in debt to Joy Harjo for How to Write a Poem in a Time of War
It is not the news.
Must approach like a cat: when ready.
Must arm one’s armchair with handkerchiefs,
soft arms for pounding.
Heart must be ready to pound: open
like a gate, not a checkpoint.
Must stop when you are plowing through
the checkpoints: Stop. Close eyes. Breathe into
the horror within, allow care to arise for the horror without,
allow care to struggle with one’s own safety,
one’s complicity, one’s own country, if that country
takes your money and your young
to battles so far away they look safe. From here.
Where are you? Are your eyes still closed?
If they open, like a cat, squint at first: such glare!
Look left, right, up, down, behind. Ground into your own safety.
Pummel only armchair. Pummel only the idea
of war, the idea of safety, the idea of arms as solution.
Open wider, eyes and heart. Start again at the beginning,
slowly. Let it in. Feel your defenses tenderly. Like a cat
waking up, stretch against them. Start again, from the beginning.
Someday, maybe this way, you will finish the poem.
II. HOW TO HEAR A POEM IN WAR
When poetry drips from your neighbors’ mouths like blood
you may listen and run at the same time. If you carry your
loved ones, food and seeds and diapers and
and other needs, you may carry and run
and listen. When poetry screams from the top floor
while fire leaps from below, when acrid words sear
like gases, they may incinerate upon contact with your ears, or
you may burn them into your heart for safekeeping. You may or may not
remember someday, but the poem, at least, will be there.
You may be blind, you may never want to see images you can not
unsee: the gaping wounds of your city, the disappearance of all
the life you’ve known and loved and struggled with,
the neighbors you trusted and didn’t, and loved and ignored:
the disappearance, what it looks like, smoking rubble,
with voices crying out underneath. If you can,
it’s okay now to run away.
May away take you in,
soothe you and feed you,
love, and not ignore.
Karina Lutz worked as a sustainable energy and stable climate advocate for three decades; as an editor, reporter, and magazine publisher; farmer, carpenter, and seamstress; professor, yoga teacher, and workshop facilitator. Poems and links at http://karinalutz.wordpress.com and sustainable living blog at http://berryberrydayhomestead.wordpress.com. Books _Post-Catholic Midrashim_ (Finishing Line) and _Preliminary Visions_ (Homebound).