Biden. I am not naïve. I know that the next four years is going to be difficult globally in terms of the health pandemic, the state of the global economy and the political turmoil and societal turmoil that will inevitably ensue. I am only glad that a professional is once again headed into the White House to help deal with this mess we find ourselves.

For today, I will be a humble victor, take a minute to relax, enjoy some poetry and remember we have a lot of work to do as a nation and as individuals to address the systemic issues of racism facing our society and the world. Presidential campaigns mark the passage of time. Whether the next four years are more or less critical than any other four in the past 40 years depends on whether we are capable as a society to actually begin to work on issues in a substantial way. If we let politics play pin the tail on the donkey once again, Republicans blocking potential solutions so that they can blame the Democrats in the next election cycle for failure, we will squander this opportunity for change. At some point we will have to work together at the federal level, just like we do in our places of business, in our schools, in our communities. And to view our parties that we vote for as having a mutual sense of obligation to do more than just obstruct the other party’s agenda on the opposite side of the aisle but to start constructing solutions together. To do that, I suspect we will need a mixture of good will, good science, good policy and bit of prayer mixed with hope to be successful.


Prayer

by Carol Ann Duffy

Some days, although we cannot pray, a prayer
utters itself. So, a woman will lift
her head from the sieve of her hands and stare
at the minims sung by a tree, a sudden gift.

Some nights, although we are faithless, the truth
enters our hearts, that small familiar pain;
then a man will stand stock-still, hearing his youth
in the distant Latin chanting of a train.

Pray for us now. Grade 1 piano scales
console the lodger looking out across
a Midlands town. Then dusk, and someone calls
a child’s name as though they named their loss.

Darkness outside. Inside, the radio’s prayer –
Rockall. Malin. Dogger. Finisterre.

Pour Secrecy Upon The Dying Page

Gregory Corso (1930 – 2001)

I Held A Shelley Manuscript

by Gregory Corso

My hands did numb to beauty
as they reached into Death and tightened!

O sovereign was my touch
upon the tan-inks’s fragile page!

Quickly, my eyes moved quickly,
sought for smell for dust for lace
for dry hair!

I would have taken the page
breathing in the crime!
For no evidence have I wrung from dreams–
yet what triumph is there in private credence?

Often, in some steep ancestral book, when I find myself entangled with leopard-apples
and torched-skin mushrooms,
my cypressean skein outreaches the recorded age
and I, as though tipping a pitcher of milk,
pour secrecy upon the dying page.

 

America Politica Historia, in Spontaneity

By Gregory Corso

O this political air so heavy with the bells
and motors of a slow night, and no place to rest
but rain to walk—How it rings the Washington streets!   
The umbrella’d congressmen; the rapping tires   
of big black cars, the shoulders of lobbyists   
caught under canopies and in doorways,
and it rains, it will not let up,
and meanwhile lame futurists weep into Spengler’s   
prophecy, will the world be over before the races blend color?
All color must be one or let the world be done—
There’ll be a chance, we’ll all be orange!
I don’t want to be orange!
Nothing about God’s color to complain;
and there is a beauty in yellow, the old Lama   
in his robe the color of Cathay;
in black a strong & vital beauty,
Thelonious Monk in his robe of Norman charcoal—
And if Western Civilization comes to an end   
(though I doubt it, for the prophet has not   
executed his prophecy) surely the Eastern child   
will sit by a window, and wonder
the old statues, the ornamented doors;
the decorated banquet of the West—
Inflamed by futurists I too weep in rain at night   
at the midnight of Western Civilization;
Dante’s step into Hell will never be forgotten by Hell;
the Gods’ adoption of Homer will never be forgotten by the Gods;
the books of France are on God’s bookshelf;
no civil war will take place on the fields of God;   
and I don’t doubt the egg of the East its glory—
Yet it rains and the motors go
and continued when I slept by that wall in Washington   
which separated the motors in the death-parlor   
where Joe McCarthy lay, lean and stilled,   
ten blocks from the Capitol—
I could never understand Uncle Sam
his red & white striped pants his funny whiskers his starry hat:
how surreal Yankee Doodle Dandy, goof!   
American history has a way of making you feel   
George Washington is still around, that is
when I think of Washington I do not think of Death—
Of all Presidents I have been under
Hoover is the most unreal
and FDR is the most President-looking
and Truman the most Jewish-looking
and Eisenhower the miscast of Time into Space—
Hoover is another America, Mr. 1930
and what must he be thinking now?
FDR was my youth, and how strange to still see   
his wife around.
Truman is still in Presidential time.
I saw Eisenhower helicopter over Athens
and he looked at the Acropolis like only Zeus could.   
OF THE PEOPLE is fortunate and select.
FOR THE PEOPLE has never happened in America or elsewhere.
BY THE PEOPLE is the sadness of America.   
I am not politic.
I am not patriotic.
I am nationalistic!
I boast well the beauty of America to all the people in Europe.
In me they do not see their vision of America.
O whenever I pass an American Embassy I don’t know what to feel!
Sometimes I want to rush in and scream: “I’m American!”   
but instead go a few paces down to the American Bar   
get drunk and cry: “I’m no American!”
The men of politics I love are but youth’s fantasy:
The fine profile of Washington on coins stamps & tobacco wraps
The handsomeness and death-in-the-snow of Hamilton.   
The eyeglasses shoe-buckles kites & keys of Ben Franklin.   
The sweet melancholy of Lincoln.
The way I see Christ, as something romantic & unreal, is the way I see them.
An American is unique among peoples.
He looks and acts like a boyman.
He never looks cruel in uniform.
He is rednecked portly rich and jolly.
White-haired serious Harvard, kind and wry.
A convention man a family man a rotary man & practical joker.
He is moonfaced cunning well-meaning & righteously mean.   
He is Madison Avenue, handsome, in-the-know, and superstitious.
He is odd, happy, quicker than light, shameless, and heroic   
Great yawn of youth!
The young don’t seem interested in politics anymore.   
Politics has lost its romance!
The “bloody kitchen” has drowned!
And all that is left are those granite
façades of Pentagon, Justice, and Department—
Politicians do not know youth!
They depend on the old
and the old depend on them
and lo! this has given youth a chance
to think of heaven in their independence.
No need to give them liberty or freedom
where they’re at—
When Stevenson in 1956 came to San Francisco
he campaigned in what he thought was an Italian section!   
He spoke of Italy and Joe DiMaggio and spaghetti,   
but all who were there, all for him,
were young beatniks! and when his car drove off
Ginsberg & I ran up to him and yelled:
“When are you going to free the poets from their attics!”   
Great yawn of youth!
Mad beautiful oldyoung America has no candidate   
the craziest wildest greatest country of them all!   
and not one candidate—
Nixon arrives ever so temporal, self-made,
frontways sideways and backways,
could he be America’s against? Detour to vehicle?   
Mast to wind? Shore to sea? Death to life?
The last President?

An Altogether Different Language

anne-porter

Anne Porter

November Sunrise

by Anne Porter (1911 – 2011)

Wild geese are flocking and calling in pure golden air,
Glory like that which painters long ago
Spread as a background for some little hermit
Beside his cave, giving his cloak away,
Or for some martyr stretching out
On her expected rack.
A few black cedars grow nearby
And there’s a donkey grazing.

Small craftsmen, steeped in anonymity like bees,
Gilded their wooden panels, leaving fame to chance,
Like the maker of this wing-flooded golden sky,
Who forgives all our ignorance
Both of his nature and of his very name,
Freely accepting our one heedless glance.


Anne Porter is a role model for all of us that we can be artists our entire lives, published or unpublished.  Her first collection of poetry An Altogether Different Language was published in 1994 when she was 84.  Widowed in 1975, she focused less on supporting her husband’s and children’s artistic pursuits and more on her own, finding more time to write.   Anne Porter, not to be confused with the writer Katherine Anne Porter, writes in a style that I appreciate – not overly dramatic or complicated while connecting emotions and insights from her brilliant experience and view of the world.  It is a very personal style while being accessible.  Her poems are not confusing while also not confining.

I relate to her sense of awe watching waterfowl in a late Autumn sky.  Last Sunday as the sun began to set I was finishing up a project on the farm and Trumpeter Swans, some summer residents and others that had joined them on their travels, lifted off the lake adjacent to the farm and left in family groups in Vs sounding their enthusiasm for the journey to come.   The scale of the birds and the purity of their voices made us stand still and watch in wonder.


An Altogether Different Language

by Anne Porter

There was a church in Umbria, Little Portion,
Already old eight hundred years ago.
It was abandoned and in disrepair
But it was called St. Mary of the Angels
For it was known to be the haunt of angels,
Often at night the country people
Could hear them singing there.

What was it like, to listen to the angels,
To hear those mountain-fresh, those simple voices
Poured out on the bare stones of Little Portion
In hymns of joy?
No one has told us.
Perhaps it needs another language
That we have still to learn,
An altogether different language.