FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

When Poetry Mirrors War

by

I am returning home from a memorial to an old and dear friend, Marijke Velzeboer Salcedo. Marijke was a remarkable woman on many counts: a wonderful mother, wife and friend. She was a talented and energetic woman whose work on behalf of women for United Nations agencies contributed to the improvement in the lives of thousands of women worldwide.

Among the many tributes to her talents one of them remains with me: Marijke was a determined pacifist. When her children’s new friends came to her house she told them: in this house you can say any word you want except one. In this house you are not allowed to say the word “kill.” This apparently simple conduct, if widespread, would do marvels for the cause of peace.

I come home and find the poem “Report from the Besieged City,” by the late Polish poet Zbigniew Herbert, in a translation by John Carpenter and Bogdona Carpenter. As stated in the translation the speaker in the poem is designated a chronicler “Because he is too old to bear arms.”

I read the following lines,

I avoid any commentary I keep a tight hold on my emotions I write
about the facts
only they it seems are appreciated in foreign markets
yet with a certain pride I would like to inform the world
that thanks to the war we have raised a new species of children
our children don’t like fairy tales they play at killing
awake and asleep they dream of soup of bread and bones
just like dogs and cats

I am thinking about this when I see the carnage going on in Gaza where, as of this writing, over 1800 Palestinians have been killed, among them 296 children and almost 200 women. Thousands of children suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as the bombs relentlessly fall on them. Undaunted, the monster of war continues his demolition task. On July 31st Gideon Levy reported that around 50 families had been obliterated, their homes bombed with them inside.

Jorge Hernandez, an Argentine priest in charge of a refuge for 29 disabled children, mothers with their children and several nuns, says that the lack of potable water is terrifying, since people are drinking water contaminated with blood and sewage. “This is a bloody war, directed against women and children,” he tells his family in Argentina. “We have nowhere to go, all of Gaza is dangerous now,” he says.

According to the United Nations, a third of the hospitals in Gaza have been damaged, and 270,000 people have been crammed into 90 UN shelters. One such shelter in Rafah was struck by a missile that killed 10 people and injured 35. Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary General declared that the strike “is a moral outrage and criminal act and yet another gross violation of humanitarian law.”

The UN warns that medical facilities are ‘on the verge of collapse’ and almost half of medical personnel are unable to go to work. Half a million Gazans are now homeless and medical supplies are running out. Gaza morgue facilities are overflowing and dead children have to be kept in ice cream freezers.

I come back to the poem,

cemeteries grow larger the number of defenders is smaller
yet the defense continues it will continue to the end
and if the City falls but a single man escapes
he will carry the City within himself on the roads of exile
he will be the City

Dr. Cesar Chelala is a co-winner of an Overseas Press Club of America award.

Dr. Cesar Chelala is a co-winner of the 1979 Overseas Press Club of America award for the article “Missing or Disappeared in Argentina: The Desperate Search for Thousands of Abducted Victims.”

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

Weekend Edition
September 23, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
The Meaning of the Trump Surge
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: More Pricks Than Kicks
Mike Whitney
Oh, Say Can You See the Carnage? Why Stand for a Country That Can Gun You Down in Cold Blood?
Chris Welzenbach
The Diminution of Chris Hayes
Vincent Emanuele
The Riots Will Continue
Rob Urie
A Scam Too Far
Pepe Escobar
Les Deplorables
Patrick Cockburn
Airstrikes, Obfuscation and Propaganda in Syria
Timothy Braatz
The Quarterback and the Propaganda
Sheldon Richman
Obama Rewards Israel’s Bad Behavior
Libby Lunstrum - Patrick Bond
Militarizing Game Parks and Marketing Wildlife are Unsustainable Strategies
Andy Thayer
More Cops Will Worsen, Not Help, Chicago’s Violence Problem
Louis Yako
Can Westerners Help Refugees from War-torn Countries?
David Rosen
Rudy Giuliani & Trump’s Possible Cabinet
Joyce Nelson
TISA and the Privatization of Public Services
Pete Dolack
Global Warming Will Accelerate as Oceans Reach Limits of Remediation
Franklin Lamb
34 Years After the Sabra-Shatila Massacre
Cesar Chelala
How One Man Held off Nuclear War
Norman Pollack
Sovereign Immunity, War Crimes, and Compensation to 9/11 Families
Lamont Lilly
Standing Rock Stakes Claim for Sovereignty: Eyewitness Report From North Dakota
Barbara G. Ellis
A Sandernista Priority: Push Bernie’s Planks!
Hiroyuki Hamada
How Do We Dream the Dream of Peace Together?
Russell Mokhiber
From Rags and Robes to Speedos and Thongs: Why Trump is Crushing Clinton in WV
Julian Vigo
Living La Vida Loca
Aidan O'Brien
Where is Europe’s Duterte? 
Abel Cohen
Russia’s Improbable Role in Everything
Ron Jacobs
A Change Has Gotta’ Come
Uri Avnery
Shimon Peres and the Saga of Sisyphus
Graham Peebles
Ethiopian’s Crying out for Freedom and Justice
Robert Koehler
Stop the Killing
Thomas Knapp
Election 2016: Of Dog Legs and “Debates”
Yves Engler
The Media’s Biased Perspective
Victor Grossman
Omens From Berlin
Christopher Brauchli
Wells Fargo as Metaphor for the Trump Campaign
Nyla Ali Khan
War of Words Between India and Pakistan at the United Nations
Tom Barnard
Block the Bunker! Historic Victory Against Police Boondoggle in Seattle
James Rothenberg
Bullshit Recognition as Survival Tactic
Ed Rampell
A Tale of Billionaires & Ballot Bandits
Kristine Mattis
Persnickety Publishing Pet-Peeves
Charles R. Larson
Review: Helen Dewitt’s “The Last Samurai”
David Yearsley
Torture Chamber Music
September 22, 2016
Dave Lindorff
Wells Fargo’s Stumpf Leads the Way
Stan Cox
If There’s a World War II-Style Climate Mobilization, It has to Go All the Way—and Then Some
Binoy Kampmark
Source Betrayed: the Washington Post and Edward Snowden
John W. Whitehead
Wards of the Nanny State
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail