Guest poem sent in by Mark Cummins
(Poem #1184) In California During the Gulf War
Among the blight-killed eucalypts, among trees and bushes rusted by Christmas frosts, the yards and hillsides exhausted by five years of drought, certain airy white blossoms punctually reappeared, and dense clusters of pale pink, dark pink-- a delicate abundance. They seemed like guests arriving joyfully on the accustomed festival day, unaware of the year's events, not perceiving the sackcloth others were wearing. To some of us, the dejected landscape consorted well with our shame and bitterness. Skies ever-blue, daily sunshine, disgusted us like smile-buttons. Yet the blossoms, clinging to thin branches more lightly than birds alert for flight, lifted the sunken heart even against its will. But not as symbols of hope: they were flimsy as our resistance to the crimes committed --again, again--in our name; and yes, they return, year after year, and yes, they briefly shone with serene joy over against the dark glare of evil days. They are, and their presence is quietness ineffable--and the bombings are, were, no doubt will be; that quiet, that huge cacophany simultaneous. No promise was being accorded, the blossoms were not doves, there was no rainbow. And when it was claimed the war had ended, it had not ended.
from Evening Train With news all the news at the moment, I was reminded of this poem by Denise Levertov. I first read it as an unseen poem in an exam, and even while I was frantically trying to scribble something about its technical makeup, the poem struck me a wonderfully subtle account of war and protest and how the world carries on in spite of both. In light of all the talk of war with Iraq it is once more very topical. Mark. [Martin adds] I cannot help but compare this (favourably, of course) to Andrew Motion's "Causa Belli" [Poem #1143]. A little subtlety goes a long, long way, especially in poetry. For another great poem along the same lines, see Frost's "Range Finding" [Poem #1036]