New Year's Day, 08
* Photo by Stefan Wray, Barton Springs, December 07
Today I walked alongside the water
deciding not to swim before I left the house,
still balancing on the edge of exhaustion
still full —
life is rich, non-stop fast, full.
Farideh Hasanzadeh asked me to write
about the seeds of war for an Iranian magazine,
to speak to a quote from Franz Kafka —
"At least at the beginning, war comes from a lack
Here is what I sent to her.
I am a mother and a grandmother, live in the context of family and community on a living planet we have named "Earth." Ridges, mountain ranges, rivers, oceans, valleys and habit allowed over thousands of years, vastly different sorts of families, communities, languages, children and grandchildren to develop. We appear peculiar to one another, incomprehensible, even threatening until we return to simple human realities — mothers, fathers, children, a nearby stream or river, one tree, a single flower.
Imagination can give us a magical, inconceivable, unexpected insight that can solve a problem or a human conflict and an answer that may seem to come from nowhere. But I believe imagination comes from the same place that our love for children comes, from the heart, the soul, that vast universe inside each one of us where anything is possible.
I don't think people start wars because they are stupid. I think they allow them to occur because the heart is blocked. Some political or cultural narrative lets us forget that our children, other mother's children, our families, other peoples families live and work beneath bombs falling.
An economic narrative suggests that if a family in one place is safe and happy, it is alright to steal the wealth and happiness of other families out of sight -- on the other side of the world, on the other side of the river, the other side of the city, village -- to secure that one, fortunate, family.
Sartre said there is the "self" and the "other." Simoine de Beauvior said that women live in the world of the "other." The instant we bless that division -- self/other -- we've plowed the ground of war because we've allowed a dialectic in which other people are less important than we are, forgetting that the "we" and the "other" are one.
It takes no great leap for Farideh Hasanzadeh and I to understand as sisters do. Just heart. We are sisters. We are poets, mothers. Our work lives at the level of heart/soul/mind where the poem is born, where the humanity and sacred worth of each child, flower, parent, stream, mother, father, grandmother, grandfather are clear, obvious and beautiful.
And while this vision which I have described is simple as rain, the implications — once one begins to deconstruct the narratives that feed war and philosophical ground that nourishes it — can be fairly significant.
Kafka explored our humanity by showing us the opposite — In The Penal Colony a prisoner's torturer engraves propaganda across his back with something like a dentist's drill. In The Metamorphosis the main character turns into an insect.
There is another root for war that I've not addressed here and that is the problem of self-defense, fighting back. It seems understandable, in the moment, to protect one's home, family, self. Yet it is to cope with this problem that civil society has laws, which don't work. There are issues of symmetry, one village against a war machine, and issues of time and repeating cycles of revenge. We naturally fight back, but don't seem to know how to stop doing it, so victim becomes abuser, seemingly forever.
It has been several eons since humanity has looked to women's values, human values, where life force is primary for solutions to conflict. It is that kind of artistic work that fascinates me — small things, like how to end a fight. Women do this all the time.
We have a beautiful new grand-daughter, five week old,
and two three year old grandchildren, a boy and a girl.
We are well.
Life is full.
for the Children of the Earth
Let us all be children
black eyes shining
blue eyes shining
open wide to anyone
open to each other's
Let us be adults
who live justice
who make peace
who love each other
who forgive the past
who pitch the seeds
of war somewhere
they can't grow.
Let our children live
Lets us repair
ourselves and our
Let us forgive each other
for past affronts
let us find a way
Let us all be children.
Let us shelter one another
Let us grieve together.
Let us heal this
scar that came from
every horrible thing
everyone has ever
Let's stop acting like that.
Let us all be children.
Black eyes shining.
Blue eyes shining.
©Susan Bright, 2008
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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