It's not a diversionary tactic, opening the gates to the past words of greater writers; It's not a passing of the baton, except as a reflection of how the race, the game, the run around the track, is prolonged.
On the eve of WWII, Bertolt Brecht wrote, “What kind of times are they when / A talk about trees is almost a crime / Because it implies silence about so many other horrors.” Nearly twenty years after the war, the American poet George Oppen responded: “There is no crisis in which political poets and orators may not speak of trees.” Oppen reads Brecht’s reference to “talk about trees” as Brecht’s own aversion to the aesthetic at a time of sociopolitical crisis. For Oppen, however, the aesthetic is critical for “the good life,” which he argues requires an aesthetic definition, and “will be defined outside of anybody’s politics, or defined wrongly.”
Brecht rejects the sentimentalized tree in the interest of politics. Oppen rejects politics in the interest of the unsentimental tree.
So many call Oppen naive, the kindest thing so many can think of for a brilliant Marxist poet who, also, cast himself as a nexus -- a painful, jarring point -- for so many voices. I stand with him.
In more prosaic moments, I think of Eli Cohen planting trees on the Golan Heights, outlining Syrian fortifications in feigned sympathy for the soldiers, unprotected from the sun's harsh, harsh rays.
Dulce et Decorum Est
for my wife
After the storm, after the rain stopped pounding,
We stood in the doorway watching horses
Walk off lazily across the pasture’s hill.
We stared through the black screen,
Our vision altered by the distance
So I thought I saw a mist
Kicked up around their hooves when they faded
Like cut-out horses
Away from us.
The grass was never more blue in that light, more
Scarlet; beyond the pasture
Trees scraped their voices into the wind, branches
Crisscrossed the sky like barbed wire
But you said they were only branches.
Okay. The storm stopped pounding.
I am trying to say this straight: for once
I was sane enough to pause and breathe
Outside my wild plans and after the hard rain
I turned my back on the old curses. I believed
They swung finally away from me ...
But still the branches are wire
And thunder is the pounding mortar,
Still I close my eyes and see the girl
Running from her village, napalm
Stuck to her dress like jelly,
Her hands reaching for the no one
Who waits in waves of heat before her.
So I can keep on living,
So I can stay here beside you,
I try to imagine she runs down the road and wings
Beat inside her until she rises
Above the stinking jungle and her pain
Eases, and your pain, and mine.
But the lie swings back again.
The lie works only as long as it takes to speak
And the girl runs only as far
As the napalm allows
Until her burning tendons and crackling
Muscles draw her up
into that final position
Burning bodies so perfectly assume. Nothing
Can change that; she is burned behind my eyes
And not your good love and not the rain-swept air
And not the jungle green
Pasture unfolding before us can deny it.
-- Bruce Weigl, “Song of Napalm” from Archaeology of the Circle: New and Selected Poems. Copyright © 1999 by Bruce Weigl.
Hey Father Death, I'm flying home
Hey poor man, you're all alone
Hey old daddy, I know where I'm going
Father Death, Don't cry any more
Mama's there, underneath the floor
Brother Death, please mind the store
Old Aunty Death Don't hide your bones
Old Uncle Death I hear your groans
O Sister Death how sweet your moans
O Children Deaths go breathe your breaths
Sobbing breasts'll ease your Deaths
Pain is gone, tears take the rest
Genius Death your art is done
Lover Death your body's gone
Father Death I'm coming home
Guru Death your words are true
Teacher Death I do thank you
For inspiring me to sing this Blues
Buddha Death, I wake with you
Dharma Death, your mind is new
Sangha Death, we'll work it through
Suffering is what was born
Ignorance made me forlorn
Tearful truths I cannot scorn
Father Breath once more farewell
Birth you gave was no thing ill
My heart is still, as time will tell.
|Daily Mail UK Online|