I went down to the National Gallery of Art early on this rainy Saturday morning to see the Oceans, Rivers, and Skies exhibit. Parked near the National Archives building and was amazed to see a huge banner that said, Defend Our Constitution Arrest Bush and Cheney War Criminals. Sadly, I had only my iPhone camera, so the pictures really don't do the banner justice.
Closer inspection revealed a number of folks up on the scaffolding and a group of men on the ground holding a flag that said, Veterans for Peace. The guys on the ground were really friendly, pointing out each of their comrades up on the scaffolding (who'd climbed up in the rain and fog to hang the banner) and noting in which war each had fought. While we were chatting, a guy walked by with his dog and asked, "How'd you get a permit to hang that?" One of the vets told him, "Oh, we've got a piece of paper that says we can hang it. It's inside and you can go see it when they open up. It's called the Constitution of the United States."
I asked them what they planned to do when they were ordered to take the banner down. They smiled and noted how slippery and wet the scaffolding was and said that they doubted any DC policemen would be willing to climb up there to cut it down. I noted a guard at the DoJ standing and smiling. Soon, the guard from inside the Archives came out, put up a sign about the exhibits inside, and walked away without a word. As I was leaving, a motorcade, including an ambulance, drove past. I sure do hope it was Cheney's.
The Veterans for Peace literature that they gave me says:
Members of Veterans for Peace (VFP) chose the Archives for their nonviolent protest because it is symbolic of their military oath th "defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic." In September they occupied the Archives for 24 hours and plan to stay longer this time.
. . .
The veterans are demanding [that the] Bush administration be tried for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and crimes against peace; asking the media to clearly inform the public of the administrations crimes, and encouraging citizens to take similar nonviolent actions
Here are the patriots who, once again, put their bodies on the line for the rule of law:
On the scaffold:
Elliott Adams, 61, former Army paratrooper, Viet Nam Ellen Barfield, 52, former Army Sgt. Kim Carlyle, 61, former Army Spec 5 Doug Zachary, 58, former USMC Lance Cpl. Tarak Kauff, 67, former PFC, Army Airborne Will Covert, 63, former E4 Navy Elaine Brower, 54, mother of USMC Sgt. James Brower, on his third tour in Iraq Matthis Chiroux, 24, Army Sergant, Served in Afghanistan, refused deployment to Iraq
Providing support on the ground:
Mike Ferner, 57, former Navy corpsman Michelle White, 24, wife of Iraq war vet currently serving in Afghanistan Michael Marceau, 58 former Army, Viet Nam Bruce Berry, 62, former SPC 4 Army, Viet Nam Fred Nagel, 65, former SPC 4 Army Jay Wenk, 82, former rifleman, 90th Infantry Div. WWII Anthony Teolis, 42, US Army Field Artillery, Gulf War
Founded in 1985, Veterans for Peace has 120 chapters throughout the country and has actively protested the Afghanistan and Iraq wars since their inception Membership includes men and women veterans of all eras and duty stations, spanning the Spanish Civil War, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq. VFP is an official Non Governmental Organization (NGO) represented at the UN. [More here.]
Military Families Speak Out is an organization of people opposed to the war in Iraq who have relatives or loved ones currently in the military or in the military since the fall of 2002.
In the end, it's bodies. It's women's bodies, turned to the service of magic. Magic in service to the city. In the end, it's a city of marble and of water dancing through fountains, a city perched on the edge of the beautiful, winding Potomac River.
In the end, it's bodies. It's women's bodies, bodies both grounded and skied, bodies inside a circle cast by a woman, in her woman's body, blocks from a capitol like a wedding cake, an obelisk, a reflecting pool.
In the end, it's bodies. It's women's bodies, bodies in need of magic, in need of broth, in need of blankets, in need of warmth, in need of a safe place to stay in a city of marble and water and fountains and wedding cakes and obelisks and monuments of marble.
In the end, it's bodies. It's women's bodies. In the end, it's women's bodies.
We must say it all, and as clearly Trying to bury us. As we can. For, even before we are dead,
Were we black? Were we women? Were we gay? Were we the wrong shade of black? Were we yellow? Did we, God forbid, love the wrong person, country? Or politics? Were we Agnes Smedley or John Brown?
But, most of all, did we write exactly what we saw, As clearly as we could? Were we unsophisticated Enough to cry and scream?
Well, then, they will fill our eyes, Our ears, our noses and our mouths With the mud Of oblivion. They will chew up Our fingers in the night. They will pick Their teeth with our pens. They will sabotage Both our children And our art.
Because when we show what we see, They will discern the inevitable: We do not worship them.
We do not worship them. We do not worship what they have made. We do not trust them.
We do not believe what they say. We do not love their efficiency. Or their power plants. We do not love their factories. Or their smog. We do not love their television programs. Or their radioactive leaks. We find their papers boring. We do not worship their cars. We do not worship their blondes. We do not worship their penises. We do not think much Of their Renaissance We are indifferent to England. We have grave doubts about their brains.
In short, we who write, paint, sculpt, dance Or sing Share the intelligence and thus the fate Of all our people In this land. We are not different from them, Neither above nor below, Outside nor inside. We are the same. And we do not worship them.
We do not worship them. We do not worship their movies. We do not worship their songs.
We do not think their newscasts Cast the news. We do not admire their president. We know why the White House is white. We do not find their children irresistible; We do not agree they should inherit the earth.
But lately you have begun to help them Bury us. You who said: King was just a womanizer; Malcom, just a thug; Sojourner, folksy; Hansberry, A traitor (or whore, depending); Fannie Lou Hamer, merely spunky; Zora Hurston, Nella Larsen, Toomer: reactionary, brainwashed, spoiled by whitefolks, minor; Agnes Smedley, a spy.
I look into your eyes; You are throwing in the dirt. You, standing in the grave With me. Stop it!
Each one must pull one.
Look, I, temporarily on the rim Of the grave, Have grasped my mother's hand My father's leg. There is the hand of Robeson Langston's thigh Zora's arm and hair Your grandfather's lifted chin And lynched woman's elbow What you've tried to forget Of your grandmother's frown.
Each one, pull one back into the sun
We who have stood over So many graves Know that no matter what they do All of us must live Or none.
Recently, I was in Vermont at night and I looked up at the sky and was BLOWN AWAY by the night sky absent light pollution. Blown away.
But I will say that I love city lights in the night-time fog. Tonight, I was visiting a friend who lives on Capitol Hill and I drove home past the Capitol, all the museums, all the monuments, the Kennedy Center, and all the bridges (DC has some lovely bridges. My favorite is the TR bridge between DC and TR Island) in the fog and I remembered just how wonderfully creepy and gorgeous this city is in the fog.
You'll be surprised to learn that Barack Obama doesn't listen to me. In fact, I'd never get past first base if I applied to work in his administration. Dude, it would probably be easier for me to list the e-mails and blog posts that WOULDN'T embarrass you. I am just saying.
But that certainly doesn't stop me from trying to give him advice.
And, tonight, I have, well, let's not call it advice for Mr. Obama. Let's call it the simple request of a humble, old, hedge witch.
Dear Mr. Obama: please commission a poem for your Inauguration.
It's no secret that I love good poetry. I think it's due to the fact that my sun in Pisces makes me crave ecstasy and experiences that transport me and the fact that my ascendent in Geminii leaves me in love with language. Whatever, the reason, I think that good poetry is the foundation of a good society and I wish that we paid more attention to it in America.
One of the few times that poetry has gotten pride of place has been at the Inauguration of some Democratic presidents. John Kennedy asked fellow New Englander Robert Frost to write a poem for Kennedy's Inauguration. Frost wrote a poem called Dedication for the event:
Summoning artists to participate In the august occasions of the state Seems something artists ought to celebrate. Today is for my cause a day of days. And his be poetry's old-fashioned praise Who was the first to think of such a thing. This verse that in acknowledgement I bring Goes back to the beginning of the end Of what had been for centuries the trend; A turning point in modern history. Colonial had been the thing to be As long as the great issue was to see What country'd be the one to dominate By character, by tongue, by native trait, The new world Christopher Columbus found. The French, the Spanish, and the Dutch were downed And counted out. Heroic deeds were done. Elizabeth the First and England won. Now came on a new order of the ages That in the Latin of our founding sages (Is it not written on the dollar bill We carry in our purse and pocket still?) God nodded his approval of as good. So much those heroes knew and understood, I mean the great four, Washington, John Adams, Jefferson, and Madison So much they saw as consecrated seers They must have seen ahead what not appears, They would bring empires down about our ears And by the example of our Declaration Make everybody want to be a nation. And this is no aristocratic joke At the expense of negligible folk. We see how seriously the races swarm In their attempts at sovereignty and form. They are our wards we think to some extent For the time being and with their consent, To teach them how Democracy is meant. "New order of the ages" did they say? If it looks none too orderly today, 'Tis a confusion it was ours to start So in it have to take courageous part. No one of honest feeling would approve A ruler who pretended not to love A turbulence he had the better of. Everyone knows the glory of the twain Who gave America the aeroplane To ride the whirlwind and the hurricane. Some poor fool has been saying in his heart Glory is out of date in life and art. Our venture in revolution and outlawry Has justified itself in freedom's story Right down to now in glory upon glory. Come fresh from an election like the last, The greatest vote a people ever cast, So close yet sure to be abided by, It is no miracle our mood is high. Courage is in the air in bracing whiffs Better than all the stalemate an's and ifs. There was the book of profile tales declaring For the emboldened politicians daring To break with followers when in the wrong, A healthy independence of the throng, A democratic form of right devine To rule first answerable to high design. There is a call to life a little sterner, And braver for the earner, learner, yearner. Less criticism of the field and court And more preoccupation with the sport. It makes the prophet in us all presage The glory of a next Augustan age Of a power leading from its strength and pride, Of young amibition eager to be tried, Firm in our free beliefs without dismay, In any game the nations want to play. A golden age of poetry and power Of which this noonday's the beginning hour.
It was a bad poem, one of Frost's worst. But on the day of the ceremony, the January sun was so bright that Frost couldn't read the page upon which he'd printed out the poem and so he recited from memory a far better poem: The Gift Outright:
The land ws our before we were the land's. She was our land more than a hundred years Before we were her people. She was ours In Massachusetts, in Virginia, But we were England's, Still colonials, Possessing what we still were unpossessed by, Possessed by what we now no more possessed. Something we were withholding from our land of living, And forthwith found salvation in surrender. Such as we were we gave ourselves outright (The deed of gift was many deeds of war) To the land vaguely; realizing westward, But still unstoried, artless, unenhanced, Such as she was, such as she would become.
Jimmy Carter didn't commission a poem. I don't know why; Jimmy could have used some poetry, albeit plain-spoken and spare. Or maybe Southern and lush, like his thick accent. But, sadly, he didn't.
The next Democratic president, Bill Clinton, commissioned Maya Angelou to write a poem for his first Inauguration. I watched, tears streaming down my face, as Angelou read On The Pulse of Morning:
A Rock, A River, A Tree Hosts to species long since departed, Marked the mastodon, The dinosaur, who left dried tokens Of their sojourn here On our planet floor, Any broad alarm of their hastening doom Is lost in the gloom of dust and ages.
But today, the Rock cries out to us, clearly, forcefully, Come, you may stand upon my Back and face your distant destiny, But seek no haven in my shadow. I will give you no hiding place down here.
You, created only a little lower than The angels, have crouched too long in The bruising darkness Have lain too long Face down in ignorance. Your mouths spilling words
Armed for slaughter. The Rock cries out to us today, you may stand upon me, But do not hide your face.
Across the wall of the world, A River sings a beautiful song. It says, Come, rest here by my side.
Each of you, a bordered country, Delicate and strangely made proud, Yet thrusting perpetually under siege. Your armed struggles for profit Have left collars of waste upon My shore, currents of debris upon my breast. Yet today I call you to my riverside, If you will study war no more. Come, Clad in peace, and I will sing the songs The Creator gave to me when I and the Tree and the rock were one. Before cynicism was a bloody sear across your Brow and when you yet knew you still Knew nothing. The River sang and sings on.
There is a true yearning to respond to The singing River and the wise Rock. So say the Asian, the Hispanic, the Jew The African, the Native American, the Sioux, The Catholic, the Muslim, the French, the Greek The Irish, the Rabbi, the Priest, the Sheik, The Gay, the Straight, the Preacher, The privileged, the homeless, the Teacher. They hear. They all hear The speaking of the Tree.
They hear the first and last of every Tree Speak to humankind today. Come to me, here beside the River. Plant yourself beside the River.
Each of you, descendant of some passed On traveller, has been paid for. You, who gave me my first name, you, Pawnee, Apache, Seneca, you Cherokee Nation, who rested with me, then Forced on bloody feet, Left me to the employment of Other seekers -- desperate for gain, Starving for gold. You, the Turk, the Arab, the Swede, the German, the Eskimo, the Scot, You the Ashanti, the Yoruba, the Kru, bought, Sold, stolen, arriving on the nightmare Praying for a dream. Here, root yourselves beside me. I am that Tree planted by the River, Which will not be moved. I, the Rock, I the River, I the Tree I am yours -- your passages have been paid. Lift up your faces, you have a piercing need For this bright morning dawning for you. History, despite its wrenching pain Cannot be unlived, but if faced With courage, need not be lived again.
Lift up your eyes upon This day breaking for you. Give birth again To the dream.
Women, children, men, Take it into the palms of your hands, Mold it into the shape of your most Private need. Sculpt it into The image of your most public self. Lift up your hearts Each new hour holds new chances For a new beginning. Do not be wedded forever To fear, yoked eternally To brutishness.
The horizon leans forward, Offering you space to place new steps of change. Here, on the pulse of this fine day You may have the courage To look up and out and upon me, the Rock, the River, the Tree, your country. No less to Midas than the mendicant. No less to you now than the mastodon then.
Here, on the pulse of this new day You may have the grace to look up and out And into your sister's eyes, and into Your brother's face, your country And say simply Very simply With hope -- Good morning. .
For his second Inauguration, Clinton commissioned Miller Williams, a poet from Clinton's home state of Arkansas, who wrote Of History and Hope:
We have memorized America, how it was born and who we have been and where. In ceremonies and silence we say the words, telling the stories, singing the old songs. We like the places they take us. Mostly we do. The great and all the anonymous dead are there. We know the sound of all the sounds we brought. The rich taste of it is on our tongues. But where are we going to be, and why, and who? The disenfranchised dead want to know. We mean to be the people we meant to be, to keep on going where we meant to go. But how do we fashion the future? Who can say how except in the minds of those who will call it Now? The children. The children. And how does our garden grow? With waving hands -- oh, rarely in a row -- and flowering faces. And brambles, that we can no longer allow. Who were many people coming together cannot become one people falling apart. Who dreamed for every child an even chance cannot let luck alone turn doorknobs or not. Whose law was never so much of the hand as the head cannot let chaos make its way to the heart. Who have seen learning struggle from teacher to child cannot let ignorance spread itself like rot. We know what we have done and what we have said, and how we have grown, degree by slow degree, believing ourselves toward all we have tried to become -- just and compassionate, equal, able, and free. All this in the hands of children, eyes already set on a land we never can visit -- it isn't there yet -- but looking through their eyes, we can see what our long gift to them may come to be. If we can truly remember, they will not forget.
Angelou's poem is clearly the best of the three that were written for Inaugurations, although the poem that Frost wound up reciting gives her a run for her money.
But there's something wonderful, IMHO, about a country that can commission poems upon important occasions. I wish that we did it more often, upon the signing of important bills, opening of new national buildings, declaration of important ceremonies. English-speaking peoples used to pay more attention to bards, and for good reason.
So, Mr. Obama never listens to me, but I hope that he'll find some wonderful American poet, some hip hop writer, some poetry slammer, some poet from Chicago or Hawi'i, and commission a poem. It's a lovely modern Democratic Party tradition.
Susie asks some important questions. Several of them would make good journaling exercises, good explorations of the element of Earth. How much of the "stuff" weighing you down was bought with debt? It's as if each new "thing" from eBay or Amazon came with a stone attached to it that you had to agree to carry around with you, weighing you down, turning you into someone else's gimp, a fool who would give up freedom for the "thing" they sold you. How many of the "things" that you own are worth that?
So the xmas decorations and sale items were up even before Samhein. Forget the old custom of waiting until after Thanksgiving. There's a note of desperation in the window displays of the gift store and the pyramids of xmas comestibles in the aisles of the grocery store. People are unlikely to buy as much useless stuff from China this year. And, O'Reilley's begun his ridiculous defense of xmas, daring anyone to wish him a "Happy Holiday." Every year, they start earlier and, by the time that the holiday comes, I'm overwhelmingly relieved to see it gone.
Which is sad, because there really is a lot of value to a holiday of light and warmth and plenty during the deep, dark, cold of winter. Trakl captured the feeling involved in the good such a holiday can do in his poem, A Winter Evening:
A window with falling snow is sprayed. Long tolls the vesper bell, The house is provided well, The table is for many laid.
Wandering ones, more than a few, Come to the door on darksome traces. Golden blooms the tree of graces, Drawing up the Earth's cool dew.
A wanderer quietly steps within; Pain has turned the threshold to stone. There lie, in limpid brightness shown, Upon the table bread and wine.
This poem reminds me of the Five of Pentacles, especially with its clear references to church. Heidegger saw even more in this poem.
Here's Joanna Colbert's take on the Five of Pentacles. And, here's Lunea Weatherstone's. For me, the Five of Pents will always be mostly about being blind to the warmth and riches available to you. So maybe Trakl's wanderer has already moved beyond the Five of Pentacles and on to the six of pents, where we are all able to both give of our bounty and receive from our need.
I'm a woman, a Witch, a mother, a grandmother, an eco-feminist, a gardener, a reader, a writer, and a priestess of the Great Mother Earth. Hecate appears in the
Homeric Ode to Demeter, which tells of Hades who caught Persophone
"up reluctant on his golden car and bare her away lamenting. . . . But no one, either of the deathless gods or of mortal men, heard her voice, nor yet the olive-trees bearing rich fruit: only tenderhearted Hecate, bright-coiffed, the daughter of Persaeus, heard the girl from her cave . . . ."