October 2011 Wednesday Session

SOME POETRY
(October 2011 Wednesday Session)

Below are some of the poems that were submitted, suggested or recited at the Wednesday Session that took place on the 26th of October. Thanks to all those who sent through their work and suggestions. Thanks for sharing.

Kiss behind the Barricades
by David Rovics

When the world has gone crazy
And it's all becoming clear
When they're gunning down our comrades
And it seems the end is near
As they're loading up the launchers
For the tear gas grenades
We can take off our bandanas (for a moment)
And kiss behind the barricades

When it's madness all around
You can see this at a glance
We will cry and we will sing
And we will laugh and we will dance
As they shout their marching orders
Beneath the helicopter blades
We will seize the moment
For a kiss behind the barricades

They will try to break our spirit
And at times they may succeed
But our love for the world
Is stronger than their greed
When the building is surrounded
And hope begins to fade
In my final hour
A kiss behind the barricades

As the movement grows
There will be hills and bends
But at the center of the struggle
Are your lovers and your friends
The more we hold each other up
The less we can be swayed
Here's to love and solidarity
And a kiss behind the barricades.

Not on our streets (on denialism)
by David Kapp

Not on our streets
or in our backyard
should there be
an Israel-Palestine conflict

Not on our streets
should there be
hunger and malnutrition
(or the casualisation of labour)

Not on our streets
should there be
woman and child abuse
(or human trafficking)

Not on our streets
should there be
any blood spilled
in anyone’s name

Not in anyone’s name
whatever authority claimed
(moral or imperialist)
over surviving any Holocaust

Not in anyone’s name
can there be a Gaza
an apartheid-like solution
justified by the chosen few

Not on our streets
should there be
permits and checkpoints
townships and shacks
occupied territories

Not in anyone’s name
religious or otherwise

What do we know?
by David Kapp
A tribute to those who survived the Holocaust and to those who did not

What do we know,
about suffering and misery,
when we have not been
to Birkenau or Auschwitz?

Tattooed on his forearm,
a number that tells us
he has been there,
and back.

What do our own gangsters know,
of the humiliation, of being ‘numbered’
like an animal before the slaughter
(instead, they take pride in it).

Eugene Zinn, a Holocaust survivor,
some 60 years on,
survivor of the horrors
we inflict on one another,
in the name of whatever
we call it.

Superiority, (racial) purity,
Nazism, apartheid, the
Final Solution.

Where are our concentration camps,
our ghettoes, our dormitories?

Are you thinking ‘Robben Island’?
What about our death camps called
Mitchells Plain, Khayelitsha, the Cape Flats,
wherever we were herded, in the
name of separate development,
apartheid’s ‘grand plan’?

What do we know, of our Holocausts?
What do we want to remember?

And the perpetrators?


David Kapp, moved to write something, anything, after reading of Eugene Zinn’s survival from the horrors of the German concentration camp in ‘Auschwitz – a survivor’s tale’ in the Sunday Argus newspaper, May 15, 2005. Can we compare horrors?

When I see the word Palestine
by Holocaust Survivor, Hedy Epstein

When I see the word PALESTINE,
I see checkpoints,
roadblocks, the Wall, and
tortured civilians on the streets.

When I hear the word PALESTINE,
I hear piercing gunshots, soundbombs,
silent screams from a tortured people, and
their cries for freedom, justice and peace.

When I feel the word PALESTINE,
I feel an excruciating pain,
bruised and aching hearts of those that
lost their loved ones in the struggle.

When I smell the word PALESTINE,
I smell the acrid stench of teargas,
the dust of bulldozed homes
of an oppressed, yet dignified people.

When I taste the word PALESTINE,
I taste the bitterness
of injustice and oppression that
people have to endure to survive.

When I reflect on this,
I think about great leaders for independence;
I think about freedom, human rights;
I think about the long struggle to achieve this,
...and the faint sound of freedom ringing, far away.

I Come From There
by Palestinian 'national poet' Mahmoud Darwish

I come from there and I have memories 
Born as mortals are, I have a mother 
And a house with many windows, 
I have brothers, friends, 
And a prison cell with a cold window. 
Mine is the wave, snatched by sea-gulls, 
I have my own view, 
And an extra blade of grass. 
Mine is the moon at the far edge of the words, 
And the bounty of birds, 
And the immortal olive tree. 
I walked this land before the swords 
Turned its living body into a laden table. 

I come from there. I render the sky unto her mother 
When the sky weeps for her mother. 
And I weep to make myself known 
To a returning cloud. 
I learnt all the words worthy of the court of blood 
So that I could break the rule. 
I learnt all the words and broke them up 
To make a single word: Homeland.....

The Liberation Anthem - A Poem
By Samah Sabwai

To the people of Israel who fear our freedom:  Don’t be afraid, we will liberate you too. 

This is my rendition
Of an anthem to be sung
That day you and I
Will stand side by side
Shoulder to shoulder
Watching a new dawn
Wipe away
Decades of hate and savagery
The day I rise
From the ashes of your oppression
I promise you I will not rise alone
You too will rise with me
You will be liberated
From your own tyranny
And my freedom
Will bring your salvation

This is my rendition
Of an anthem to be sung
I’ll craft new words of expression
Outside of this suffocating language
That has occupied me
Your words,
Are like your walls
They encroach on my humanity
I am more than demography
I’m neither your collaborator
Nor your enemy
I am not your moderate
Not your terrorist
Not your fundamentalist
Islamist
Extremist
Militant
Radical
I am more than adjectives
Letters and syllables
I will construct my own language
And replace your words of power
With the power of my words

This is my rendition
Of an anthem to be sung
I don’t want to obliterate
Nor humiliate you
I refuse to hate you
Don’t care to demonize
Or Proselytize
Or theorize
Your intentions
Every breath you draw
Reminds me you are human
The sound of your beating heart
Is a rhythm familiar to my ears
You and I are no different
We are made of blood and tears

This is my rendition
Of an anthem to be be sung
I will resist and soar
Above your matrix of control
With the power of my will
Your wall will fall
And the concrete that once segregated us
Will be used to rebuild homes
Your bulldozers and your tanks
Will dissolve into the earth
The sap will return to the olive trees
The gates will open wide for the refugees
We will be free
I will be your equal
And only then
You will be mine
My other self
My fellow human being

I don’t write poems but, in any case, poems are not poems
by Ghassan Hage

Long ago, I was made to understand that Palestine was not Palestine;

I was also informed that Palestinians were not Palestinians;

They also explained to me that ethnic cleansing was not ethnic cleansing.

And when naive old me saw freedom fighters they patiently showed me
that they were not freedom fighters, and that resistance was not
resistance.

And when, stupidly, I noticed arrogance, oppression and humiliation
they benevolently enlightened me so I can see that arrogance was not
arrogance, oppression was not oppression, and humiliation was not
humiliation.

I saw misery, racism, inhumanity and a concentration camp. But they
told me that they were experts in misery, racism, inhumanity and
concentrations camps and I have to take their word for it: this was
not misery, racism, inhumanity and a concentrations camp.

Over the years they’ve taught me so many things: invasion was not
invasion, occupation was not occupation, colonialism was not
colonialism and apartheid was not apartheid…

They opened my simple mind to even more complex truths that my poor
brain could not on its own compute like: ‘having nuclear weapons’ was
not ‘having nuclear weapons’, ‘not having weapons of mass destruction’
was ‘having weapons of mass destruction’. And, democracy (in the Gaza
strip) was not democracy. Having second class citizens (in Israel) was
democracy.

So you’ll excuse me if I am not surprised to learn today that there
were more things that I thought were evident that are not: peace
activists are not peace activists, piracy is not piracy, the massacre
of unarmed people is not the massacre of unarmed people.

I have such a limited brain and my ignorance is unlimited. And they’re
so fucking intelligent. Really.

A MOMENT OF SILENCE, BEFORE I START THIS POEM

Before I start this poem, I'd like to ask you to join me in a moment of 
silence in honor of those who died in the World Trade Center and the Pentagon
last September 11th.

I would also like to ask you to offer up a moment of silence for all of those
who have been harassed, imprisoned, disappeared, tortured, raped, or killed 
in retaliation for those strikes, for the victims in both Afghanistan and the
U.S.

And if I could just add one more thing...

A full day of silence for the tens of thousands of Palestinians who have died 
at the hands of U.S.-backed Israeli forces over decades of occupation. Six
months of silence for the million and-a-half Iraqi people, mostly children,
who have died of malnourishment or starvation as a result of an 11-year 
U.S. embargo against the country.

Before I begin this poem, two months of silence for the Blacks under
Apartheid in South Africa, where homeland security made them aliens in their
own country Nine months of silence for the dead in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, 
where death rained down and peeled back every layer of concrete, steel, earth
and skin and the survivors went on as if alive. A year of silence for the
millions of dead in Viet Nam - a people, not a war - for those who know a 
thing or two about the scent of burning fuel, their relatives' bones buried
in it, their babies born of it. A year of silence for the dead in Cambodia
and Laos, victims of a secret war ... ssssshhhhh .... Say nothing ... we 
don't want them to learn that they are dead. Two months of silence for the
decades of dead in Colombia, whose names, like the corpses they once
represented, have piled up and slipped off our tongues.

Before I begin this poem, 

An hour of silence for El Salvador ... An afternoon of silence for Nicaragua
... Two days of silence for the Guetmaltecos ... None of whom ever knew a
moment of peace in their living years. 45 seconds of silence for the 45 dead 
at Acteal, Chiapas 25 years of silence for the hundred million Africans who
found their graves far deeper in the ocean than any building could poke into
the sky. There will be no DNA testing or dental records to identify their 
remains. And for those who were strung and swung from the heights of sycamore
trees in the south, the north, the east, and the west... 100 years of
silence...

For the hundreds of millions of indigenous peoples from this half of right 
here, Whose land and lives were stolen,

In postcard-perfect plots like Pine Ridge, Wounded Knee, Sand Creek, Fallen
Timbers, or the Trail of Tears. Names now reduced to innocuous magnetic
poetry on the refrigerator of our consciousness ... 

So you want a moment of silence?

And we are all left speechless
Our tongues snatched from our mouths
Our eyes stapled shut
A moment of silence
And the poets have all been laid to rest
The drums disintegrating into dust 

Before I begin this poem,
You want a moment of silence

You mourn now as if the world will never be the same And the rest of us hope
to hell it won't be. Not like it always has been

Because this is not a 9-1-1 poem 
This is a 9/10 poem,
It is a 9/9 poem,
A 9/8 poem,
A 9/7 poem
This is a 1492 poem.

This is a poem about what causes poems like this to be written And if this is
a 9/11 poem, then

This is a September 11th poem for Chile, 1971 
This is a September 12th poem for Steven Biko in South Africa, 1977
This is a September 13th poem for the brothers at Attica Prison, New York,
1971.
This is a September 14th poem for Somalia, 1992.
This is a poem for every date that falls to the ground in ashes 
This is a poem for the 110 stories that were never told
The 110 stories that history chose not to write in textbooks
The 110 stories that that CNN, BBC, The New York Times, and Newsweek ignored
This is a poem for interrupting this program. 

And still you want a moment of silence for your dead?
We could give you lifetimes of empty:

The unmarked graves
The lost languages
The uprooted trees and histories
The dead stares on the faces of nameless children Before I start this poem we 
could be silent forever Or just long enough to hunger,
For the dust to bury us

And you would still ask us
For more of our silence.

If you want a moment of silence

Then stop the oil pumps
Turn off the engines and the televisions
Sink the cruise ships
Crash the stock markets
Unplug the marquee lights,
Delete the instant messages,
Derail the trains, the light rail transit

If you want a moment of silence, put a brick through the window of Taco Bell, 
And pay the workers for wages lost

Tear down the liquor stores,
The townhouses, the White Houses, the jailhouses, the Penthouses and the
Playboys. If you want a moment of silence,

Then take it

On Super Bowl Sunday,
The Fourth of July
During Dayton's 13 hour sale
Or the next time your white guilt fills the room where my beautiful people
have gathered You want a moment of silence

Then take it
Now,

Before this poem begins.

Here, in the echo of my voice,
In the pause between goosesteps of the second hand In the space between
bodies in embrace,
Here is your silence

Take it.

But take it all 
Don't cut in line.
Let your silence begin at the beginning of crime. But we,

Tonight we will keep right on singing
For our dead.



AN OVERDUE LOVE SONG
By  Mariam  Bibi Jooma

On a Sunday afternoon
Stillness
Im breathing
Listening to the
Cackle of
Children
Across the garden
In the wintered park
Rusted swings
Squeaking under
The lightness of their
Laughter
The loneliness
Doesn’t seem
Heavy then
When the air
Carries
voices of
another
Generation
Loneliness
Is for the overfull
Adult
On the backs
Of bakkies
Gnarling wind
Sweeping
Through
Plastic sheeting
Their faces
Blank
Black
Lonely
Looking ahead
Piercing
Eyes
in lonely luxury cars
behind
silence
except for the city
bustle
loneliness
except for the
piercing
of eyes...
on a Saturday
afternoon
in bree
street
a lady
stopped me
amidst hooting
taxis
I thought she
Wanted money
What else
Said the loneliness
Of my soul
‘sisi your doek’
pointing to my red
hijab and then
to the her
very same red doek
in that instant
our red doeks
were not lonely
markers of each others
lives
sewn in china
worn in Africa
on the streets of
joburg
breaking the passage the
silence
with a red marker
red like
the blood of
of Gaza
or cape flats
or darfur
or Baghdad
or Harare
or Karachi
or London
or Cairo
or New York
or Tripoli
Bessie Head
Says she's
an imaginative
trespasser.
In the year
Of protest
The only
love
I have is for truth
To break
The silence
Of loneliness
She says
The world we grew
Up
In
No longer
Can contain us
In it we are
like fish caught
in a
net
panting for
breath.

I see Ché
by David Kapp
 
I see Ché
on the streets
of Morocco
and Egypt
and elsewhere too

(And not just
on sale
in the market
of labels
and brand-names
and football stadiums)

I see Ché
articulated
on posters
banners
and T-shirts

I see Ché
to my left
to my right
and in between
too

(Are there women
rebelling and protesting
in the food-chain of
African-grey male-dictators
and anti-female traditions)

(Africa, our begging bowl
of structured poverty
and personal patronage)

I see Ché

Do you

(Wide-eyed at seeing our anti-hero on the streets of Darkest Africa, the week of 24-28 January 2011.)