Friday, May 7, 2010

The That and the This: A Reminder

Every Wednesday, since 2004,
for the 330th time, they stand for 1 hour
a small group of grannies and gramps
Anne, 92, who came by bus
Lillian, 90
Jenny 65, undergoing treatment for breast cancer
Bert, 76, with his cane, for his bad knees
James, 73, a granduncle,
a few others who join them
out on the sidewalk
at 5th Avenue and Rockefeller Center.

How cute. Old people out on the sidewalk
protesting the wars
What absolute madness
what good does it do

They interfere with the routine.
That's the whole point.
People notice,
and either grimace or smile.
But it makes them think.
That's the whole point.

They put me to shame, these fragile elders.
I didn't participate in the march for peace
this or last year
figuring, what good does it do
who even listens? nobody cares, it's
like preaching to the choir
we're just another temporary
traffic obstruction.
One must get on with
one's life

My birth country has 700 military bases
in over 100 countries
uniforms with guns ... just in case
Security's a big business.
war is so ... LUCRATIVE
millions to be made from protecting
securing, upgrading, preempting.
How you stay in business, you
expand, repeat
make the service never ending.
Differences are
never ending
like the wars to protect

Gotta give it to those gramps and grannies
they make me ashamed
of my
burgeoning Complacency.
All well and good
to just tend the garden,
focus on what's beautiful and positive
make the weekly grocery list
class tomorrow, errands, work
so many projects, so little time
what shall I write today
while half the world
starves or sinks
or bleeds.

Is activism, even the mildest kind
something one eventuallly
grows out of,
puts aside, succumbing to
detached observation,
a sigh, oh God how horrible,
then back to the everydayness
loaf of bread, quart of milk, eggs ...
They're still languishing in prisons
those writers. Women stoned to death
or buried alive
for having coffee with a male friend.
Veterans suiciding themselves,
children collaterally damaged
lands and crops and newborns poisoned by
depleted uranium
the gift that keeps on
all because of war
against terror,
against freedom,
against thought

And not just wars or
people tortured,
bees are dying
whales, birds, fish
disoriented, lost,
gorged with plastic
or slick with oil
be careful what you eat
we're running out of water
running out of time

Oh stop
stop thinking about such things
you'll drive yourself crazy
you can do nothing.
Go get some tea, think peaceful thoughts
go back to your garden
put on some music
write a poem
about the butterfly at play, teasing the cat
about the beauty of light
dancing through branches of cedar
and the oneness of it all.

And there they stand
that little group of old people
every single Wednesday
year after year after year
for the 330th time
one day a week
out on the sidewalk
saying 'Look'
look what's still happening
still happening.

Is this what life is,
learning to juggle
the That and the This
the Out There and the In Here,
the This mostly taking preference
... dominating
till the That reminds
that That's still that.

And what should one's response
stranger to stranger
are we all brothers?
just because we share a planet
doesn't mean ...
and animals are just
The garden is waiting
so's the grocery run
and those pressing jobs to finish
deadline was yesterday
what to cook for dinner ...
still ...

they got to me
those persistent old people
this morning
they got to me.
I used to be them,
standing on a sidewalk,
shivering in the cold,
me and 20 others,
trying to free Tibet,
while shoppers hurried by.

Iraq, the slam dunk war
shocked and awed into submission
Afghanistan that even Alexander couldn't tame
but those damn terrorists keep
popping up
every bloody where.
One can only stomach so much
pain and fear and outrage
it takes energy to keep fighting
it morphs into an aching sadness
decades pass and
the monster's still there
and you just get ...

If you're gonna make war.
trickster says to me,
do it on your own complacency.

They shame me, these elders
I feel as they do
yet do nothing.
What can you do,
it's not enough--
for some--
to light a candle
they gotta
walk the walk ...
if not with feet
then using words
why not act using words
use your mouth, use your pen
write a poem

I'd write a poem
but what would it say
and how would it matter.
It'd never work as a poem
inner dialogues, self to self,
rarely do
it'd just be words tumbling over
groping for meaning,
choked by excess,
clumsy word-voices still trying to
find themselves
usurping a space
just because they

but it would remind me ..
and I sometimes need


there is no either/or
my dear
it's all just "is"
and while some of us are
still trying to find our voice
other voices are being silenced



remember that

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