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

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

December 06, 2016
Anthony DiMaggio
Post-Fact Politics: Reviewing the History of Fake News and Propaganda
Richard Moser
Standing Rock: Challenge to the Establishment, School for the Social Movements
Norman Solomon
Media Complicity is Key to Blacklisting Websites
Michael J. Sainato
Elizabeth Warren’s Shameful Exploitation of Standing Rock Victory
David Rosen
State Power and Terror: From Wounded Knee to Standing Rock
Kim Ives
Deconstructing Another Right-Wing Victory in Haiti
Nile Bowie
South Korea’s Presidency On A Knife-Edge
Mateo Pimentel
Some Notes and a Song for Standing Rock
Bill Fletcher Jr – Bob Wing
Fighting Back Against the White Revolt of 2016
Peter Lee
Is America Ready for a War on White Privilege?
Pepe Escobar
The Rules of the (Trump) Game
W. T. Whitney
No Peace Yet in Colombia Despite War’s End
Mark Weisbrot
Castro Was Right About US Policy in Latin America
David Swanson
New Rogue Anti-Russia Committee Created in “Intelligence” Act
George Ochenski
Forests of the Future: Local or National Control?
December 05, 2016
Bill Martin
Stalingrad at Standing Rock?
Mark A. Lause
Recounting a Presidential Election: the Backstory
Mel Goodman
Mad Dog Mattis and Trump’s “Seven Days in May”
Matthew Hannah
Standing Rock and the Ideology of Oppressors: Conversations with a Morton County Commissioner
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
#NoDAPL Scores Major Victory: No Final Permit For Pipeline
Fran Shor
The End of the Indispensable Nation
Michael Yates
Vietnam: the War That Won’t Go Away
Michael Uhl
Notes on a Trip to Cuba
Robert Hunziker
Huge Antarctica Glacier in Serious Trouble
John Steppling
Screen Life
David Macaray
Trump vs. America’s Labor Unions
Yoav Litvin
Break Free and Lead, or Resign: a Letter to Bernie Sanders
Norman Pollack
Taiwan: A Pustule on International Politics
Kevin Martin
Nuclear Weapons Modernization: a New Nuclear Arms Race? Who Voted for it? Who Will Benefit from It?
David Mattson
3% is not Enough: Towards Restoring Grizzly Bears
Howard Lisnoff
The Person Who Deciphered the Order to Shoot at Kent State
Dave Archambault II
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Statement on Dakota Access Pipeline Decision
Nick Pemberton
Make America Late Again
Weekend Edition
December 02, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
The Coming War on China
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: The CIA’s Plots to Kill Castro
Paul Street
The Iron Heel at Home: Force Matters
Pam Martens - Russ Martens
Timberg’s Tale: Washington Post Reporter Spreads Blacklist of Independent Journalist Sites
Andrew Levine
Must We Now Rethink the Hillary Question? Absolutely, Not
Joshua Frank
CounterPunch as Russian Propagandists: the Washington Post’s Shallow Smear
David Rosen
The Return of HUAC?
Rob Urie
Race and Class in Trump’s America
Patrick Cockburn
Why Everything You’ve Read About Syria and Iraq Could be Wrong
Caroline Hurley
Anatomy of a Nationalist
Ayesha Khan
A Muslim Woman’s Reflections on Trump’s Misogyny
Michael Hudson – Steve Keen
Rebel Economists on the Historical Path to a Global Recovery
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail