As I prepare for this post, snow flurries melt outside the garden. I have completed my weekend chores, and I marveled how clean and quiet and yes, peaceful my surrounding is. The little bit of chaos was in the mall where Christmas shopping has already started with marketing promotions. I am indeed blessed that we can freely move about in the streets, going through our normal routine.
I know that in some parts of the world, this may not be so. Peace between some countries remains elusive, as also a “normal” life for some unfortunate families. As poets, we have the power to share the message of peace through our spoken and written words. Allow me to share two poems about peace:
First one is the performance poetry slam by A Muslin and Jewish Girl, a project by Search for Common Ground: Poetry for Peace
Second one is the poem by Palestinian American poet Naomi Shihab Nye. Like Stafford, Nye often writes in an approachable style whose surface clarity belies the complex currents within. As importantly, Nye’s poetry embraces the tough conciliatory spirit—steely in its commitment to openness and generosity—that marked Stafford’s life and work. While peace poetry may occasionally provoke, it also must dramatize the sometimes tentative, sometimes outlandish reaching across the distances between antagonists.
In “Jerusalem,” Nye addresses the conflict at the heart of the holy city by naming our fundamental woundedness, a pain that often leads us to lash out: “each carries a tender spot: / something our lives forgot to give us.” Though this poem’s eagle-eye view of the conflict is provocative (one Palestinian student argued eloquently against the first stanza’s seemingly blithe approach to historical grievances), Nye’s visionary declaration about the riddle of healing, the possibility of fighting off hate, and the necessity of orienting ourselves toward a future where “everything comes next” feels like a necessary antidote to the hopeless poisons of past and present.
Naomi Shihab Nye, “Jerusalem”
“Let’s be the same wound if we must bleed.
Let’s fight side by side, even if the enemy
is ourselves: I am yours, you are mine.”
—Tommy Olofsson, Sweden
I’m not interested in
who suffered the most.
I’m interested in
people getting over it.
Once when my father was a boy
a stone hit him on the head.
Hair would never grow there.
Our fingers found the tender spot
and its riddles: the boy who has fallen
stands up. A bucket of pears
in his mother’s doorway welcomes him home.
The pears are not crying.
Lately his friend who threw the stone
says he was aiming at a bird.
And my father starts growing wings.
Each carries a tender spot:
something our lives forgot to give us.
A man builds a house and says,
“I am native now.”
A woman speaks to a tree in place
of her son. And olives come.
A child’s poem says,
“I don’t like wars,
they end up with monuments.”
He’s painting a bird with wings
wide enough to cover two roofs at once.
Why are we so monumentally slow?
Soldiers stalk a pharmacy:
big guns, little pills.
If you tilt your head just slightly
There’s a place in this brain
where hate won’t grow.
I touch its riddles: wind and seeds.
Something pokes us as we sleep.
It’s late but everything comes next.
If you would like to share a poem about peace (and this can be your own), feel free to share the words or link in the comment section below. Thanks for dropping by today. See you tomorrow for Poetics and Thursday for OpenLinkNight!