Face the Monster
When we marched,
Through slimy mud past riot-shielded cops in Alexander
(This is the ghetto.)
While children peered wild-eyed from dark windows,
For some of us these were re-runs of earlier apartheid-burdened days.
But, then, it was defiant resolution that drove our hearts and braced our feet.
Now, sadness at betrayal sat sadly on our hearts.
Our shouted slogans hung heavy over us in grimy air.
We winced at familiar oft-repeated lies
There are people for whom poetry exists almost exclusively as an aid to social change, to political discourse– not as some sort of didacticism – but as a discussion, a wake up call (consciousness raising), a way of approaching some truth, finding some meaning, encouraging resolution. A horrific war photo, a terrorist act, a homeless person outside the grocery, a friend in pain that can be traced to a social injustice, and the words start to flow. There’s the urge to respond, to do something …. even if that something is simply the passion to express the moment in poetry. Perhaps righteous passion is the strongest form of resistance and poetry the conscience of the collective soul.
In Dennis Brutus’ poem above, he points to the world we now live in. Having survived Robben Island with Nelson Mandela, he was freed only to find that while racial apartheid ended in South Africa it had become world-pervasive,, expressing itself as economic inequality. The few haves vs. the masses of have-nots.
I can’t help but think that the revolutionary peace, justice and sustainability so many of us seek is rooted in the slow transformation of values. Hence, it is more evolutionary than revolutionary. As such, perhaps that change is as gradual as the pervasiveness of our desires.
Perhaps it is evident in our blogosphere and the heart-born prose and poems of simple folk like you and me with nary a pundit or politician among us. Perhaps it’s a bottom-up thing, more likely to be blogged than broadcast, often rising from homespun poetry – outsider art – sometimes rudimentary and awkward, but always quiet and true and slow like a secret whispered from one person to the next. It is perhaps something stewing even as we write, read, and encourage one another. Perhaps there is some bone and muscle in what we do. Individually we have miniscule “audiences.” Collectively we speak to enormous and geographically diverse populations.
So let some impact from my words echo resonance
lend impulse to the bright looming dawn
Poem on, my friends, and keep your ideals. They are real …
… and to my country-folk today …
Happy Fourth of July!
In the confusion of these days, let’s not abandon the highest, most ethical and sensible of our aspirations.
© 2016, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved; illustration courtesy of Frits Ahlefeldt, Public Domain Pictures.net.