Tuesday, September 4, 2007

PEACE SHOW 2007/"Watching the Jet Planes Dive" by William Stafford

The Peace Show has been a Cleveland event since 2002, and began as a response to the Air Show, which members of the Catholic Worker and other radical pacifist groups had been picketing as a celebration of militarism. The idea of the Peace Show was to move beyond the negativism of protest (however necessary) to a "pro-attestation" (Allen Ginsberg's coinage)--i.e., a celebration, a festival of what we believe. One of the many activities and entertainments is a mainstage of music, rap, and poetry. I read a few of my own poems and this one by William Stafford, a conscientious objector to World War II. I love the simplicity of Stafford's language, and how his poems become a kind of map to "something forgotten by everyone alive..."

"Watching the Jet Planes Dive" by William Stafford

We must go back and find a trail on the ground
back of the forest and mountain on the slow land;
we must begin to circle on the intricate sod.
By such wild beginnings without help we may find
the small trail on through the buffalo-bean vines.

We must go back with noses and the palms of our hands,
and climb over the map in far places, everywhere,
and lie down whenever there is doubt and sleep there.
If roads are unconnected we must make a path,
no matter how far it is, or how lowly we arrive.

We must find something forgotten by everyone alive,
and make some fabulous gesture when the sun goes down
as they do by custom in little Mexico towns
where they crawl for some ritual up a rocky steep.
The jet planes dive; we must travel on our knees.

copyright 1960, 1998 by the Estate of William Stafford. Reprinted from The Way It Is: New & Selected Poems

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