Categories
Writing

Song of the open road

(1)
Afoot and light-hearted, I take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me,
The long brown path before me, leading wherever I choose.

Henceforth I ask not good-fortune I myself am good fortune;
Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing,
Strong and content, I travel the open road.

The earth that is sufficient;
I do not want the constellations any nearer;
I know they are very well where they are;
I know they suffice for those who belong to them.

(Still here I carry my old delicious burdens;
I carry them, men and women I carry them with me wherever I go;
I swear it is impossible for me to get rid of them;
I am fill’d with them, and I will fill them in return.)

(5)
From this hour, freedom!
From this hour I ordain myself loos’d of limits and imaginary lines,
Going where I list, my own master, total and absolute,
Listening to others, and considering well what they say,
Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating,
Gently, but with undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds that would hold me.

I inhale great draughts of space;
The east and the west are mine, and the north and the south are mine.

I am larger, better than I thought;
I did not know I held so much goodness.

All seems beautiful to me;
I can repeat over to men and women, You have done such good to me, I would do the same to you.

I will recruit for myself and you as I go;
I will scatter myself among men and women as I go;
I will toss the new gladness and roughness among them;
Whoever denies me, it shall not trouble me;
Whoever accepts me, he or she shall be blessed, and shall bless me.

(16)
Allons! through struggles and wars!
The goal that was named cannot be countermanded.

Have the past struggles succeeded?
What has succeeded? yourself? your nation? nature?
Now understand me well ‘It is provided in the essence of things, that from any fruition of success, no matter what, shall come forth something to make a greater struggle necessary.

My call is the call of battle I nourish active rebellion;
He going with me must go well arm’d;
He going with me goes often with spare diet, poverty, angry enemies, desertions.

(17)
Allons! the road is before us!
It is safe. I have tried it my own feet have tried it well.

Allons! be not detain’d!
Let the paper remain on the desk unwritten, and the book on the shelf unopen’d!
Let the tools remain in the workshop! let the money remain unearn’d!
Let the school stand! mind not the cry of the teacher!
Let the preacher preach in his pulpit! let the lawyer plead in the court, and the judge expound the law.

Mon enfant! I give you my hand!
I give you my love, more precious than money,
I give you myself, before preaching or law;
Will you give me yourself? will you come travel with me?
Shall we stick by each other as long as we live?

Walt Whitman “Song of the Open Road”

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Categories
Writing

The Fish

I caught a tremendous fish
and held him beside the boat
half out of water, with my hook
fast in a corner of his mouth.
He didn’t fight.
He hadn’t fought at all.
He hung a grunting weight,
battered and venerable
and homely. Here and there
his brown skin hung in strips
like ancient wallpaper,
and its pattern of darker brown
was like wallpaper:
shapes like full-blown roses
stained and lost through age.
He was speckled with barnacles,
fine rosettes of lime,
and infested
with tiny white sea-lice,
and underneath two or three
rags of green weed hung down.
While his gills were breathing in
the terrible oxygen
–the frightening gills,
fresh and crisp with blood,
that can cut so badly–
I thought of the coarse white flesh
packed in like feathers,
the big bones and the little bones,
the dramatic reds and blacks
of his shiny entrails,
and the pink swim-bladder
like a big peony.
I looked into his eyes
which were far larger than mine
but shallower, and yellowed,
the irises backed and packed
with tarnished tinfoil
seen through the lenses
of old scratched isinglass.
They shifted a little, but not
to return my stare.
–It was more like the tipping
of an object toward the light.
I admired his sullen face,
the mechanism of his jaw,
and then I saw
that from his lower lip
–if you could call it a lip
grim, wet, and weaponlike,
hung five old pieces of fish-line,
or four and a wire leader
with the swivel still attached,
with all their five big hooks
grown firmly in his mouth.
A green line, frayed at the end
where he broke it, two heavier lines,
and a fine black thread
still crimped from the strain and snap
when it broke and he got away.
Like medals with their ribbons
frayed and wavering,
a five-haired beard of wisdom
trailing from his aching jaw.
I stared and stared
and victory filled up
the little rented boat,
from the pool of bilge
where oil had spread a rainbow
around the rusted engine
to the bailer rusted orange,
the sun-cracked thwarts,
the oarlocks on their strings,
the gunnels–until everything
was rainbow, rainbow, rainbow!
And I let the fish go.

Elizabeth Bishop “The Fish”

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Categories
Political

Freedom’s just another name for nothing left to loot

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

I hope that Canada.com will forgive me for stealing this oh-so-perfect title. I could not resist.

I’ve been asked why I don’t admit that I was wrong about the Iraqi war. Why don’t I acknowledge the success and join in the jubilation of the people shown on TV yesterday. It must be arrogance on my part not to admit I was wrong and all those who supported a US-led war in Iraq were right.

True, having Saddam Hussein no longer in power is a good thing. No one denies that. But if he’s just going to be replaced by another similar to himself, who grabs power in this chaos, what’s the point?

If we were concerned about the people of Iraq, we would have brought the different Iraqi leaders together before the war and reached agreement about an interim government. We would have stabilized each region as we pushed through, rather than enter, blast, kill Iraqi soldiers, and move on. Because we did not stabilize the areas we moved through, we left hungry, thirsty people in our wake who are now being victimized by thieves and murders. We left aid workers unable to enter areas because fighting still continues.

If the focus was on bringing freedom to the Iraqi people, we would have secured the area so that Abdul Majid al-Khoei would not have been assassinated as he arrived in Iraq. Haider al-Kadar wouldn’t have been murdered by a mob. We wouldn’t have Chalabi working to seize leadership, a move that makes one wonder exactly what, or who, will replace Saddam Hussein.

Britain definitely wouldn’t be putting the control of Basra on a tribal leader on the basis that a) the leader volunteered and b) the British interviewed him for two hours, and he seemed okay. Only now are we hearing that most of the tribal sheikh were in the pay of Saddam Hussein, and are deeply distrusted in the area.

In time of war, there is always looting, but the scale of the chaos in Iraq is reaching anarchistic proportions.

A water line from Kuwait into Umm Qasr was opened this month, but it also falls short of the need, and some of that water has been hijacked by bandits who sell it on the black market, meaning that the most desperate people – the weak and the poor – are doing without.

Common Dreams

This is the same water supply system that Rumsfeld recently boasted about to American journalists, who eat this stuff up like sweet taffy on a spoon.

The US and Britain armed forces do little to stop the chaos because they are still on their primary mission of defeating Iraq. Additionally, troops fresh from the battlefield do not make good peacekeeping troops. Quite the contrary, they seem to almost encourage the chaos.

Not only are office fixtures and candy being looted – now hospitals are being stripped, food stolen, cars hijacked, people being shot. In Basra. In Baghdad. Throughout the country. What’s the response of the commanders?

“We’re seeing a lot of jubilation, (from) people who have been oppressed for years and years. We believe that this will settle down in due time,” said Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks, who is deputy director of operations for U.S. Central Command.

Contra Costa Times

This is an example of our strategy to help the people in Iraq? Equating these events with the same exuberance one would equate with a end-of-term school dorm?

Everyone pats Rumsfeld on the back for his strategic genius in using fast, small forces. Colin Powell’s star has fallen because he pushed for more troops; after all, with the strategy we followed, we entered Baghdad in two weeks. And the civilian casualties are relatively light.

Yes, but we did so at the cost of a completely de-stabilized country, which is quickly heading into a disastrous collapse of all authority, with the very real danger of many, many more civilian dead and injured, as well as early signs of widespread disease now beginning to appear. If we had gone in with the larger number of troops that Colin Powell recommended, there would have been enough people to leave behind at each community, and hold the infrastructure in place long enough until a more permanent solution is reached by the new Iraqi government.

I’d hold those pats on the back and congratulations for Mr. Rumsfeld if I were people.

I can appreciate that the military exercised great caution in bombs dropped and that the initial count of dead is relatively low – only (only?) about 3000 or so (most likely more before we’re done), but that never was the issue about Iraq. We knew that the US would win the preliminary battles – there was no question of this. But we also knew that the real problems would happen afterwards. If some are astonished at the speed with which this war was fought, I’m astonished at the speed at which these problems have surfaced.

Here’s a deal – if in one year I see peace in Iraq under a government that’s reasonably acceptable to Iraq and most of the Middle East, I’ll admit I was wrong. But in the meantime, you’ll have to excuse me if I don’t find some statue to knock down in celebration.

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