Given the current conflicts across this land and the earth, this timeless poem from the late John Haines conveys the words I have no voice for.


How strange to think of those street
sand vacant lots, the sandhills
where we played and dug our trenches;
the forts we built, the enemies
we conjured to aim our stick-guns at,
and then went home at evening,
to victory, to safety and sleep.

And now the vast acres of rubble,
the pitched and roofless houses,
upended stonework and sunken bridges.
The dog-packs roaming, digging,
for the one still-unclaimed victim;
the stray sniper aiming at dusk,
and in the roadside fields,
flowers that explode when picked.

The children wandering from one
burned suburb to another,
seeking that which no longer exists:
a neighborhood, a playing field,
a wading pool or a standing swing;
for a kite to fly, a ball to throw,
or just one pigeon to stone.

And through all this haunted vacancy,
from cellars and pits of sand,
come and go as on a fitful wind
such whispers, taunts and pleadings:
the scolding voices of dead parents,
the lessons of teachers no longer
standing, whose classrooms
are blown to ash and smoky air.

And far-off, unheard beyond the drone
of a single hovering aircraft –
in Paris, Zurich, Prague, or London,
the murmur of convening statesmen.


From:
For the Century’s End
Poems 1990—1999
by John Haines
Seattle and London: University of Washington Press.

In unbound dreams
steeped in limitless colors
the machines sleep.

Metal skin glistens
as another day begins,
as our held breath releases.

We start with the same promise
that this will be the last day
and we will stand here united.

On this war ground with the rising sun
we circle the sleeping machines…

Standing among the ruins.
The child looks to the west, as the sun sets upon the land
And smoke billows from the ruins.
Many thoughts collide and fill the child’s mind.
Thoughts no child should carry.

Standing alone, afraid to look.
Afraid to ask anything.
Tired arms hold all that is left of this life.
The life sniffs the air and hides beneath their paws.
Knowing what has happened, howling at the blood red, war torn sky.

A tear falls from both of their eyes.

And then nothing is left.

polish_kid_in_the_ruins_of_warsaw_september_19391

 

Photo from Depression Time

Moments I feel disconnected from the activity surrounding and swallowing me.

The words heavy, actions sharp, the light too much to see.

I want to live peacefully and cast a wide net but the fields are overgrown,

the boulders too large, the obstacles too many.

Those we do not know beyond what we are fed are angry,

the hatred emerging from thousands of years ago.

Who really is the enemy, who really is the friend?

What role do I play, what picture will I paint?

The more I question, the more I look, I see

strings scattered across the desert floor.

Various colors and widths, each I touch and lift

is buried in the ground.

Each I touch vibrates and images unfamiliar

emotions that are foreign overtake my mind and body.

I lay on the ground and immediately the strings work

to overtake what I am giving to them, and I now choose

to receive the gift of becoming one with nature, one

with everything spanning time, distance, and borders.

 

After the smoke clears and unnatural sounds dissipate
the valley, mountains, and river return.

The mountain shadow continues the journey started millions of years before
and the river moves animals and earth further downstream to fertile
lands and eventually to the delta spreading its fingers for miles with
long threads reaching into the sea.

For a moment the clouds pause as birds swarm from the forest
and overtake the sky filled with defined shapes alternating
from grey to pink as the sun has completed another day and makes
its way to the horizon before one last wink says goodnight.

Beyond the clouds there is hope of peace.

I tend to be a private person when it comes to political, economic, and social issues, but the state of the world now is too much to keep inside, to keep from spilling like blood into sands. As a person and part of humanity, with a connection to each living being, I feel sadness and loss when tragedy befalls innocent people. Regardless of a state of war, what sense, what purpose is there to take the lives of women, children, and men as passengers on a plane? What purpose is there to take the life of four children playing on a beach?

These wars have been raging for thousands and thousands of years, and peace or a truce are nowhere to be seen. No matter the cost, the lives lost, any misguided direction, any god complex, wars continue to roll through communities, cities, countries, and take on a life of their own. The war takes over the people and grows its own purpose and this monster has no care, has no feelings or empathy for those that get in the way. In many ways it becomes the sum of each person involved in starting the machine and we lose any chance of controlling or stopping what we have created, what is essentially an extension of our self.

Wars… a battle for power, ideology, resources, respect, and survival. If the causes are addressed before they become a battle cry, can we prevent the war? At the end of day, what do we really want? Safety, food, water, opportunities for us and children, and respect. I believe something. You believe something. As long as it does not interfere with the basic needs of others, has a moral framework, I have no issues and have respect for your beliefs. Wars over religious beliefs, and those demeaning to others, make no sense. If your deity is loving and caring, died for you, do you really think it makes sense to kill over an interpretation of words, arbitrary boundaries, or the thought “my belief is better than yours”? That seems to fly in the face of what you think you are fighting for. Either communities need step up or governments need to step down to find a balance between the people’s basic needs and the government providing a framework for those needs.

Retaliation to an act causes a reaction to the retaliation, and each response escalates. It only ends when nothing is left and neither side “wins”. We will throw out words of peace, balance, and truce. But that will not come about until we understand the people’s needs, the root cause, and sometimes have to swallow pride in the short-term to find a solution for the long-term, to find stability, to find a balance between people, communities, and governments.

There will always be those who want more, how are not satisfied, and will take from others. If the community as a whole is in peace and working together, we can deal we these situations before they become a local and then global war.

There will be no children left to pick up the pieces of a shattered world and move forward, to rebuild, to come together.


Poem – The War-Child’s Innocence


Standing among the ruins.
He looks out over to the west, as the sun sets upon the land
And the smoke billows from the ruins.
Many thoughts at once run through his mind and collide.

He stands alone, afraid to look.
Afraid to ask.
In his arms, he holds all that is left of his life.
The life sniffs the air and hides his eyes under his paws.
He knows what has happened as he howls at the blood red, war torn sky.

A tear falls from both of their eyes.

Days spent watching and
listening to the news.

Anxiety creeps in with
each headline with
each story and tragedy.

Step after step toward the cliff
little time remains to salvage

fragents of humanity
the fractured souls becoming all of us.

~

I want to express the extreme
sadness that consumes my being
and the futile tears that only
I can see and feel.

Fists clenched the anger
disconnects reason from thought.

What goes through another’s mind?
What is left in their eyes?

~

I stand on the ridge line
both sides swept into fog.

The path ahead lined with
extended arms and hands

of those who passed before
those who gave this life.

There is only one way.