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Archive for the ‘death’ Category

Towards Lhasa

We discussed the smell

Of the monk who set himself on fire,

Shaking our heads in half-disbelief

As our tour guides made dinner.

We camped early along the banks of

The Lhasa River,

The terrain rough-hewed and ragged.

The sunset, intense orange and purple, matching

The orange flames of our campfire matching

Those that ate his flesh.
In Liuwuxiang we waited as our gear dried.

We inquired, with barely a concern,

As to precisely where he burned,

How much further to the spot in Ngawa and

Was the spot worshiped like a shrine?

To forgotten freedom?  Was there

A plaque to commemorate?
No one talked to us about the Why.

Half- hearted questions met with steel eyes.

Such questions are better not asked

Such words carry too much weight

Baggage packed with an official taboo

Burning the tongue before utterance.

 

We discussed the smell of a monk on fire.

His ashes washed away long ago

But the smoke still presents a challenge

The stench of burning flesh

A common pain that may never leave.

 

 

 

Poets note: Most of the self immolation that has occurred in Tibet have been in the Ngawa region, not in Lhasa. Access to Ngawa is forbidden by the Chinese government for most from the west, and internet access has been severely restricted. I chose to use Lhasa in this poem to reinforce these restrictions.

For more information, go to this website; https://www.freetibet.org/about/self-immolation-protests

 

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The hardest part of a poem is always

The start.

The saddest part of a journey is often

The journey itself.
A woman in a hijab waits in the subway

The whoosh of air as a train passes by,

Rustling the edge of her scarf on her soft face.

Posters on the windows of the train mere colors as they pass

Blues and greens and lots of yellow and white, and red

Red, the color she left behind,

Not red like a sunset, but Red.

Red like the lights of an ambulance,

Red like the cheeks of a wailing child.

Red like the blood-streets and sidewalks. Red.
The lights of another passing train flicker by.

Her hijab offers no protection, no barrier is formed between the soft fabric and

Faces lit and then hidden

Eyes shine momentarily and then retreat to dark.

Eyes she’s afraid to meet.

Faces she has learned not to look back at.

The color of her skin disallows contact.

The happiest part of a journey is quite often the arrival.

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To say that the situation in Syria is an absolute abomination is an understatement. I do wonder what the future will bring, of course, we all do. What price will the people finally pay? How many more will die? All the obvious questions and those perhaps less obvious. I wonder about a nation that is butchering it’s own without any seeming regard. I worry about the children who can’t go to school, who can’t drink safe water, who can’t,,, well,, it feels so insincere for me to presume what they feel. I can’t begin to understand. This is where poetry comes in. It has a very unique ability to capture the terrible and transfer the image to the conscience of the reader. The cosmic connection of imagery as only poetry can accomplish. This article is one that I found about poetry in Syria. I found it fascinating. Sad, of course, but uplifting that poets can still use their voice. I ask, dear reader, do have a look,, let their poetry reach beyond the bombs of Assad and Putin. Here is the link;

‘Poetry is a witness’ to suffering wrought by Syria’s civil war

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Harriet Tubman On The Hilltops Of Heaven

 

Prayed as she tossed stones down

Into the valley of remembrance.

And each she offered with a prayer,

A word of blessing to each name

Written one by one on each stone.

 

To those both named and unnamed,

The mild and the strong,

The wretched and the saints.

To each life ripped away by hatred

Those who empowered

Those who oppressed

Everyone who hid behind walls

Those who stood to be counted

Those who were beaten down.

Those who saw their own death

Written in front of their eyes

On burning crosses

Spread across Mother Earths bosom.

Who saw their children’s souls ascend and

Cried the tears of Virgin Mary.

Those who at the moment of death

Saw their own fate reflected

In the futures of their children.

Those whose lives were filled with fear,

Those who heard unforgotten words of hate

In their dead ears for centuries.

Those who touched the sky,

Those who could barely crawl,

Those killed because they ran,

Those hung from trees,

Those dragged into the earth,

Those whose wounds bled for generations.

Those who believed blindly,

Those who suffered the lies in silence,

And those who knew a lie for a lie

And died trying to teach.

 

When she ran out of stones

Her cry was heard throughout the universe

For there were so many more names than stones

 

 

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He clicks his tounge behind his teeth
Says it sounds like a cricket

He has no idea what a cricket sounds like

He has yet to hear one

But his radiant smile

And giggle as he starts down the slide

Sun turning his blonde hair white

The gentle wave, just fingers 

As his laughter follows him from the 

Top of the slide

To my arms waiting at the bottom

All wrapped up in a smile better 

Than any Christmas present

I want to tell him I’m his daddy

I want to keep him safe from harm

I want to keep that Christmas present smile

But he can’t see me

He can’t hear me

My voice merely falls lifeless

From my world to his. 

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The angels of heaven,

You say, “They can’t see us”.

Ah, but they can!

Their tears are the rain

That falls on the coffins

Of every refugee

Who never met

The better world.

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1.
Where have they gone
The young and the proud?

Will we say their names again?
Will we sing their praises on Sundays in church?
Will their photographs hang in Willies’ barbershop windows
Alongside the heroes of World War 2,
The Norman Rockwell prints
And his autographed photos of Ted Williams and Rocky Marciano?

Will there be a celebration of their sacrifices in the town square
The mayor making a speech and mounting a plaque?
The mothers and sisters and wives crying inconsolably?

Or will their fathers hide their grief in bottles of moonshine
The bitterness growing with every drop
Their mothers asking themselves in secrecy what they’ve done wrong
Sisters feeling unprotected without big brother
Little brothers lacking a role model, what chance do they have?
Will no one waltz in the street when their names are mentioned
Or will they merely turn their grief away?

Who will lead us into the future?
Who will install that first traffic light?
Their photos in the Sunday paper big smiles all around
Where will our smiles come from without our boys as heroes?

There will be no continuity here
A generation is lost
Our sons have been ripped from their future
Johnny will not come marching home again.

Where have you gone, my heroes my heroes,
Why have you left our lives?
Where have you gone, my heroes my heroes,
And what will become of us?

2.
Where have they gone
The young and proud?

Where is Gus?
He who could run like the wind
Down the field to victory on homecoming night

Where is Eddie with the cannon right arm?
He who threw the winning touchdown pass to Gus?

Where is Lawrence?
He who made his grandmother so proud
Her slave life stories were so vivid in his mind
The first one in the family to finish school

Where are Gunvald and Bengt?
The town’s only immigrant sons,
Those two new Sons of the Town who worked so much harder,
Just to fit in,

Where is Tom?
He who always drove too fast
Son of the local sheriff,
Racing in the streets on Saturday nights?

Will their parents mourn their loss?
Will we notice their absence?

Greg, he whose Diner has already closed down,
Crippled after his hip surgery failed, and now
Gus is not there to take his place
Irene, his wife, she who couldn’t deal with the loss
The towns first civilian casualty
Of a war so far away

The 5 and Dime store won’t last long either,
Mr. Nichols, he who is getting older by the day,
Never stands outside the shop door anymore, greeting everyone,
His health is failing and Eddie isn’t coming back to take over
It’s a matter of time now they say.

Pete he who can’t climb the trees anymore to trim them,
Says he’ll have to sell his orchards and land to pay his mortgage
Gunvald and Bengt will be trimming trees only in Pete’s memories

Where have you gone, my heroes my heroes,
Why have you left our lives,
Where have you gone, my heroes my heroes,
And what will become of us?

 

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