As if the bloodshed in Gaza weren't enough to remember, this is also the anniversary of the Persian Gulf War. One of the best poems of that conflict was June Jordan's "The Bombing of Baghdad," for its relentless catalogue, naming the targets in that city, and its admonishment of our moral highground. In honor of June, I'm sharing a poem by Mary Weems, that appears Come Together: Imagine Peace.
"Kwansaba for June Jordan"
June Jordan would be dumping word bombs
on the White House like D-Day in
America, wailing verbs like an elder blues
singer, hitting that one right note each
night—If she wasn’t busy filling God
in on all the ways the world
needs to collect like clouds, rain change.
Mary E. Weems, 2008
In: An Unmistakable Shade of Red and the Obama ChroniclesBottom Dog Press, Huron, OH
Like the late, African American photographer, Gordon Parks, art (in my case the language arts) is my choice of weapon. So while I can't claim marching, or standing, siting in, or any other physical resistance to war, for me the creation and subsequent sharing of my poems in print and/or out loud and voicing my anti-war anywhere position constitutes a political act.
The poem "Kwansaba for June Jordan" in the Come Togethercollection was inspired by my admiration for the late poet and essayist June Jordan, who, before she succumbed to breast cancer had her contract with the New York Times cancelled after she spoke out about the treatment of the Palestinians. She was a word-warrior all of her life, and spoke truth to power even when her position was not popular. In the poem, I imagined/thought about what she'd be doing in Heaven (though I'm not a Christian, I believe the spirit survivies and goes some place), and decided she'd still be trying to bring the world together---in peace.
Below I share another poem (part of a forthcoming book chapter titled "The E in Poetry Stands for Empathy) -- inspired by a Plain Dealer Article, 1-6-07).
You can share this poem too on your website--if you'd like. Let me know if you need anything else. Great idea.
(1-6-07, [1-6-05] Bomb’s Lasting Toll: Lost Laughter, Broken Lives
By: Sabrina Tavernise)
The war in Iraq is a boy dying in his father’s arms.
His nickname English Ali, his body burning,
his feet missing
His father thinks two missing feet are nothing
compared to losing a son while he looks inside
death’s eyes, trying to pretend this is a dream,
34 boys are not dying; his other son has not just died
on the same street.
Newsprint and paper smell like car bombs;
the words, people standing in line for help;
hope the last thing anyone talks about, most
of them missing a boy at their table.
Grief the same everywhere,
their anger local and familiar. Not even revenge
can help the fathers feeling like failures, mothers
violated, womb-stunted, organs
snatched without reason, tears that don’t
soothe, sorrow that kills and makes you walk
around showing people you’re dead.
Ali’s father’s face is one terrible tear. He says Life has no taste.
I even feel sick of myself, and I’m in his one-room apartment
with him, putting an arm around his shoulder, our silence
a connection across cultures that needs nothing.
I think of my grown daughter, of all the children in my family
who play in the street everyday not worrying
about whether or not a truck bomb will kill them.
I think of a child’s life without feet,
the upturned soles of Iraqi men praying,
the American soldiers standing in parked
Humvees tossing candy to the children
just before the booby trapped truck blew up.
By: Mary E. Weems