“You are allowed to forget that
it’s even happening–this
is a new kind of war–it
occurs while you didn’t notice–
it depends upon you not noticing–
an entirely abstract war—”
From “The War” by Tim Nolan
“Clumps of nests in bare trees.
Bird wheels overhead,
nimbleness of a Blackhawk.
Down here ghosts blow
back and forth in the wind.”
“Caution” by Cary Waterman
When I organized the first Minnesota Poets Against the War reading early in 2003, it never occurred to me that, more than five years later, it would be necessary to go on holding readings to protest this wretched war and occupation.
The first reading that cold night in February was packed – more than 150 people crammed into the Black Dog Café in St. Paul to listen to 23 poets give voice to their opposition to the planned invasion. It came at the height of protests that saw more than 10 million people in the U.S., Canada, Europe and elsewhere turn out on the streets, only to be dismissed by George Bush as a “focus group” whose opinions he couldn’t be bothered heeding.
This Thursday night, alas, Minnesota Poets Against the War is holding another reading at the Black Dog, this time to mark the fifth anniversary of “Mission Accomplished.”
“She is caring for her husband,
her sick six month old baby,
living on a rocky ledge under a sheet of plastic
outside of Baghdad. She has a dented pot,
a blue plastic bucket with dirty water,
city clothes and not enough blankets,
her breast milk getting thin as
she waits for the bombs to come and go,
white rock dust smeared on the staring
blank face of her older, wide-eyed child.”
“Under a Plastic Tarp” by Kathryn Kysar
“To be loved, speak with your hands.
To learn how, open a magazine
and try to catch the little cards as they flutter to the floor.
Some numbers come with secret powers.
Some secret powers come with little power at all.”
from “Fortune,” by Dobby Gibson
A lot has happened in the five years since. More than 4,000 American troops dead. Anywhere from 100,000 to 1 million Iraqis killed. Four million Iraqis displaced. And a mood of near despair among Americans who just want to see it all end, the quicker the better.
Clearly the protests and readings five years ago did not stay the hand of the Bush Administration. Nor have the protests and readings since then been able to end the insanity. So what’s the point of holding a protest poetry reading now?
The reason, I think, is simple. Poetry speaks from and to the heart’s truth and the soul’s thirst for justice. It can pay powerful witness to suffering and speak out in the name of community and solidarity. All things – truth, justice, community, solidarity – that have been incidental targets of the criminal regime currently occupying the White House.
Nearly a dozen poets are scheduled to read this Thursday. I cannot, in this space, do justice to the range and power of their work. But I can offer you a brief sample of what some of them will be sharing with you at the Black Dog.
“Seeing that smaller version of the same flag that flies proudly above Perkins and Wal Mart and Bob’s Slightly Used Cars, I ask myself that oldest of suburban questions: What will the neighbors think? What will they think I mean by having a flag in my lawn right now?”
to be winged and delicate
and adept enough
to land everywhere
on this earth,
_Minnesota Poets Against the War, May 1, 7:30 p.m., the Black Dog Café, 380 Prince St., St. Paul. Admission is free. For information call 651-228-9274._