Please Do Not Read Again

Here is my Gratitude List, first today, in case you want to read that and skip the poem.  I went to bed last night, thinking about Gaza, and woke up this morning with terrible images in my dreaming heart.  The poem comes from that.  The Gratitude List is especially difficult on these broody days.

Gratitude List:
1. The image of the labyrinth.  You walk into it, feel the turnings, the changes, relinquish pieces of yourself, and return to the world renewed.  I know I will not always be wandering in the darkness.  I know there is a purpose to the wandering.
2. The people who are doing the work.  I come back to this again and again.  Every bit of work that we do for peace is part of the larger tapestry.  Whatever steps you take will hearten and encourage someone else to pick up a thread and weave.  I have to believe that this work will yield fruit.
3. The ancestors.
4. Morning comes after night.  Again and again and again.
5. Making things with my children.  Ellis and I are making a marvelous bag.  I dragged my feet–“We have this other bag already, which will serve your purpose splendidly!”  Sad face, then: “But this bag that you are going to make for me–I can say that I designed it!”  Okay, Boy, hand me my fabric scissors.

May we walk in Beauty.  May we walk in Peace.

2013 October 108

Now for the poem.  Don’t worry about me, please.  I need to walk into this labyrinth if I am to remain honest and true to something at my center.  I am afraid of the darkness, but I am not lost in the darkness.  Let’s hold each other’s hands.

A little over a  year ago, I wrote a poem titled “Please Do Not Read This Poem.”  I suppose this is a second part to that.  I am feeling raw these days.  I want to know what is happening in the world, want to know what my work is, but I cannot bear to read the news, cannot bear the feeling that I am complicit in the feeding of the war machine.

Here it comes again,
this poem I cannot complete,
cannot write,
cannot stop writing.

I am Lady Macbeth
and my hands are stained
with the blood of thousands,
yet I cannot stop my killing.

I am caught in the calculus:
How many chortling wrens
does it take to bomb a hospital?
How many of those fine heirloom tomatoes–
the Golden Girls, the Red and Green Zebras,
the Mr. Slabaughs and the Brandywines?
How many of them are required
to blow up a school
where refugees huddle?

Most days I hear my ancestors humming,
beginning their songs in the hallways of my heart,
lining the spiraling stairways of my DNA.

They accepted death by fire and water,
they received iron bars and stone towers,
they faced the sword,
rather than give their children and their gold,
rather than offer to Caesar
what they believed
did not belong to Caesar
(or to Mars, perhaps,
what did not belong to Mars).

I lack the moral fortitude
to hold back my yearly tithe,
and face the consequence of that.

Instead, I wake in the night
and calculate the costs
of all my killings.
When Caesar receives my birdsong,
my tomatoes and my blue-eyed chicory,
one full fourth of that
is funneled to the war machine.

Every fourth stone,
every fourth feather,
every fourth sunrise
bright over the hill,
every fourth chicken egg
warm from the nest
is feeding the birth of a drone
or a bomb or a rocket,
filling the ravenous belly
of the god of war.

All this murder leaves a trail.
Those bombs that kill
the children of Gaza today
were bought from my country,
from this war-machine
that feeds off my quiet hollow,
my singing stream,
my tiny fledging hummingbirds,
my royal poplar and my sycamore.

Some days,
the singing of my ancestors
is deafening.
Some days,
I hear the pounding of cannon
and see the dust rising,
even here in this place
where sunlight flashes on birdwing.

6 thoughts on “Please Do Not Read Again

  1. Most days I avoid watching the news but last night I was in a diner with a group of people and I was sitting just under the giant TV. The entire length of our stay all they showed was war, turmoil in nearly every place in the world. I sat there listening to my fellow life-travelers talk about poetry and all I could think was, God (I call Him Papa), Papa, what am I supposed to do?… As in what do I do with my life while the rest of the world is burning. Once again your poem says what I cannot articulate. Thank you for that.


    • That says so well what I am feeling, Christine! How can the world go on its merry way when all this terror and tragedy are taking place? Thanks for being there in the labyrinth, too. ❤


  2. Beth, oh my dear Beth. Thank you for sharing some of your journey with the labyrinth. Having lived but a few years in a war zone (KG-2nd grade), the images of war are seared into my retina. Even my war would be described as a skirmish compared to the events in Gaza. Further into the labyrinth I go these days.


  3. Thank you so much for this, Beth, I resonate with your feelings. I copied a picture of a grieving Palestinian family from the web and am using as my icon in my prayer room. Grieving with my brothers and sisters. Prayers of lament.


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