Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Night of the Lizard Kings

Below is a fine "desert poem" from a man I first encountered on an Internet site several weeks before the Iraq War began. We threw our pearls before the swine on the site for months, maybe even two years, attempting to bring reason to a bunch of crazy Bubbas and outright warmongers. For a couple of years I knew him only by his online moniker, "Romulus," and he knew me only as Lawbabe and my husband as Gumbody. We eventually met when he was driving with his mother through Birmingham and they had dinner with us. I felt an immediate solidarity with him when we first "met" on the Internet and have grown even fonder of him over the past five years.

Romulus is from Minnesota but winters somewhere down south every year, to stay warm, ponder things and write. As you can see, this past winter he stayed in Silver Springs, New Mexico, very near where Gumbody and I traveled by car on our way to Tucson. We had a lovely steak supper, grilled outdoors at a public rest stop, just over the hill from Silver Springs. Here are a couple of photos from our trip: one of Gumbody cooking our steak and another of the lovely sunset that was our background:

Gumbody, the rest stop chef

and now for the poem:


trading sacred salt,
for forever shallow graves,
breathing in the desert air,
under raven's wings above,
how the moon adorns their skin,
dead alive in their graves,
so the world turns again,
and the leaders would pretend,
not even tides abide,
nor mountains in their gloom,
will praise these lowly kings,
caught in their own desires,
snags the frozen waves,
bends the sacred into bows,
hurls spears of defeat,
makes no flowers bloom,
sours water everywhere,
and the clouds write their names,
where everone can see,
the peace we decry,
is thunder's only hope,
and the lightning flashes in their eyes,
dead eyes for all to see,
and the people mourn for peace,
and the people are complete,
in their horror of the wars,
and the blood upon the stones,
let the howling winds make free,
all that would set all men free,
let the freedom ring on stones,
hammers on their bones,
and the tears fall away,
and the judgment is the womb,
and the world is our doom,
until everyone agrees,
we are the people of all lands,
and the sand falls like rain,
on the shoulders of the poor,
on the famines in our brains,
we are our own deceivers,
when kings are just believers,
in our dooms.

so now the world must answer,
the echoes in our hearts,
and all hearts are beating,
all minds are pleading,
and gold is never sacred,
and the lizard skins are drying,
baking in the sun,
and the sun is always shining,
somewhere on this earth,
and the moon is always rising,
the stars are just as blinding,
as the dead eyes are finding,
their vision in those graves,
which no one should follow,
for that is the way to war,
where only violence is victor,
and every human loses.

how then shall the world answer,
and how shall you answer?
by what means shall the whole world find peace forever?
and by what means shall we otherwise suffer forever?
one is in the flower,
the other is in the tomb,
the choice is ours to make,
a choice we could have made thousands of years ago,
but for lizards who would be kings,
and the hearts did not stop them,
nor did the waves upon the seas,
the sun did not prevent them,
nor the moon in its risings,
nor did their gods pause to ponder,
but threw the bolts that enslaved us,
and today who is truly free?
not the sailors on the waters,
not the soldiers in their fields,
nor the bankers in their laundries,
not the bakers of our bread,
and by the lonely fires,
cold hands adorn the motions,
of dreams in living fire,
for the nightmares yet to come,
or the peace of flowing waters,
smooth stones in our palms,
fingers turning over,
thoughts are never dead,
find answer in the embers,
in the ashes of our past,
throw them to the winds,
let them scatter in the breeze,
there is partial answer,
and the leaves will always answer,
in the spring.

in this ages old winter of our despairs,
comes the hint of spring,
but who shall attend to it,
and how shall it grow?
by what human means,
shall human needs find answer?
their hands or your hands,
my hands?
the black hand or the red hand?
yellow hand or white?
all hands together?
how shall this be done?
how shall one hand feel another hand?
which hand moves first?
I hear no certain answers,
I see no hands moving,
brains are worthless,
if no hands move,
all wealth is worthless,
if no hands move,
who shall move the hands?
who shall move their own hand?
when a hand moves,
what will the other hand do?
some hands are bony and weak,
some hands are stained with blood,
and many hands are simply terrified,
some hands are greedy,
some hands give everything away,
some hands are kissed,
others are crushed.
here is my hand,
it moves forward,
who will take it?

Michael Eliseuson
Silver City, New Mexico
March 19, 2008

Friday, April 4, 2008

40 Years Ago. . .just as applicable today

Today we mark the fortieth anniversary of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in Memphis. I remember that day vividly, as many of you will also, no doubt. I was a senior in college, washing my clothes in a laundromat with my best friend, when the news was rushed in about the killing. My friend and I clung to each other and cried.

If you have a few minutes, listen to his speech on his opposition to the Vietnam War. He refers to the day when the lion and the lamb will lie down together--just as my ancestor Edward Hicks has painted above. Dr. King was aghast at the cost of the war then, not only in the dollars spent but in the human resources lost. Imagine what he would say about the cost of the Iraq War now.

The valley is gray today, in a rainy mist, as I look out over the train tracks, and I feel a deep sadness.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Winter has come and gone. . .

Oh happy day! As atoms start warming they move faster, and so do I. It's been a cold, cold winter in Alabama, but at last it's over. Now that my fingers have warmed up, perhaps they will touch the keyboard with more regularity.

There is much to tell since last autumn: a November driving trip through the Wild, Wild West, a Christmas goodbye to my son, who joined the Air Force, and a sad New Year's memorial gathering for my friend (see below) on the Gulf Coast. Then there was another driving trip to see our son graduate from basic training at Lackland AFB in San Antonio, Texas, and the ride home through New Orleans on Mardi Gras. All wonderful times, marred only by the sadness of seeing my mother go into full-time nursing care when we returned home.

The pink dogwood in the front yard is almost in bloom, and Easter music is singing in my head.

I have photos, and stories. Keep in touch.