FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

When Poetry Mirrors War

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.”

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
September 16, 2019
Sam Husseini
Biden Taking Iraq Lies to the Max
Paul Street
Joe Biden’s Answer to Slavery’s Legacy: Phonographs for the Poor
Paul Atwood
Why Mattis is No Hero
Jonathan Cook
Brexit Reveals Jeremy Corbyn to be the True Moderate
Jeff Mackler
Trump, Trade and China
Robert Hunziker
Fukushima’s Radioactive Water Crisis
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The Democrats and the Climate Crisis
Michael Doliner
Hot Stuff on the Afghan Peace Deal Snafu
Nyla Ali Khan
Spectacles of the Demolition of the Babri Masjid in Uttar Pradesh and the Revocation of the Autonomous Status of Kashmir
Stansfield Smith
Celebrating 50 Years of Venceremos Brigade solidarity with the Cuban Revolution
Tim Butterworth
Socialism Made America Great
Nick Licata
Profiles in Courage: the Tories Have It, the Republicans Don’t
Abel Prieto
Cubanness and Cuban Identity: the Importance of Fernando Ortiz
Robert Koehler
Altruists of the World Unite!
Mel Gurtov
Farewell, John Bolton
Weekend Edition
September 13, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
The Age of Constitutional Coups
Rob Urie
Bernie Sanders and the Realignment of the American Left
Anthony DiMaggio
Teaching the “War on Terror”: Lessons for Contemporary Politics
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: They Are the Walrus
T.J. Coles
Jeremy Corbyn: Electoral “Chicken” or Political Mastermind?
Joseph Natoli
The Vox Populi
Sasan Fayazmanesh
The Pirates of Gibraltar
John Feffer
Hong Kong and the Future of China
David Rosen
The Likely End to Roe v. Wade?
Ishmael Reed
When You Mess With Creation Myths, the Knives Come Out
Michael Hudson
Break Up the Democratic Party?
Paul Tritschler
What If This is as Good as It Gets?
Jonah Raskin
Uncensored Tony Serra: Consummate Criminal Defense Lawyer
Ryan Gunderson
Here’s to the Last Philosophes, the Frankfurt School
Michael T. Klare
The Pompeo Doctrine: How to Seize the Arctic’s Resources, Now Accessible Due to Climate Change (Just Don’t Mention Those Words!)
Luke O'Neil
I Would Want To Drink Their Blood: God Will Punish Them
Louis Proyect
The Intellectual Development of Karl Marx
Tom Clifford
How China Sees the World
Kelsey Hawkins-Johnson – Negin Owliaei
Who’s Burning the Amazon?
Yasin Khan
Rideshare Drivers are Employees, Not Contractors
Ralph Nader
Big Business Lies Taught a Watchful Donald Trump
Binoy Kampmark
The Sacking of John Bolton
Andrea Maki
Wild Love Preserve Founder: Our Path Forward
Jeremy Kuzmarov
The War in Eastern Ukraine May be Coming to an End But Do Any Americans Care?
Tim Davis – Stan Grier
Protect the Sacred Grizzly Bear, Follow Those Who Know Grandmother Earth
Clark T. Scott
Super-Delegated and Relegated
Jim Britell
Lessons From America’s Greatest Grassroots Campaigns 
Howie Hawkins
Workers Need More Rights and Economic Democracy
Ramzy Baroud
‘Justice is Indivisible’: Screams of Israa Ghrayeb Should Be Our Wake-up Call
Jill Richardson
It’s Not About Your Straws and Your Light Bulbs
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail