Sunday, February 25, 2018

Poetry Pantry #392

Highlight Towers - Munich, Germany - completed 2004

Greetings, Friends!  Well, the Olympics are winding down; and what interesting games they turned out to be.  Hope that, during this week, you also had time to enjoy reading and writing some poetry.

Thanks to those of you who participated in Susan's Midweek Motif - Voice - this past week. Next week Sumana's theme will be Carpe Diem / Seize the Day.

I hope that you spent time reading Rosemarie's featured poem for The Living Dead this week -- Edna St. Vincent Millay's "Conscientious Objector."  It was very appropriate, I think, after the events (in this country / but really all over) of the week.

Monday, please return to read Sherry's Poems of the Week where this Monday she features poems by four exceptional male poets who share work here.

Now, with no delay, let's share poetry.  Post your link below.  Stop in with a comment.  Visit other poets who share links.  Come back a few times to see who is new, and always be sure to comment on the poems of anyone who comments on yours!  See you on the trail!!

Friday, February 23, 2018

The Living Dead

Conscientious Objector

I shall die, but
that is all that I shall do for Death.
I hear him leading his horse out of the stall;
I hear the clatter on the barn-floor.
He is in haste; he has business in Cuba,
business in the Balkans, many calls to make this morning.
But I will not hold the bridle
while he cinches the girth.
And he may mount by himself:
I will not give him a leg up.

Though he flick my shoulders with his whip,
I will not tell him which way the fox ran.
With his hoof on my breast, I will not tell him where
the black boy hides in the swamp.
I shall die, but that is all that I shall do for Death;
I am not on his pay-roll.

I will not tell him the whereabouts of my friends
nor of my enemies either.
Though he promise me much,
I will not map him the route to any man's door.
Am I a spy in the land of the living,
that I should deliver men to Death?
Brother, the password and the plans of our city
are safe with me; never through me shall you be overcome.

– Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950)

In times of war, governments are inclined to introduce conscription, the compulsory drafting of young men into the military. That makes refusing the draft a criminal offence, for which conscientious objectors can be imprisoned. In both the United States and Australia this happened during the Vietnam War. Many conscientious objectors went into hiding; many others were arrested and imprisoned.

Even when the draft was not compulsory, refusing it could be seen as an act of cowardice or a lack of patriotism, as in Britain during the First World War.

This poem suggests that the Conscientious Objector of the title not only does not wish to die too early himself but also doesn't wish to kill others – which of course has always been the main reason for such a stance. Many such men (we are talking of times when combatants were always male) chose to serve as stretcher-bearers at the front, rather than fighters. (My late husband Andrew's father was one. He survived the war.)

I like the speaker's defiant refusal to countenance Death – at the same time as making a few small jokes about him.

Most if not all of us dislike the idea of war; however a case can be made for the necessity of defending one's country or even coming to the aid of others. (I was glad when Australia and other nations intervened to stop Indonesian aggression in East Timor.) Nevertheless I can sympathise with the speaker in this poem – and with the way the poet slyly likens military service to both fox-hunting and the worst evils of slavery. A manipulative argument, perhaps, but valid enough sentiments to put in the mouth of one who is so anti-death.

It is the anti-death (rather than anti-war) message that speaks to me at present, in the wake of yet another school shooting in the US. No matter how one thinks this matter should be addressed, I'm sure we are all agreed that there has been far too much death!

A brilliant and popular poet (and a favourite of mine) Millay has appeared previously at Poets United – quoted frequently in "Midweek Motif" and featured 
by me in "I Wish I'd Written This", by Kim Nelson in "Classic Poetry" and by Robert Lloyd in "Poet History". Both Kim's and Robert's articles detail her life story, if you'd like to know more about her.

Her books are still extensively advertised on Amazon, where several biographies also appear.

Material shared in 'The Living Dead' is presented for study and review. Poems, photos and other writings and images remain the property of the copyright owners, where applicable (older poems may be out of copyright).

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Poets United Midweek Motif ~ Voice

Daniella Zalcman’s project “Signs of Your Identity” explores
the legacy of Canada’s Indian Residential Schools

 Image by Daniella Zalcman. Canada, 2015

“When people don't express themselves, they die one piece at a time.” 

“. . . she was afraid of hearing her own voice come out of her heart and be covered with blood. . . . ” 

"Powerlessness and silence go together.” 

“. . . . only one thing is more frightening than speaking your truth. 
And that is not speaking.” 

"Cop in the Head"
Graphic by Morgan Andrews
Philadelphia Theatre of the Oppressed

Midweek Motif ~ Voice

In this motif, voice is not a literary technique, but the willingness to speak from a specific point of view despite fear of consequences.  That is today's theme: the bravery or bravado of insisting on having a voice.

According to Voltaire, "“Writing is the painting of the voice.”  I love the ambiguity of this definition when applied to today's motif:  Does "the voice" paint?  Does writing paint "the voice"?  

Your Challenge:  In your new poem, paint a voice and make us hear it.  


― excerpt from Woman and Nature: 

“He says that woman speaks with nature. That she hears voices from under the earth. That wind blows in her ears and trees whisper to her. That the dead sing through her mouth and the cries of infants are clear to her. But for him this dialogue is over. He says he is not part of this world, that he was set on this world as a stranger. He sets himself apart from woman and nature.

And so it is Goldilocks who goes to the home of the three bears, Little Red Riding Hood who converses with the wolf, Dorothy who befriends a lion, Snow White who talks to the birds, Cinderella with mice as her allies, the Mermaid who is half fish, Thumbelina courted by a mole. (And when we hear in the Navajo chant of the mountain that a grown man sits and smokes with bears and follows directions given to him by squirrels, we are surprised. We had thought only little girls spoke with animals.)

We are the bird's eggs. Bird's eggs, flowers, butterflies, rabbits, cows, sheep; we are caterpillars; we are leaves of ivy and sprigs of wallflower. We are women. We rise from the wave. We are gazelle and doe, elephant and whale, lilies and roses and peach, we are air, we are flame, we are oyster and pearl, we are girls. We are woman and nature. And he says he cannot hear us speak.

But we hear.” 

"There's machinery in the butterfly; 
There's a mainspring to the bee; 
There's hydraulics to a daisy, 
And contraptions to a tree. 

"If we could see the birdie 
That makes the chirping sound 
With x-ray, scientific eyes, 
We could see the wheels go round." 

And I hope all men 
Who think like this 
Will soon lie 
so he said: you ain’t got no talent   
    if you didn’t have a face   
    you wouldn’t be nobody

and she said: god created heaven and earth   
    and all that’s Black within them

so he said: you ain’t really no hot shit   
    they tell me plenty sisters   
    take care better business than you

and she said: on the third day he made chitterlings   
    and all good things to eat   
    and said: “that’s good”

so he said: if the white folks hadn’t been under   
    yo skirt and been giving you the big play
    you’d a had to come on uptown like everybody else

and she replied: then he took a big Black greasy rib
    from adam and said we will call this woeman and her   
    name will be sapphire and she will divide into four parts   
    that simone may sing a song

and he said: you pretty full of yourself ain’t chu

so she replied: show me someone not full of herself   
    and i’ll show you a hungry person


Please share your new poem using Mr. Linky below and visit others in the spirit of the community—

    (Next week Sumana’s Motif will be ~ Carpe Diem / Seize the Day)