November 30, 2012

PotW: Pome for Dionne Warwick aboard the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Enterprise


Askia Muhammed Touré


Damn! . . . Baby, when I saw all that warmth,
that joy, that life
sucked in by the savage eyes of Beasts
raining "democratic' death upon the yellow world
of Vietnam, I almost cried.
YOU!--decked out in gaudy mod colors
mini-skirt riding high above regal honey thighs,
raped by the Dollar Juggernaut--"ENTERTAINING TROOPS!"
Black Princess chained upon the Modern Auction Block,
listen while the Auctioneer shouts above my rage:
                           IN! ! !"

from Natural Process, An Anthology of New Black Poetry, 1970

[This week's poem was chosen to honor Stevie Wonder for coming correct last week after a storm of protest greeted the announcement he would be performing at a benefit for the Friends of the Israeli Defense Forces. Askia Muhammed Touré, activist and leading figure in the Black Arts Movement of the '60s, wrote his Pome toward the end of that decade, during the U.S. war on Vietnam. This latest victory for the nternational BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) campaign targeting the apartheid state of Israel shows again that not all the lessons of the '60s have been lost.]

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November 21, 2012

Gaza Under Assault--A Letter

[This letter was written earlier today by Mads Gilbert,  a Norwegian physician working in Gaza. Gilbert describes the effects of the savage attacks of the IDF and the desperate struggle to save men, women and children caught up in the bombings. This hasty translation of Gilbert's letter into English was done in Norway. I have left it exactly it came to me--the meaning is clear, and polishing it would only detract from the immediacy of this report.]

Letter from Mads Gilbert, Gaza, 21.11 2012:

Midnight passed. No truce.

Also no children rest, resting woman or man rest.

Drones buzzing insects as evil and we know they are followed by thunderous detonations. The curtains in the window where I am writing this follows pressure and I can clearly feel the pressure waves. All windows are open so they do not implode and spread deadly swarms of glass.

There are so many deadly swarms here in Gaza. Grenade and bomb shrapnel, drone swarms, swarms of flyers with threatening to further terrorize the civilian population dropped from heaven.

It's been a terrible day.

It's hard to describe 13 torn bodies, dekapierte, torn limbs, charred, toddlers divided in two - it all comes to Shifa. With a desperate cry for help, screaming in pain. Mamma'er coinciding paralyzed in despair when the dead children recognized.
We are working.
Intubated, cuts of clothes, cannulated, trying to understand where the damage is on those who still have signs of life.
Today there were 24 deaths and 189 injured. Not everyone is going to Shifa, but many.
We lost two "on the table" splinter damage to the pulmonary artery and debilitating head injuries. A cava inferior-tear were rescued with the help of skilled vascular surgeons in the group of 40 volunteers Palestinian doctors who came from the West Bank yesterday.
Solidarity. New alliances among Palestinians. Major Arab delegations whizzes through the hospital with shocked faces while bombthunders unstoppable reminding them of the imminent in their political responsibilities.
A family with children coming into the morning hours after Israeli jetbombers have crushed the largest bank in the center of Gaza City. Dad is furious, calling for revenge. Children listen horrified.
Timeout at 00:44: Damn now, the bombs right at us. Serial Bombs.
How are they able to comfort their children during this night?
I'm scared. Evil seems to prevail.
I do not know about if "the world" know how this million prison really is. It is not possible to find shelter, resort, flight, protection. And the same power that keeps everyone trapped bombs simultaneously unstoppable with one of the world's most powerful war machine.
What would happen if Michelle Obama was here last night with his two daughters? Lived in a house in Beit Lahia in the outskirts of Gaza City, porr peoples quarters, without light, without any security. What if she ran into Shifa with one of their beautiful child in her arms, penetrated by shrapnel - without any opportunity to get away?
Would there been a change then?
I do not understand that Jens, Espen and Inga Marte and others who said so much right about the struggle against terrorism and political violence awhile ago - how can they sit with all their influence either silent or expressing understanding for Israel's "right to to defend itself"?
They attack the more, as they have attacked in the past 60 years.
Did we not learn that injustice must be stopped now, in our time, as we know and can act - not as an archaeological exercise with the hindsight lens and the cool, historian distance that makes the discomfort of betrayal easier to live with?
Do not send multiple bandages, doctors, lunches and meaningless statements.
Stop the bombing.
Open Gaza.
End okkupasjoen of Palestine.
Let the kids have peace.
Let the mothers breastfeed.
Let the old people drink clean water.
Let fishermen fish and farmers harvest.
Let teachers teach and children learn.
Let the youngsters travel and discover something other than siege, blockade and fear.
Let the soothing gentleness of the nights sleep lie like a rug over years of longing for rest of Gaza's people.
Then they do not need to defend themselves against superior power.
"Then the weapons sink impotently down
When we create human dignity
We create peace ", he wrote, Nordahl (Grieg).

Gaza, in the night's eerie.

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November 9, 2012

Poem of the Week: Underground USA, 1952


Kenneth Neil Cameron

even in this small town
in the dark
its still twice around the block
before you ring
('cause, brother, they can get
you for that,
that dynamite you're carrying
you even got Marx in there.)

but when the door opens
and the light falls
on her dark, womanly face
(mother of two, 15 bucks a week
for keeping white folks kitchens)
and you see the deep, friendly strength in her eyes
and beyond, in the light within
the other faces, white and black,
laughing, yearning, unafraid
calling to you,
you are not afraid either.

from Poems For Lovers And Rebels

[Cameron, as befit a leading scholar of Shelley's poetry, wrote some fine rebel verse himself. There are at least two other I may use in future years, if I can keep this up, This is one of his less formal poems, and I chose it because I realize that to speak of the underground today is to call up the 1970s, the BLA and the Weatherfolk. But state repression of the Communist Party in the 1950s also sent hundreds underground. So this is a reminder that we must be prepared for it to happen again. It also is a deceptively simple poem, because it's actually about being afraid while organizing, the fear unstated until the last lines, where it is not, it seems to me, so much banished, as acknowledged and handled.]

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November 1, 2012

Elegy For Our Dead


Edwin Rolfe

There is a place where, wisdom won, right recorded,
men move beautifully, striding across fields
whose wheat, wind-marceled, wanders unguarded
in unprotected places; where earth, revived, folds
all growing things closely to itself: the groves
of bursting olives, the vineyards ripe and heavy with
glowing grapes, the oranges like million suns; and graves
where lie, nurturing all these fields, my friends in death.

With them, deep in coolness, are memories of France and
the exact fields of Belgium: midnight marches in snows -
the single-file caravan high in the Pyrenees: the land
of Spain unfolded before them, dazzling the young Balboas.
This earth is enriched with Atlantic salt, spraying
the live, squinting eyelids, even now, of companions -
with towns of America, towers and mills, sun playing
always, in stone streets, wide fields -- all men's dominions.

Honor for them in this lies: that theirs is no special
strange plot of alien earth. Men of all lands here
lie side by side, at peace now after the crucial
torture of combat, bullet and bayonet gone, fear
conquered forever. Yes, knowing it well, they were willing
despite it to clothe their vision with flesh. And their rewards,
not sought for self, live in new faces, smiling,
remembering what they did here. Deeds were their final words.


    Salud! Poems, Stories and Sketches of Spain by American Writers

[Much great culture came form the international campaign to save the Spanish Republic from falling to Franco's reactionary coup and its allies, Hitler and Mussolini in the late 1930s. The poetry is less known than, say, Picasso's Guernica, Hemingway's For Whom The Bell Tolls, the incredible poster graphics or the songs of the International Brigades, Some of it is mighty fine, though, including this piece by Edwin Rolfe, a young communist from the US who fought in the Abraham Lincoln Brigade.]

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