Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Bill Tremblay's poem "The War" (and Ferguson)



Bill Tremblay, a vibrant poet about revolutions as well as novelist - see his recent Magician's Hat here and June Rise about John Janis and Red Cloud here - who for thirty years directed the creative writing program at Colorado State, wrote me a note in response to Last Regards here, and sent a fine poem: "The War." Martin Luther King and Vincent Harding are among many great leaders who call forth nonviolence - there is enormous courage in mass, nonviolent resistance; in Ferguson, the protests have been nonviolent (met with militarized police violence and rioting; the looting was separate), and yet...

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"A

In response to your poem here is one that occurred to me today, though I don't think it's "finished," i.e. the situation I'm describing is like being put to the sword if you don't renounce your beliefs and adopt others.

Thanks for the poem.

Bill"

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THE WAR

The aspens along the ditch have
had their surfeit of summer green.
Bits of shimmering gold tint their scales
like pixels of chest armor in the waning sun.
I hear the angels of the law advance
under mercury lamps as if the ditch water
were Main Street—stamp left foot,
slide right foot— the helmeted phalanx
pushes the crowd with magic glass shields,
with sticks as long as swords, armored
horse behind, huffing threats in black diesel
smoke to put the mob to the test.
Can they really turn the other cheek?
Can they do good to those who hate them?
Can they pray for them who spitefully use them?
Or shall not the living come to doubt if it
rains upon just and unjust alike?
By what writ do the meek inherit the earth?
Do they really consider the lilies of the field?
Are they willing to go naked when the law
says poverty and homelessness is a crime?
The words, “If you can’t buy it, it’s not real,”
are cut into every wall of every house.
How shall those cast out not feel in want?
These questions sort wheat from chaff.
Survivors will come to believe the prophet
was never born in a stable among shepherds—
the gospel erased, the war perpetual.

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