A voice from the dark called out,
“The poets must give us
imagination of peace, to oust the intense, familiar
imagination of disaster. Peace, not only
the absence of war.”But peace, like a poem,
is not there ahead of itself,
can’t be imagined before it is made,
can’t be known except
in the words of its making,
grammar of justice,
syntax of mutual aid.A feeling towards it,
dimly sensing a rhythm, is all we have
until we begin to utter its metaphors,
learning them as we speak.A line of peace might appear
if we restructured the sentence our lives are making,
revoked its reaffirmation of profit and power,
questioned our needs, allowed
long pauses. . . .
A cadence of peace might balance its weight
on that different fulcrum; peace, a presence,
an energy field more intense than war,
might pulse then,
stanza by stanza into the world,
each act of living
one of its words, each word
a vibration of light—facets
of the forming crystal.
“It is not those who can inflict the most, but those that can suffer the most who will prevail.”
The Rhythm of Time
By Bobby Sands
There’s an inner thing in every man,
Do you know this thing my friend?
It has withstood the blows of a million years,
And will do so to the end.
It was born when time did not exist,
And it grew up out of life,
It cut down evil’s strangling vines,
Like a slashing searing knife.
It lit fires when fires were not,
And burnt the mind of man,
Tempering leandened hearts to steel,
From the time that time began.
It wept by the waters of Babylon,
And when all men were a loss,
It screeched in writhing agony,
And it hung bleeding from the Cross.
It died in Rome by lion and sword,
And in defiant cruel array,
When the deathly word was ‘Spartacus’
Along with Appian Way.
It marched with Wat the Tyler’s poor,
And frightened lord and king,
And it was emblazoned in their deathly stare,
As e’er a living thing.
It smiled in holy innocence,
Before conquistadors of old,
So meek and tame and unaware,
Of the deathly power of gold.
It burst forth through pitiful Paris streets,
And stormed the old Bastille,
And marched upon the serpent’s head,
And crushed it ‘neath its heel.
It died in blood on Buffalo Plains,
And starved by moons of rain,
Its heart was buried in Wounded Knee,
But it will come to rise again.
It screamed aloud by Kerry lakes,
As it was knelt upon the ground,
And it died in great defiance,
As they coldly shot it down.
It is found in every light of hope,
It knows no bounds nor space
It has risen in red and black and white,
It is there in every race.
It lies in the hearts of heroes dead,
It screams in tyrants’ eyes,
It has reached the peak of mountains high,
It comes searing ‘cross the skies.
It lights the dark of this prison cell,
It thunders forth its might,
It is ‘the undauntable thought’, my friend,
That thought that says ‘I’m right! ‘
Happy Cinco de Mayo! If there happens to be a margarita on an outdoor patio in your future sometime this afternoon or a mint julep while watching the Kentucky Derby, you might lean back in your chair, close your eyes while enjoying the sunshine on your face and tip your glass to the heroes and martyrs for justice and freedom that have come before you.
May 5 is the anniversary of the death of Bobby Sands, a 27-year-old IRA leader who died in cell block H after a 66 day hunger strike. By the time Sands died he was an international celebrity, having been voted into Parliament and a symbol of British injustice in Ireland. Sands sacrifice and the sacrifice of 9 others who followed him in death as the result of the 1981 hunger strike that raised the awareness of the conflict in Northern Ireland and paved the way for Sinn Féin as a political party.
There is cosmic coincidence that Bobby Sands died on Cinco de Mayo, a celebration of the defeat of Napoleon III’s forces in Puebla. Mexico in 1862. Napoleon had sent an army to expand the French empire into the Americas by taking control of Mexico. Although not a major strategic win in the overall war against the French, the Battle of Puebla represented an important symbolic victory and bolstered the morale of the resistance movement. An ill-equipped group of 2,000 men, lead by General Ignacio Zaragoza, outnumbered more than three to one, withstood a day long siege and then routed the French forces. More than 500 French soldiers died in comparison to fewer than 100 Mexican patriots. The battle of Puebla marked a turning point in the Mexican revolution and five years later in 1867, in part due to increasing military support and political pressure from the United States, France finally withdrew.
Cinco de Mayo is not a celebration of Mexican independence, which had been declared more than 50 years before the Battle of Puebla. Independence Day in Mexico (Día de la Independencia) is September 16, the anniversary of the revolutionary priest Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla’s famous speech “Grito de Dolores” (“Cry of Dolores”), a call to arms that amounted to a declaration of war against the Spanish colonial government in 1810 and an end to the tyranny of the privileged colonial land owners that had invaded Mexico and subjugated the Aztec people.
All great revolutions begin with the same underlying truth, that corrupt governments that come to power and stay in power by suppressing human rights, will inevitably be brought down. All governments that create and then institutionalize inequality and foster injustice are doomed. Father Hidalgo, Spotted Elk, Terence MacSweney and Bobby Sands all knew that the rhythm of time would prove them on the right side of history.
To sin by silence, when we should protest,
Makes cowards out of men. The human race
Has climbed on protest. Had no voice been raised
Against injustice, ignorance, and lust,
The inquisition yet would serve the law,
And guillotines decide our least disputes.
The few who dare, must speak and speak again
To right the wrongs of many. Speech, thank God,
No vested power in this great day and land
Can gag or throttle. Press and voice may cry
Loud disapproval of existing ills;
May criticise oppression and condemn
The lawlessness of wealth-protecting laws
That let the children and childbearers toil
To purchase ease for idle millionaires.
Therefore I do protest against the boast
Of independence in this mighty land.
Call no chain strong, which holds one rusted link.
Call no land free, that holds one fettered slave.
Until the manacled slim wrists of babes
Are loosed to toss in childish sport and glee,
Until the mother bears no burden, save
The precious one beneath her heart, until
God’s soil is rescued from the clutch of greed
And given back to labor, let no man
Call this the land of freedom.
by Edna St. Vincent Millay
I, being born a woman and distressed
By all the needs and notions of my kind,
Am urged by your propinquity to find
Your person fair, and feel a certain zest
To bear your body’s weight upon my breast:
So subtly is the fume of life designed,
To clarify the pulse and cloud the mind,
And leave me once again undone, possessed.
Think not for this, however, the poor treason
Of my stout blood against my staggering brain,
I shall remember you with love, or season
My scorn with pity, —let me make it plain:
I find this frenzy insufficient reason
For conversation when we meet again.