The Thought That Says “I’m Right!”

bobbysandsflat
Bobby Sands March 9, 1954 – May 5, 1981

“It is not those who can inflict the most, but those that can suffer the most who will prevail.”

Terence MacSweney

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

Ella_Wheeler_Wilcox,_Custer,_1896

Protest

by Ella Wilcox Wheeler

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.


 

Sonnet XLI

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.

 

One More Chance To Love You

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Jonas Hallgrimsson on Iceland’s 10,000 Kroner bank note.                               Equal to about 100 U. S. Dollars

Hell

by Jonas Hallgrimsson

I find it all a foolish joke,
falling to hell’s abyss of smoke
to sit there, braised and baking,
among the howling fiends of fire,
so far from God’s sunshiny choir —
it sets my soul to quaking!

There squads of skate-winged demons lurk,
skirling through everlasting murk
where ruddy flames hold revel.
All is fire and ice by turns,
everything freezes or it burns,
the dead souls — and the Devil.

 

Quatrains

by Jonas Hallgrimsson

Ah, who mourns an Icelander,
all alone and dying?
Earth will clasp his corpse to her
and kiss it where it’s lying.

Such is my lot, my lonely doom.
Life would have brimmed with pleasure
had I known her better whom
I hunger for and treasure.

May your mornings all be gay!
May your nights bring gladness!
Here, this dark December day,
I dwell in exile sadness.

Look! the sun is circling north,
soon it will shine above you!
Would that I once more might set forth,
with one more chance to love you!

Thy Fury On Some Worthless Song

Top-100-FI

Astrophil and Stella
Sonnet 100

by Sir Philip Sydney

O tears, no tears, but rain from beauty’s skies,
Making those lilies and those roses grow,
Which aye most fair, now more than most fair show,
While graceful pity beauty beautifies:
O honeyed sighs, which from that breast do rise,
Whose pants do make unspilling cream to flow,
Winged with whose breath, so pleasing zephyrs blow,
As can refresh the hell where my soul fries:
O plaints, conserved in such a sugared phrase
That eloquence itself envies your praise,
While sobbed-out words a perfect music give:
Such tears, sighs, plaints, no sorrow is but joy;
Or if such heavenly signs must prove annoy,
All mirth farewell, let me in sorrow live.


Happy 100!   This is my one-hundredth blog entry.  A milestone of sorts and a thank you to those of you that take the time to read it and find a bit of enjoyment in the ramblings of my poetic journey.

What have I learned in 7 months and 100 blog posts?  Nothing particularly profound but a few things that you might find interesting.  First, I find it fascinating how I have yet to scratch the surface of the depth of the body of sonnets by poets from around the world spanning centuries.   I have no idea how long I can keep this blog fresh and interesting, but so far, my obsession has not waned and the pond is still full of colorful poem-fish yet to bite on my curiosity’s line.

Second, I am always surprised by which posts people find interesting and read both when it’s  initially posted and then keep coming back to later on. Among the first 99 postings, the two that were most read are titled; How Many Moments Must (Amazing Each) and Gratefulness.  What about each of them is interesting and keeps people coming back to them or finding them on their google searches and reading them for the first time?  I suspect that  the common thread is both are blog posts dealing with poems of inspiration.  They are blog posts that are positive and focus on mindfulness.  The blog post Gratefulness is unusual in the depth in which I share my inner thoughts around my goal of the mindset of gratitude and welcoming gratefulness as a force capable of shaping my world view.

If you haven’t read either of the posts, type in Gratefulness or How Many Moments Must into the search bar and they will pop right up and you can check out for yourself why they are the most popular posts of the first 100 I have written.

Thank you to everyone who takes the time to read my blog.    I welcome your feedback.  Has this blog introduced you to a new poet or a new poem that you have found memorable?


 

 

Sonnet 100

by William Shakespeare

Where art thou, Muse, that thou forget’st so long
To speak of that which gives thee all thy might?
Spend’st thou thy fury on some worthless song,
Darkening thy power to lend base subjects light?
Return, forgetful Muse, and straight redeem
In gentle numbers time so idly spent;
Sing to the ear that doth thy lays esteem
And gives thy pen both skill and argument.
Rise, restive Muse, my love’s sweet face survey,
If Time have any wrinkle graven there;
If any, be a satire to decay,
And make Time’s spoils despised every where.
Give my love fame faster than Time wastes life;
So thou prevent’st his scythe and crooked knife.

 

 

The Mind In Delicate Delusion

 

Mark Wagner
Collage made from one dollar bills by Mark Wagner

Money

by Philip Larkin (1922 – 1985)

Quarterly, is it, money reproaches me:
‘Why do you let me lie here wastefully?
I am all you never had of goods and sex.
You could get them still by writing a few cheques.’

So I look at others, what they do with theirs:
They certainly don’t keep it upstairs.
By now they’ve a second house and car and wife:
Clearly money has something to do with life

—In fact, they’ve a lot in common, if you enquire:
You can’t put off being young until you retire,
And however you bank your screw, the money you save
Won’t in the end buy you more than a shave.

I listen to money singing. It’s like looking down
From long french windows at a provincial town,
The slums, the canal, the churches ornate and mad
In the evening sun. It is intensely sad.

Philip Larkin, “Money” from Collected Poems. Copyright © Estate of Philip Larkin.  Reprinted by permission of Faber and Faber, Ltd.

Sonnet 145

Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (1651 – 1695)

Éste que ves, engaño colorido,
que del arte ostentando los primores,
con falsos silogismos de colores,
es cauteloso engaño del sentido;

éste en quien la lisonja ha pretendido
excusar de los años los horrores,
y, venciendo del tiempo los rigores
triunfar de la vejez y del olvido,

es un vano artificio del cuidado,
es una flor al viento delicada,
es un resguardo inútil para el hado;

es una necia diligencia errada,
es un afán caduco y, bien mirado,
es cadáver, es polvo, es sombra, es nada.

What you see here is colorful illusion,
an art boasting of beauty and its skill,
which in false reasoning of color will
pervert the mind in delicate delusion.
Here where the flatteries of paint engage
to vitiate the horrors of the years,
where softening the rust of time appears
to triumph over oblivion and age,
all is vain, careful disguise of clothing,
it is a slender blossom in the gale,
it is a futile port for doom reserved,
it is a foolish labor that can only fail:
it is a wasting zeal and, well observed,
is corpse, is dust, is shadow, and is nothing.

Translated by Willis Barnstone.

 

 

 

The Dream

Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz
Bronze statue of Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz in Oeste Park in Madrid, Spain.

Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz was a self-taught scholar, poet and Hieronymite nun.  She was born Juana Inés de Asbaje y Ramírez de Santillana near Mexico City. She was the illegitimate child of a Spanish Captain, Pedro Manuel de Asbaje, and a Criollo woman, Isabel Ramírez. She was raised by her Mother and her Mother’s family, her father not a presence in her life.

Her abilities as a savant were evident immediately.  She learned how to read and write at the age of three. By age five, she reportedly was accomplished in math and learning biology. At age eight, she composed a poem on the Eucharist. She spent her childhood and adolescence hiding in the chapel to read her grandfather’s books from the adjoining library, something that was forbidden to girls. By 12, she had mastered Greek logic, and at age thirteen she was teaching Latin to young children. During this time she also learned the Aztec language of Nahuatl, and wrote poems in the ancient language.

Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz wrote about her constant wish as a young woman to be allowed to further her education. In 1664, at age 16, Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz went to live in Mexico City. She asked her mother’s permission to disguise herself as a male student so that she could enter the university. Her Mother denied her repeated requests, and not being allowed to do so, she continued her studies privately. She came under the sponsorship of the Vicereine Leonor Carreto, wife of the Viceroy Antonio Sebastián de Toledo. The viceroy, wishing to test the knowledge and intelligence of this 17-year-old, invited several theologians, jurists, philosophers, and poets to a meeting, during which she had to answer, unprepared, many questions on various scientific and literary subjects. Her breadth of knowledge astonished the assembled group and her reputation was made in Mexico City.  As her accomplishments grew she garnered fame throughout New Spain. She declined several proposals of marriage and in 1667, she entered a monastery of the Carmelite nuns as a postulant as a way to remain independent and continue learning. She chose not to enter that Order permanently as a result of its strict rules. In 1669, she entered a monastery of the Hieronymite nuns which allowed her more freedom to continue her intellectual pursuits.

Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz was an astonishing intellect and a unique figure for her time. She championed the idea of women’s education taught by women scholars as a path to a more balanced and complete society. Her poetry is notable for its strident intensity on a far range of topics, including erotic lesbian love. Although writing what we would consider same-sex love poems to a benefactor or friend was not uncommon in that period by men or woman, Sor Juana Ines de la cruz made it very clear the depth of her love for the vicereine. Her unconventional nature and intellect became a threat to the male power structure.  She conducted a salon from her chambers in the monastery that drew important thinkers of her day in Mexico City in what could be considered equivalent to the intellectual salons of 20th century Paris.

Not surprisingly, she drew critics who felt threatened by her feminist writing. In response, she wrote a letter, in which she defended a woman’s right to education. In response, the Archbishop of Mexico joined other high-ranking officials in condemning Sor Juana’s “waywardness”. By 1693, Sor Juana seemingly ceased writing rather than risk official censure. However, there is no evidence of her renouncing her devotion to working privately, though she agreed to penance. At the end of the her life, she relented from the constant political pressure and sold all her books, an extensive library of over 4,000 volumes, and her musical and scientific instruments as well. She died after ministering to other nuns stricken with plague during an epidemic in April, 1965.

Unfortunately, portions of her writing and poetry was lost, but some was saved in the library of the vicereine. Here are a few snippets of Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz’s brilliance in her own words translated into English.


The Dream

by Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz

(Excerpt – final lines of her nearly 1,000 line poem)

Finally, Dusk could see, at last
a vision of the fugitive pass,
and — with her zeal on the mend
from ruin forces a second wind–
and she, in that half globe where the Sun
withdrew the sheltering garrison
rebelling again, makes up her mind
to seize the crown a second time,
while in our hemisphere a skein
of golden Sunlight shines again,
and with its fair judicious light
distributes equally and shares
with all things visible their hues,
and with this restoration makes
the exterior senses operate
more certainly, as daylight breaks
on the illumined World and I – awake.

Translated by Elwin Wirkala

 


Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz response to her critics:

“I do not study in order to write, and even less to teach—which, in me, would be colossal arrogance—but rather only to see if by studying I can be less ignorant. This is my answer and this is what I feel. God graced me with of a gift of an immense love for the truth)—is that since the first light of reason dawned on me my inclination toward letters was so intense and powerful that neither reprimands by others, of which I have had many, nor self-reflection, of which I have done not a little, have been sufficient for me to stop pursuing this natural impulse that God put in me.

God Almighty knows why and for what purpose. And he knows I’ve asked him to snuff out the light of my mind and leave only what’s necessary to keep his commandments. Some would say that any more is too much in a woman, and some even say that it is harmful. The Almighty also knows that, since my request failed, I have tried to bury my intellect along with my name and to sacrifice all this only to the one who gave it to me. For no other reason I entered a religious order even though its duties and fellowship were anathema to the unhindered quietude required by my studious intent…..

Therefore, if the evil lies in verses being used by a woman, we have already seen how many women have used them commendably. Then, what is the problem with me being one? Of course, I confess my baseness and my base, vile nature; but I maintain that no one has ever seen an indecent poem of mine. Moreover, I have never written anything of my own volition, but rather at the request or directive of others. As a result the only thing I recall writing for my own pleasure is a little piece called The Dream.”

Excerpts from Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz’s response to Sor Filotea de la Cruz

You Foolish Men

by Sur Juana Ines de la Cruz

You foolish men who lay
the guilt on women,
not seeing you’re the cause
of the very thing you blame;

if you invite their disdain
with measureless desire
why wish they well behave
if you incite to ill.

You fight their stubbornness,
then, weightily,
you say it was their lightness
when it was your guile.

In all your crazy shows
you act like a child
who plays the bogeyman
of which he’s then afraid.

With foolish arrogance
you hope to find a Thais
in her you court, but a Lucretia
when you’ve possessed her.

What kind of mind is odder
than his who mists
a mirror and then complains
that it’s not clear.

Their favour and disdain
you hold in equal state,
if they mistreat, you complain,
you mock if they treat you well.

No woman wins esteem of you:
the most modest is ungrateful
if she refuses to admit you;
yet if she does, she’s loose.

You always are so foolish
your censure is unfair;
one you blame for cruelty
the other for being easy.

What must be her temper
who offends when she’s
ungrateful and wearies
when compliant?

But with the anger and the grief
that your pleasure tells
good luck to her who doesn’t love you
and you go on and complain.

Your lover’s moans give wings
to women’s liberty:
and having made them bad,
you want to find them good.

Who has embraced
the greater blame in passion?
She who, solicited, falls,
or he who, fallen, pleads?

Who is more to blame,
Though either should do wrong?
She who sins for pay
or he who pays to sin?

Why be outraged at the guilt
that is of your own doing?
Have them as you make them
or make them what you will.

Leave off your wooing
and then, with greater cause,
you can blame the passion
of her who comes to court?

Patent is your arrogance
that fights with many weapons
since in promise and insistence
you join world, flesh and devil.

Translation – Copyright © 2004 by Michael Smith. Shearsman Books Ltd.

I Fell Victim To Your Tyranny

200PesosMexicanos
Current 200 Peso Mexican Bank Note with Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz
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1983 1000 Peso Mexican Bank Note with Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz

Detente, sombra de mi bien esquivo,
imagen del hechizo que más quiero,
bella ilusión por quien alegre muero,
dulce ficción por quien penosa vivo.

Si al imán de tus gracias, atractivo,
sirve mi pecho de obediente acero,
¿para qué me enamoras lisonjero
si has de burlarme luego fugitivo?

Mas blasonar no puedes, satisfecho,
de que triunfa de mí tu tiranía
que aunque dejas burlado el lazo estrecho

que tu forma fantástica ceñía,
poco importa burlar brazos y pecho
si te labra prisión mi fantasía.

Sonnet 165

by Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz (1651 – 1695)

Stay, shadow of contentment too short-lived,
illusion of enchantment I most prize,
fair image for whom I happily die,
sweet fiction for whom I painfully live.
If to your sweet charms attracted I submit,
obedient, like steel to magnet fly,
by what logic do you flatter and entice,
only to flee, a taunting fugitive?
‘Tis no triumph that you so smugly boast
that I fell victim to your tyranny;
though from encircling bonds that held you fast
your elusive form too readily slipped free,
and though to my arms you are forever lost,
you are a prisoner in my fantasy.


I was in San Miguel de Yendes, Mexico last week on business.   I had the good fortune to be traveling and working alongside several local soil scientists discussing the needs for better crop nutrition in Mexico.  The diversity of crops and cropping systems in Mexico are remarkable. I was very impressed with the professionalism, deep knowledge and passion of the agronomists, crop consultants and farmers that I met during my trip.

Although my focus for the short trip was business, I hope to return when I have more time to soak up the incredible culture, cuisine and heritage of the two colonial cities I saw briefly. Guanajuato and San Miguel are both UNESCO world heritage sites and amazing places to visit.

I was struck by a simple contrast between the culture of Mexico and the culture of the United States when I exchanged some money for the trip after landing in Leon.  A 200 peso note is equivalent approximately to a 10 dollar bill in value and common in circulation.  The United States bank notes feature a long line of dead presidents; the ten dollar bill specifically Thomas Jefferson.  The Mexican 200 peso note has Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz; a poet, nun, feminist, playwright and one of the most iconic writers of colonial Mexico during the Golden Age of Spanish literature in the 1500 and 1600’s.

This simple contrast illustrates one of the differences in our societies. Mexican culture values the arts and uses their 200 peso banknote to honor their rich cultural history, while the United States showcases a racist slave owner on its ten-dollar bill. Thomas Jefferson may have been an abolitionist from the beginning of the republic, but central to his promotion of ending slavery was the idea of emancipation for all blacks back to Africa, as he did not believe whites and blacks could live peacefully together in the newly formed United States.

Why does the United States only feature dead white ex-presidents, most of whom no longer represent the values of our diverse culture?  Other countries change their bank notes with great regularity and use that opportunity to stay abreast of the changing norms and attitudes of their current society.   The United States should rethink the images on its currency and the messages they convey,  when we cling to outdated political leaders as the only people worthy to be printed on our currency.   Maybe it is time Americans take a page from many other countries around the world and showcase poets, painters and cultural icons on their national currency, not just dead, narrow-minded, wealthy, white male politicians.

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Israel’s 20 shekel note with Rachel Bluwstein, equivalent to about $5.50 American dollars.

Perhaps 

by Rachel Bluwstein (1890 – 1931)

Perhaps it was never so.
Perhaps
I never woke early and went to the fields
To labor in the sweat of my brow

Nor in the long blazing days
Of harvest
On top of the wagon laden with sheaves,
Made my voice ring with song

Nor bathed myself clean in the calm
Blue water
Of my Kinneret. O, my Kinneret,
Were you there or did I only dream?