Going Forth–Haibun

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Today tanks roll through the nation’s capital, and jets fly over a divided country, but I remember another Fourth of July where people came together to witness a union. Outside fireworks boomed and flared, but inside, love lit up the room. No excess displays are needed to whitewash the facts. Here, we share a couple’s happiness. With the stomp of a goblet, we’re reminded of the simple truth that love. . . is love is love is love. . .and that it endures.

 

lovers stand and watch

colors streak across the sky—

shattered glass echoes

through time, a kaleidoscope,

love forms and reforms again

 

Today is my younger daughter and son’s wedding anniversary. A few years ago, we celebrated three weddings within about two years. First our older daughter married her wife, then younger daughter married her husband, and then my sister married her wife. (You can find posts about them, if you’re interested, by searching Love and Marriage.)

This is a Haibun with a tanka instead of the traditional haiku for Colleen’s Tanka Tuesday. and Frank Tassone’s Haikai Challenge, “Independence.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shaping the Words

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By José Clemente Orozco (1883 – 1949), The Demagogue” 1946 – painter (Mexican) Born in Jalisco. Details of artist on Google Art Project [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

“This is the way the world ends

Not with a bang but a whimper”

–T.S. Eliot, “The Hollow Men”

 

Commencing countdown–

how shall we shape the words

to describe this moment,

did it really happen?

hollow men speak lies—

so many lies—

too many lies—

lies upon lies–

repeated over and over,

they land, seeding fertile brains,

sprouting, growing hate,

a bumper crop this year.

 

Ten, nine, eight–

continue countdown,

centuries of science, exploration,

the processes of experimentation and learning

(inquiring minds want to know)

But the words,

shaped and twisted

turning thought inside out.

“Ignorance is strength,”

cry the demagogues,

as they insist,

two plus two equals five,

and the people cheer.

 

Blast off!

to unseen worlds you go,

but what is your mission?

Do your cylinders and circuits let you dream

and hope there are other beings out there

with other, better words?

I think of how our world might end

with little protest,

a sigh,

a whisper,

but your brief life ended not with a whimper

but with a bang and a crash,

and we are left here to wonder,

what you might have seen

and what truths you might have told us,

and if we would have believed you,

and how we would have shaped the words.

 

This poem is for Secret Keepers Writing Challenge.

The prompt words were: Brief/End/Shape/Land/Blast

This poem was inspired by the recent crash of the Schiaparelli spacecraft ion Mars, the movie, Denial, and the alternate reality viewpoint of DT and his supporters (among them crazy conspiracy theorists and Neo-Nazis). Also, of course, T.S. Eliot and the book, Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell.

I will be seeing some of Orozco’s work later this week at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, although I’m not sure if the painting above is in the exhibit, “Painting the Revolution.”

 

 

Walk and Talk

“but before I can live with other folks I’ve got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.”

–Atticus Finch in Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird

 

No harm was done

(just talk).

Walk and talk,

Tic Tac talk

(and looming walk),

no deep thought,

(just locker room talk),

boys will be boys talk,

(that’s what they say),

but they might stare,

and grab,

so best beware,

take some care,

(though it’s just talk).

Hate-filled words

(incite some action).

Obscene gestures

(from small hands)

Obscene thoughts

(from small minds),

Dog whistles and gas lighting,

talk’s just talk

(even if it’s frightening).

But if it prevails

(the repulsive talk,

the racist squawks

the bully stalk)

It’s all our loss,

(It’s not just talk.)

 

This poem is for Secret Keeper’s Writing Challenge.

The prompt words are: Harm/Deep/Act/Stare/Loss

And here’s the kind of “walk and talk” I like. With a president I like.  Vote!

 

Son of Saul

Monday Morning Musings:

“Art is the lie that helps us see the truth.”

–Pablo Picasso

“For the survivor who chooses to testify, it is clear: his duty is to bear witness for the dead and for the living. He has no right to deprive future generations of a past that belongs to our collective memory. To forget would be not only dangerous but offensive; to forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time.”

–Elie Wiesel, Night

We went to see Son of Saul

It was International Holocaust Remembrance Day,

January 27.

On this date in 1945, Soviet troops liberated Auschwitz-Birkenau,

The Nazi death camp.

“Work will set you free.”

Free from living

That is,

Cessation

Extermination

Six million or more

The theater was not full,

But there were small groups of people

And one or two by themselves

More people than we usually see at “foreign” movies.

Many of them were elderly–

Meaning older than us–

And I wondered if any were survivors.

Would this trigger memories

Of past horors?

Some seemed surprised the film was subtitled,

And I hoped they knew what it was about.

Saul was a sonderkommando

One who ushered in new victims

Lead them to the “showers,”

Listened to their cries

Carted away their bodies

Sorted the objects they left behind

Shoes here

Gold there

Hair in the bags

A boy still breathes

The Nazi doctor kills him.

No one is to survive.

But how did it happen

That he escaped death?

The doctor wants to know.

I wonder how a doctor

Pledged to help others

Could be an executioner.

I watch the movie.

My eyes do not leave the screen

Though my body

Curls up protectively

Arms hugging chest–

Yet I know this is only a movie,

A depiction of the evil that was

But nothing like the reality,

Hell on earth

And if there is a devil

He surely was there

Watching humans destroy

The bodies and souls of others.

I wondered if my husband would say,

“What did you make me watch?”

But after, he agrees it was a powerful movie.

I keep thinking of the actor’s face,

Even now a month later.

Blank, stoic, yet haunted

How did he convey so much

While saying so little?

The sonderkommandos could not display emotion

Could not

Would not

Crack–

Till they did.

The movie focuses on his face,

Much of the action is blurred behind him.

We hear speech and yells,

German, Yiddish, Hungarian

The barking of dogs

The camera does not show or embrace the violence.

Master directors know it’s not necessary.

Remember the shower scene in Psycho?

It is enough to hear the cries and banging on the door

To see the blood scrubbed from the floor.

We know what has happened.

 

The sonderkommandos really did plan

And execute an uprising.

Executed some Nazis.

Were executed themselves.

Some by other inmates upon liberation.

They were considered collaborators.

But I can’t judge them.

Who knows what we would do in their situation?

They left papers, recently found.

The Scrolls of Auschwitz,

Buried in a crematorium

Mostly from Crematorium III

There were several, you know

More than one necessary

Because

The death factory ran full time,

Day and night.

Some pages faded with moisture and time

But others still legible

Record transports and mass killings

Record

How people were duped

Record the planned uprising

Record the horror

And show that some hoped others

Would learn what happened there

So that it would not happen again.

 

I think of people here

Now

In the present

“We like his plain talk,”

They say

Embracing the hate-filled speech

Of demagogues.

Build walls

Keep out the foreigners

Us, not them

Whoever they and them are.

I read the words of supporters

Tweeting out hateful messages against

People of color

Women

Jews

Muslims

Kill them

Rape them

Question the abolition of slavery

I shudder at the ignorance.

People who have no knowledge of history.

People who do not understand the Constitution

Or the role of the president

Do not understand

Separation of powers

Civil rights or

The hard fight for freedom

That they would destroy

In the name of what they call

“Liberty.”

Liberty to hate others

Is what it seems to me.

Crazy world

Crazy times.

 

Mass killings

Mass rapes

Nanking

Cambodia

Rwanda

Kosovo

Guatemala

And more,

Killing fields

Endless numbers

Men, women, children

Destroyed.

 

My husband and I do not go to eat

After this movie

It seems wrong

Disrespectful somehow

Our stomachs clenched

Our minds jumbled

Trying to comprehend

Mass atrocities

But we stop for coffee to talk

To discuss the movie

To decompress

To see the truth in art

To discuss life

To bear witness in some small way

To the survivors

And

To those who were killed

For no reason

Other than their religion,

Their sexual orientation,

Their ethnic origins.

It is still happening

And I don’t have an answer

Except to say

I stand against hate

Will you stand with me?

 “Indifference, after all, is more dangerous than anger and hatred.”

–Elie Wiesel, Millennium Lecture, April 12, 1999.  Read the speech here.

Son of Saul won an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language film last night.

Further Reading:

Fresh Air Episode discussing Son of Saul

Holocaust Art.

Auschwitz Scrolls