What We Honor
Well of Peace
"Most beautiful of things I leave is sunlight,
then come glazing stars and the moon’s face;
then ripe cucumbers and apples and pears."
Pracilla (ca. 450 B.C)
In a London print shop eight years ago
I picked up a woodcut from Sebastian Munster’s
I was drawn to the energy of the water,
which I thought was a fast running river,
the tile rooftops, the walled city —
often wonder if the city state
wouldn’t be a kinder civil unit than nation states
have turned out to be — our vast needs
unattached to the earth around us
have given rise corporations which
turn us into ravenous war machines
set to kill the planet — there
has to be a better way.
You’d have to lose feudalism, of course,
to humanize any civil living unit, and
organize around principles like education,
nurture, environmental sustainability,
kindness, joy — people would have
to think and act differently than they do now —
which is the paradigm shift the world soul
might accomplish in time, or not.
We can nudge it along, or shout it from
the roof tops.
I was able to pick out words like Aegyptij (Egypt)
and some names:
Gerardus, Roberrus, Petrus, etc., but it took awhile
to discover the location of the city in
Munster’s woodcut because, while there are
websites dedicated to this remarkable work —
one of the most widely published and read
books in the Middle Ages, Shakespeare surely
read it, perhaps gathered details for plays
set in places he had never seen — the print I have
wasn't on the internet, until today.
It celebrates the Crusades.
Mary Berwick reminded me the strange "f"
is really "S" so we had a name: Ascalon
and thanks to search engines and maps
It’s about ten miles north of Gaza.
There used to be a Well of the Peace,
an amphitheater surrounding it —
a spring that gave forth enough water
It was one of five Philistine City States
alongside Mediterranean Sea.
They were at constant odds
with Israel, captured Sampson, who pulled
down a temple — in Gaza.
When Israel pulled out of it’s settlements in Gaza
in the summer of 2005, they bulldozed
all the houses, community centers, everything —
leaving 1.5 million Palestinians living for the most part
in squalor along the Gaza strip today as miserable
and homeless as they were before Israel's beneficence.
Later Israel plowed under another
1500 homes along the border with Egypt,
leaving Mr. and Mrs. Shatat, for example,
and their 8 children to find shelter in a storage
room beneath the Rafah soccer stadium,
where they have lived for three years.
I found a frame for the Munster print
a few months ago, and last week I located
Ascalon, now Ashkelon, an archeological park
on the coast in Israel. Scallions originated
there and were named after the city.
Betty and James sent me a map
of all the empires who have claimed this land
for the past four thousand years,
leaving anyone's claim to it, absurd.
I keep thinking about The Well of Peace,
how we have to change our way of thinking and living
in the world to celebrate it —
I wonder if we might revere something
besides battles, conquests, gods, bulldozers —
why not honor a well of peace,
the ordinary moments that are our lives,
a small, mild onion, a child's laughter,
a sacred crack in stone where water
flows from earth.
©Susan Bright, 2007
Susan Bright is the author of nineteen books of poetry. She is the editor of Plain View Press which since 1975 has published one-hundred-and-fifty books. Her work as a poet, publisher, activist and educator has taken her all over the United States and abroad. Her most recent book, The Layers of Our Seeing, is a collection of poetry, photographs and essays about peace done in collaboration with photographer Alan Pogue and Middle Eastern journalist, Muna Hamzeh.
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