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.

More articles by:

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.”

Weekend Edition
January 19, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Dr. King’s Long Assassination
David Roediger
A House is Not a Hole: (Not) Caring about What Trump Says
George Burchett
How the CIA Tried to Bribe Wilfred Burchett
Mike Whitney
Trump’s Plan B for Syria: Occupation and Intimidation
Michael Hudson – Charles Goodhart
Could/Should Jubilee Debt Cancellations be Reintroduced Today?
Marshall Auerback – Franklin C. Spinney
Boss Tweet’s Generals Already Run the Show
Andrew Levine
Remember, Democrats are Awful Too
James Bovard
Why Ruby Ridge Still Matters
Wilfred Burchett
The Bug Offensive
Brian Cloughley
Now Trump Menaces Pakistan
Ron Jacobs
Whiteness and Working Folks
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Keeper of Crazy Beats: Charlie Haden and Music as a Force of Liberation
Robert Fantina
Palestine and Israeli Recognition
Jan Oberg
The New US Syria “Strategy”, a Recipe For Continued Disaster
ADRIAN KUZMINSKI
The Return of the Repressed
Mel Gurtov
Dubious Partnership: The US and Saudi Arabia
Robert Fisk
The Next Kurdish War Looms on the Horizon
Lawrence Davidson
Contextualizing Sexual Harassment
Jeff Berg
Approaching Day Zero
Karl Grossman
Disaster Island
Thomas S. Harrington
What Nerve! In Catalonia They are Once Again Trying to Swear in the Coalition that Won the Most Votes
Pepe Escobar
Rome: A Eulogy
Robert Hunziker
Will Aliens Save Humanity?
Jonah Raskin
“Can’t Put the Pot Genie Back in the Bottle”: An Interview with CAL NORML’s Dale Gieringer
Stepan Hobza
Beckett, Ionesco, and Trump
Joseph Natoli
The ‘Worlding’ of the Party-less
Julia Stein
The Myths of Housing Policy
George Ochenski
Zinke’s Purge at Interior
Christopher Brauchli
How Trump Killed the Asterisk
Rosemary Mason - Colin Todhunter
Corporate Monopolies Will Accelerate the Globalisation of Bad Food, Poor Health and Environmental Catastrophe
Michael J. Sainato
U.S Prisons Are Ending In-Person Visits, Cutting Down On Reading Books
Michael Barker
Blame Game: Carillion or Capitalism?
Binoy Kampmark
The War on Plastic
Cindy Sheehan – Rick Sterling
Peace Should Be Integral to the Women’s March
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
No Foreign Bases!
Matthew Stevenson
Into Africa: Across the Boer Heartland to Pretoria
Joe Emersberger
What’s Going On in Ecuador? An Interview With Wladimir Iza
Clark T. Scott
1918, 1968, 2018: From Debs to Trump
Cesar Chelala
Women Pay a Grievous Price in Congo’s Conflict
Michael Welton
Secondly
Robert Koehler
The Wisdom of Mass Salvation
Seth Sandronsky
Misreading Edu-Reform 
Ann Garrison
Full-Spectrum Arrogance: US Bases Span the Globe
Louis Proyect
Morality Tales on the American Malaise: the Films of Rick Alverson
David Yearsley
Winston and Paddington: Marianelli’s Musical Bears
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail