Eyes and Hearts

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Blood and destruction shall be so in use
And dreadful objects so familiar
That mothers shall but smile when they behold
Their infants quarter’d with the hands of war;
All pity choked with custom of fell deeds:
And Caesar’s spirit, ranging for revenge,
With Ate by his side come hot from hell,
Shall in these confines with a monarch’s voice
Cry ‘Havoc,’ and let slip the dogs of war;

–William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, Act III, Scene 1

Breathe deeply in the spring

Let the blossoms drift and fly

Dancing lightly on head and shoulders

As the robin warbles a dawn melody

 

Let the blossoms drift and fly

Glowing pink and gold in the morning sun

As the robin warbles a dawn melody

And darkness falls on dusty streets a world away

 

Glowing pink and gold in the morning sun

Shining on the pilot, duty bound and duty-burdened

And darkness falls on dusty streets, a world away

Where scarlet blooms bespeak the end of life

 

Shining on the pilot, duty bound and duty-burdened

Eyes in the sky, hearts on the ground

Where scarlet blooms bespeak the end of life

And the dogs of war snarl and fight

 

Eyes in the sky, hearts on the ground

Holding on, waiting for the command to fire

And the dogs of war snarl and fight

While little children play

 

Holding on, waiting for the command to fire

The pilot hopes for surcease

While the little children play

And the blossoms of pink and gold, turn red

 

The pilot hopes for surcease

But he listens to the command

And the blossoms of pink and gold, turn red

And a child dances, twirls, and stops

 

Breathe deeply in the spring

The blossoms drift and fly

Cry. Havoc.

A child dances and stops.

 

This is in response to the Secret Keepers prompt using these words:

Drift/Breathe/Light/Hold/Life

I started out thinking about my neighbor’s dogwood tree, but then my mind went to a movie we saw last week, Eye in the Sky The movie stars Helen Mirren and Alan Rickman (his last film), among others. It involved a drone mission and discussions of when moral choices outweigh tactical decisions. I heard Helen Mirren discussing the movie here. 

 

© Merril D. Smith 2016

 

 

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26 thoughts on “Eyes and Hearts

  1. Julius Caesar is another of my favourite Shakespeare plays. That’s one of the speeches that makes my hair stand on end. I love the way you use that as a spring board into a poem that starts off so placid and pastoral.

  2. As I was reading this the first time through I thought it was regarding the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki since Obama is heading to Hiroshima, the first sitting president to do so. Which only goes to show that poem, while inspired by something different (now i have another film on my list to see), touches upon the deeper conflict and the difficult nuances of this world that do not apply to any one particular incident. It is a moral dilemma we confront every day.

    “The pilot hopes for surcease / But he listens to the command” — I was just following orders. How often is this excuse used. And it is no different than the corporate executive who goes along with increasing the exploitation of workers. And it trickles down to us in our day to day trenches: My SO was looking for a good recipe for vegan “cheese” and most are based on using cashews, but then she learned that the cashew industry is primarily based overseas where they are nearly using slave laborers, whose hands become crippled in the cracking of the shells in order to prepare them for consumers. Does she use them knowing this in the name of providing an alternative to cheese, which is based on the exploitation and suffering of another living creature?

    Can turn away from the child who “dances, twirls, and stops,” justifying for the greater good. There are those who say the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki saved millions of more lives by avoiding an soldier invasion of the Japanese mainland.

    • Thank you for the thoughtful comment, Doug. Yes, it could very well apply to Hiroshima or other bombings. One of the things I liked about the movie was that the pilot agonized over following orders, as did some of the other characters. A general says that he has seen the devastation left by a suicide bomber many times worse, as they agonize over whether to risk a child’s life. I said to my husband afterward that I am so glad I don’t have to make those decisions. Then I heard a journalist on the radio this morning, and she said how when she was writing her most recent book about Syria–how those women could be her, and that she often wonders what she would do if she was caught in a war.

      As for cashews—I didn’t know, and I don’t know.

      • i had professor once who said to me, after a discussion about the atrocities of the United Fruit Company, that in today’s society, one cannot help but walk hand and hand with devil, sometime unknowingly, sometimes because we are given no other choice.

        The waters of ethics and morality are muddy at best. Beware those who claim to see only with clarity. A great documentary is “The Fog of War” with Robert McNamara. Which causes “Dr. Stangelove” to pop into my head. :/

      • It’s one I’ve been meaning to see.
        I read an article recently that said the followers of the man with the hair tend to be people who see things in very black and white terms and soundbites. No nuances.

      • if someone asks what is utilitarian value of reading (and writing) poetry, i would say that facilitates an appreciation of and ability to discern nuances in a manner no other art form does (the other art forms address other facets of human experience) in regards to language written or spoken. It is hard for me to imagine anyone who has authentically engaged poetry, regardless of their ideological stripes, who would see Trump for anything more than he is…narcissist sexist (etc etc) bully and whiner.

  3. I think morals go out the window in war. You have really captured the way most Americans can isolate themselves from the reality…very few people have personal contact with soldiers that have served/are serving in the Mideast.
    There is no “trade off” for lives. There may be necessary wars, but no good ones. (K)

  4. This is very movingFrom AP on April 22nd, regarding Whiteman AFB in Missouri: “The Air Force will now recognize drone pilots who conduct remote military strikes from Whiteman Air Force Base as “attack squadrons,” a designation with more prestige that could help with retention and recruitment.
    The Air Force made the decision last week amid increased national attention to the unique form of stress these pilots face”

    The retention problem has to do with the stress of their assignments. “Remote” doesn’t shield them from viewing the death and destruction of their weapons.

    • Thank you, Ken.
      I appreciate the additional information. After seeing the movie, I can appreciate just how stressful it is–but then, I imagine that some people compartmentalize, justify, or find some way to live with the violence.

  5. I was thinking, Caesar’s words, portending what is happening right now in the world and has done for so long. And then, how delightful, Spring must be in full burst on your side of the world … but then, o then … beautifully yet sadly counterpoised Merril thank you …

  6. The contrast between the Shakespeare quote and the initial scene was powerful .. then the story unfolded…an amazing poem Merril..felt sad when it all sank in.

  7. I realized the direction you were going midway through, Merril. I really liked the way you posted the Shakespeare quotation, but didn’t realize the impact war and destruction would hold in yours. . . The child in the end, not being able to dance, this made me think of the dolls I have seen melted in the case of Hiroshima Memorial Museum photographs. We aren’t so innocent here in America. Civilians were decimated, sadly.

    • Thank you, Robin. I don’t think there are any “good” wars. I would not want to be the person or people who have to make those decisions to go to war or to bomb certain targets. No, we’re not innocent here in the U.S.–perhaps naive.

      • Perhaps I may be naive, too. My twin second cousins: one went to Vietnam as a medic, the other as an infantry member. You can imagine the one who came back “warped” and traumatized- – the one who saw the piles of bodies in ditches and hand to hand first person combat. I was 16 when I went to work as a candy counter salesgirl and babysit for the medic, who had become a pharmacist in Rockport, Mass. My first-hand infantry cousin became an artist whose wife had much anxiety about his PTSD episodes. . . it easily turned my stomach (and heart) away from war. Thank you for this post which did point out how innocent people get hurt. I feel like a hippie saying this but hope it brings a smile: Peace is the answer! ❤

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