Sunday, February 18, 2007

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
Cosmographiae (1567).

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
a location.

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
for everyone.

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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Anonymous Anonymous said...

this is a good one SB. SP

3:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A related action item from the Middle East --

3 Iraqi women scheduled for execution.

Wassan Talib, 31 years old, Zainab Fadhil, 25 years old, and Liqa Omar Muhammad, 26 years old, face imminent execution in Iraq, all charged with "offences against the public welfare" by a government that cannot even provide electricity but fills the streets with dead bodies. All are in Baghdad's Al-Kadhimiya Prison. Two have small children beside them. The 1-year-old daughter of Liqa was born in prison. All women deny the charges for which they face hanging.

Paragraph 156 of the Iraqi Penal Code, under which they were judged, reads: "Any person who wilfully commits an act with intent to violate the independence of the country or its unity or the security of its territory and that act by its nature, leads to such violation is punishable by death." Iraq's "puppet" government charges these women with its own crimes.

None of the three women was permitted to see a lawyer. The trials to which they were subject are illegal under international law. All three are prisoners of war with protected rights under the Third Geneva Convention. Their execution would not only be illegal and summary, it would be utterly immoral. Civilization around the world reviles the death penalty while Iraq's feudal leaders make a public spectacle of executions.

In a country where it is evident there is no state or judicial system, the occupation and its puppet government use, as all repressive regimes in history, fake tribunals to exterminate those who oppose them. No legal judgement can be issued while there isn't the civilised conditions of due process, at least the presence and security of lawyers.

Iraqi women are testament to the life of the nation of Iraq. By contrast, the US-installed government, in its backwardness, imposes only a culture of death. Whereas Iraq was the most progressive state in the region for women's rights, with the US invasion protective legislation was cancelled. The United States and its local conspirators, in creating hundreds of thousands of widows and reducing life in Iraq to a struggle for bare survival, have placed women in the crosshairs and now on the gallows.

Women are always the first and last victims of war. We celebrate the numberless acts of resistance of Iraqi women, whether their resilience in the face of a culture of rape, torture and murder by US and Iraqi forces, their fortitude in continuing to give life amid state-sponsored genocide, their dignity as they try to maintain a semblance of normality for their children and families, their courage in burying their husbands, sons, daughters or brothers, or in direct action against an illegal and failed military occupation.

We demand the release of Wassan, Zainab and Liqa and all political prisoners in Iraq. We call upon all persons, organisations, parliaments, workers, syndicates and states to withdraw recognition from this pro-occupation, sectarian Iraqi government. We call for immediate protest in front of every Iraqi embassy worldwide. There is no honour in murdering women. Occupation is the highest form of dictatorship. It is not these three women who should be prosecuted; it is this government and its foreign paymaster.


6:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a beautiful thought, a Well of Peace. May it be a Deep Well of Peace, a
Welling Up of Peace. May be achieve Wellness in Peace, through this Well of
our Will...


9:37 AM  

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