Chapter 3: CONFLICT
“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” Mother Teresa
Empty City Street
Lowered East Side
Until it all begins again
Aaron B. Jackson
Roxanne Worthington, Grave Hands, Photograph
While You Can
Don't be afraid
don't look for signs.
you will arrive
just after the explosion,
waving your arms through
the light-struck dust.
I'm the ash that coats your tongue,
makes you cough
and cough. No,
I can't stay quiet tonight
on the street made of words.
Soon I will pass through you
like hair through a comb.
Love me while you can,
before the hot air crumbles
like sand; love me like
the black and white sky
Ana, I have learned to see
the mountain rising behind
you bearing the scars
of your ruined city, Havana, the sun-struck
panes of your grandmother's window,
staining her hair with their reds
and purples. It smokes with the fever
of burning flesh from mid-night
roundups in the prisons of Moncado.
During a time without mercy
or compassion, Ana, your hands
have cradled children and dreams;
Your country's history rages inside you
and the flight of birds.
You and I have learned how power
sprouts like kudzu, drowning
the tender fields. Speaking of this
across the table where the hours
pause over tea, our words
become grass springing back
Marguerite G. Bouvard
Shira Toren, Time to Go, Venetian Plaster, Graphite, pigment on Canvas
“engrossed with things that baffle”
“It’s a beautiful day,” when what we need is rain.
Pass the salt. Put out the cat. Please. Not now.
But now is all there is.
Even a not is finite. The knot
of human nature, “How could I
have done those things?” Torture, rape, pillage,
the big “out there’s.” Cover my mouth,
avert my eyes, trim my lawn, dump my garbage.
Tricks that crave decency, yes, there’s some in everyone.
But, age 9, I scratched that boy’s cheek,
grooves whiter than his skin
before pinpricks of blood
ventured into the cuts.
As I watched it gather red force,
the horror of what I’d done drummed
under my skin. The heft of crime. Over the line.
All because his puppyish devotion seemed weak.
I hope he didn’t go to war a decade later,
look into the eyes of someone who, momentarily,
seemed weaker than him. Feel justified to shoot.
Grace Marie Grafton
that wove centuries
in its buildings and mosques
where people greeted each other
and dawn blessed
Sunni, Shiite and Christian,
Homs, the ancient city
of light and outstretched hands
where skeletons of buildings
teeter and nameless bodies
lie beneath the rubble
of darkness, where there is no
end, and conferences abroad are filled
with empty phrases as Jihadis
stream in who do not speak
the language -- yet a father
lifts a small child from the remains
of barrel bombs who survived,
and stands alone above the ruins
with their arms intertwined
in an embrace, where the self-proclaimed
killers can never vanquish love.
Marguerite G. Bouvard
William Castellana, Girls pushing Strollers / Lee Avenue - Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Photograph
Marooned in togetherness
Tethered by necessity,
Split atoms returning
To a single nucleus
Of silent discord
Binding the roots.
A long, long time ago
some molecules stuck and made more of themselves.
This produced the soul.
This is the playground
of the enemy's youth:
upturned graves and craters
to swim in when it rains.
Small children shake skulls
while older ones carve rifles
out of bone,
making what use of the time
His feet are cut.
His body's ready.
We wait for the women.
you can feel it in the air,
see it in the eyes.
Mary went with me.
Four thousand cheered.
It was sunny and
they played some psalms:
who will rise
against the evildoers?
Who will stand up for me?
The sun shining —
she doesn't have much left.
I made my way to her son
The Finding Spot
the willows, human stash
this small wet evening
infant girls accumulate
like autumn leaves
and this will be
the finding spot
they talk about when asked
where they were born
oh to be wanted
here is where she rested
she was poor, she had
the smell of village cooking
in her hair
there was a note
but she could not read or write
girls are not allowed
some will stay in China
some will go to America
or Canada or Spain
to the grass
in little boxes
Saw a fog turn into angel's wings
heard sweet songs full of love
Peace on earth
Saw a fog lift the sick into heaven's golden gate
Saw a fog end war…
Thousands of wild flowers grew
where poppies grow
saw a fog float on water parting the sea
and all the world came together
like feathers of fog floating into eternity
Saw a fog
Angels at my feet
Vincent J. Tomeo
Evelyn Glaubman, Stop Violence, Mixed media
MARGINAL NOTES FROM A LOS ALAMOS JOURNAL
For J. Robert Oppenheimer
We are told that a demonstration
is not sufficient
and we believe it.
Too much has been invested for us
to recover from a fall now. After all,
science teaches that a man broken down
into his elements is hardly worth recycling.
Somewhere, the Creator sits at home
ill at ease and unsure,
stamping out the first cigarette
because already he sees a spot on his lung.
Here, we have witnessed pure creation.
Our eyes have the pallor of bones
bleached clean by unrelenting sun.
But we know too that elsewhere this desert's heat
can make the blood boil.
BURN CEDAR BARK
The wound doesn't yet know to heal
One friend feeds me up, black beans and yucca,
yams and chicken soup
Another's shouting poetry on the bridge
plummeting a cloud-steeped, valiant heart
in the cauldron of a needy world
Purple iris bursts the streets—
Even a busted pelvis will reach for the light
if you shine it right
Poetry keeps pushing back the falls with longing
Feeds itself then begs for more
Choreograph it with me!
Healer sisters, basket gatherers, dancers
of the proud and streetwise, tender, sassy
Seize your breath the only song you get
Burn cedar bark on the trembling morning
You can hear me
getting our bones to laugh
Love each other back
© Mia Kirsi Stageberg
BEYOND POETRY AND RESTRAINT
Beyond thoughtful language, a silent oath:
beyond patient growth, a quickly-spent piracy.
Beyond decency, the princely sum:
beyond truth, a malicious slur.
Voices clamor as if what was amiss had only just begun.
9/11 vengeance: against wisdom, punishment pushed beyond
and toward a history of broken families and broken martyrs
and the film strip endlessly played kill the infidels
and don't try to learn why they did it IF they did.
But, it's a tired old story: Homer and the Greeks, then
the turn of everyone else. Who's next: The Albanian hordes?
We are carved by madness, cut by ammo and burns of war: we
are abraded by bullets and battles: there's so much bluster and bluff.
The crowds with their: Rah! Rah! Rah! We are the best!
But there is something else: betrayal (and there's so much blood).
And: as far as option B? A poet motions to an open door.
But, then, the poem is drowned out by cries for revenge;
now: it's rage against all the rest: as if the gentle people were
plotting margins of defeat...or defeatism itself—as if they would,
by their acts, let life succeed. Oh, breathe deeply, take it all in.
Oh: but still: what's the beast being hunted down by the curving river?
What beast? What river? What sea? Tell me: where's the need?
Over in the market, the sale of bullets and babies; the sale
of guns and sugar: there's the mania and broken verses.
The loud vow: slaughter; no salute toward flags of mercy.
Gathered fortunes piling up in the cities and harbors
and the fortune-teller says the solution has been paved over.
But the stock market's up, lumber is being sold
iron is being smelted; the mood turns toward more slaughter.
And there are still the killings of children by children
and there are lessons learned about what goes with munitions.
And, only the vengeful voices believe everything is going so well.
Elaine Drew, Taera, The Earth, Weeps for the 3 Warring Brothers
The earth weeps and prays as she watches the devastation wrought by 3 of the world's major religions.