Late Winter Greetings

Where will we find enough shovels to dig small graves among the olive trees?

–Kim Stafford
“The Day After”

Late Winter Greetings, dear fellow rascals, writers, artists, musicians, farmers, carpenters, circus performers, and fellow improveneurs. (Yes, I did just make up that word). The year’s shortest month is fast departing, darkness is starting to skulk away and yes, light is returning, but …

Now and then there are times when looking on the bright side seems close to impossible, and while I often still find myself looking to the snark and irony of guys like Anatole France when I go there, (as a kid I was told to ‘snap out of it’ or risk getting something real to cry about), I found Lewis Carroll’s kind words just right for this issue of Light Waves. Sometimes sitting together in the dark is exactly the right thing to do.

As I was sitting with myself in the dark after watching as much of the news as I could bear …  trying to figure out how much energy I had and whether what I’ve been posting on my website is ‘enough,’ I suddenly remembered some very non-snarky words from our french friend, Anatole, and I couldn’t help but chuckle. “Do not try,” he said, “to satisfy your vanity by teaching a great many things.” Hmmnnn. I knew there was more.  “Awaken people’s curiosity,” he said. “It is enough to open minds; do not overload them. Put there just a spark. If there is some good, inflammable stuff, it will catch fire.” Hmmmn again … and then Aha! Yes & Yes! It is enough to awaken curiosity and to open minds. Sharing poetry, music, and visual art that can breathe a tiny spark into a flame, light up a mind and break open a heart … this is my job for now.

Which is not to say that I won’t also continue to pay attention and direct you to the many strong voices speaking out with boldness and bravery, writing hard truths, asking even harder questions, and physically taking action. As I come across provocative material that I think you might be interested in, I will pass it on and I would invite you to share information with me as well. At the end of each post there will be a list for you to take a look at … or not, as you wish.

I know that poems like what I’m offering today, Wendell Berry’s “Questionnaire” and Kim Stafford’s “Child Veteran,” will be received by some with outrage and despair, while for others they will be what breaks the spell of apathy and exhaustion. I have no way of knowing what your reaction will be, but I will trust you to take care of yourself and not shoot the messenger.

Berry’s “Questionnaire,” from his collection, Leavings, and Stafford’s “Child Veteran” are heartbreakers. Read them at your own risk. Wendell challenges us directly, while In his little pocketbook titled My Friend in War; a powerful collection of poems about Gaza, Kim ponders the hard questions. Where will we find enough shovels to dig small graves among the olive trees? (if you’re interested)

For some of us, it is poems like these that breathe those tiny sparks into flames, light up our weary minds, and indeed break open our tender, hurting hearts. But what then? Who can say? It was Edward Everett Hale who said I am only One, but still I am One. I cannot do Everything, but still I can do Something.  And our dear Naomi Shihab Nye who declared everything comes next. I invite you to read “Questionnaire” and “Child Veteran,” as I said, at your own risk. And when we get together again, I promise to bring some better news and a couple of surprises. I promise.

For now, though, how about letting Leonard Cohen remind us to ring the bells that still can ring …  and to squint hard enough to find the little crack that lets in the light.

Wendell Berry

1. How much poison are you willing
to eat for the success of the free
market and global trade? Please
name your preferred poisons.

2. For the sake of goodness, how much
evil are you willing to do?
Fill in the following blanks
with the names of your favorite
evils and acts of hatred.

3. What sacrifices are you prepared
to make for culture and civilization?
Please list the monuments, shrines,
and works of art you would
most willingly destroy.

4. In the name of patriotism and
the flag, how much of our beloved
land are you willing to desecrate?
List in the following spaces
the mountains, rivers, towns, farms
you could most readily do without.

5. State briefly the ideas, ideals, or hopes,
the energy sources, the kinds of security,
for which you would kill a child.
Name, please, the children whom
you would be willing to kill.

Child Veteran
Kim Stafford
We never chose to be champions. We never 
wanted to be heroes. We would be ordinary,
but when bad men did bad things I was recruited 
against my will, and after that, all my friends 
began to die. First we heard shooting far away.
Was it the festival? Some kind of crazy party?
We thought innocence could be our armor. 
Mother commanded us not to be afraid. She said 
our only weapon was being brave. We hid.
We kept still. Darkness came. Our rations failed. 
In our street, fugitive armies were retreating south, 
carrying what they could. When our father disappeared, 
I was in charge of the younger ones. We went to scout 
for water. Coming home, we found only rubble. Everyone 
else had died. Dressed in dust, hand in hand, we walked south.

Until next time, remember to feed the birds. Hope, after all, is the thing with feathers.

With Love to All of Us Everywhere,

And here is a short list of Activist sites I admire and you might want to consider paying attention to, if you’re not already.

Published by Sulima Malzin

This 'Aging Rascal & Occasional Writer' invites you to embrace the world through her open window of poetry, art, activism, music, and humor.

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