Waxwing Poems for Peace
Every Month since September 11, 2001 John F. Deane has
sent out a Waxwing Poetry Card, containing poems by him
and by poet friends, urging peace and the total abolition of
war. These go out to some 100 poets and writers every month.
Now they are also available on this site, in a slightly different
format. Urging thinking on the possibility of the total
abolition of war.
Abolishing War or Abolishing Humanity:
"All war and not just nuclear war abolishes humanity at least in part, and not just
the humanity of the obvious losers on both sides, of the killed and bereaved, of the
disabled, displaced and disgraced. The survivors, nay the triumphant, are
diminished, dehumanised by their experiences of the horrors on the frontline or by
their lack of such experiences in their comfortable military or political offices.
Sending people to fight and kill and die by remote control and for reasons scarcely
intelligible to those fighting, killing and dying, is already to anaesthetise a
significant section of one's human feeling and insight. Even the mere observers,
listeners and readiers of television, radio and newspapers are at risk of having their
sensivilities dulled and their tolerance of human horrors enlarged. In a world of
global communications nobody is untouched or unsullied by war. As the war
propaganda heats up and the home forces become heroes beyond all reasonable
criticism while the enemy forces (and people) are reduced to barbarians, another
'mutually assured destruction' of the humanity of both sides is at work."
Enda McDonagh "Immersed in Mystery" Veritas (2007) www.veritas.ie
Waxwing Poems to urge the total abolition of war: June 2007
If the notion of the total abolition of war may yet appear absurd, that is because humanity remains locked in its
own carelessness and egocentric concerns. What may appear absurd in one age can become possible, then
probable, and finally obvious in later ages. I still believe it is our duty to move the notion from the absurd into the
possible, towards the ultimate hope of ending the great obscenity that is war. If Gerry Adams of Sinn Féin and Ian
Paisley of the DUP can sit down together to discuss power sharing, then anything is possible. These poems are
offered simply as spur and hope, as prayer and key. With all good personal wishes from
John F. Deane
|Please visit the next page for a
growing anthology of poems for peace.
|The Conscientious Objector Discharge
You will have to take a last physical,
and fill out a set of insurance forms.
You'll get a lawyer to clear you,
and a shrink to say you are sane,
but they both know that already
and are secretly glad to do anything
against this war. Someone else,
maybe a friend at the bursar's will
make sure you get your back pay.
Someone else will open up three
free afternoons of sunlight leave,
and two nights in between. Savour it
at Denny's where the stupid, endless
menu will seem as bright as your
future might be with the waitress.
In the morning of what is your last
minute in, let us say around ten a.m.,
that nothing-hour where no one gets hurt
and no one is pissed, while you stand
in a line before a corporal's desk
you will tell the Marine Corps for
the last time that yes you are certain
and no you will not do this anymore.
The floorboards will groan and it may
sound like grieving. I say go ahead,
take what you have been given today,
and fold it into a neatly-creased half.
Then knock on the doorframe and step out,
let your feet as they hit the gravel make it
chatter, and listen, listen hard to this path
you are on. What the gravel is saying is
you did not kill anyone today. The stones
will sound as if you are walking on water.
Fred Marchant, The Looking House
After the painting by Hygo Simberg
Truth is a wounded angel
blindfolded so she can’t see
what happened to her, so we
can’t see her eyes illumine
what we’re carrying inside:
how we’re the very ones who
wounded her, how angel wings
drag our guilty hearts through dirt
as we cart her home to show
what someone else did to her.
Wounded Angel 2
That impulse to bring home the body
as if we are helping mercifully,
grateful the victim hasn’t eyes to show
we were complicit in the wounding,
the slaughter. Caring for the bodies,
we manage to canonize our own
murderous hearts, brave in showing
others our compassion, intent on
blinding the eyes that saw what we deny.
Wounded Angel 3
Your cynical heart’s a bandage.
I cannot see to help you.
Your doubt crippled my wings.
I let you carry me home,
an angelic caricature
that only you can cure.
At Point Lookout Civil War Prison Monument,
The water has risen, everything above it
as quiet as heat on the saw-grass. Thousands
died here. A marsh now, the bay swept over
the camps, clawing the land back to sea. All
those men. We tell ourselves about the past,
and when we’re old enough to understand,
realize we are the past. Our hearts sink
in marshland. Places that once held buildings
and dreams are swamped by our mistakes,
overtaken by the sweep of what we’ve done
in the name of anything, not all of it necessary.
That much we know, but only when the water
claims us, our hair is falling, and the light
that was our eyes is flooding away.
Late-autumn russet of the fields, fox-colouring;
so few of her kind left along ditch and woodrim,
she bears her burden silently; her slip-ways wired,
her secrecies discovered, she is reduced to asphalt
trackways, to the stench of man-sweat; battle-jeeps
patrol the evenings, power-lights trained on field
edges to lure her out; it is a question of survival,
and has always been; reduced to a curio, glassed-in
over a lounge fire; or weary in a cage, blank eyes fixed
on her, she is anomaly, ongoing exercise in meaning;
soiled concrete floor under her feet, she has been missing
the softness of dead leaves where living things
were subject and she commanded then the hot blood.
I love you. Jesus-Fox, the Crucified, the Slaughtered.
John F. Deane
"The spectres of nuclear warfare and industrial pollution that menace our own society constitute only one
illustration – admittedly a dramatic one – of a law that primitive people regard as real even if they do not
entirely understand it but that we dismiss as fictitious: whoever uses violence will in turn be used by it.” –
René Girard “Violence and the Sacred”
– a particular case
For a while it seemed merely anomalous
that with the range of choices available
the final choice, with his clear limitations,
should be the one chosen for real power.
But it seems that to those who are not within the system
nothing is known of the real nature of things
or of what goes on in the regions at the top,
and that the needed qualities were there:
the family background and the right connections
– business and political; the great wealth.
With other personal capacities:
a deadly skill in management; a craft
keeping him separate always from the pack.
The physical: the sharp features; the exact hairline;
the neat frame, for the strictly tailored suit.
All put together from expensive components.
Even the apparent limitations
playing their part: the use of certain terms
repeated, imprecise, in public speech
to our amusement – so that we remained
unsure of his intentions;
a direct behaviour
centred on self, without self-criticism,
childlike: as if playing with big blocks
and moving them about on immediate impulse
– deploying his huge forces with fixed ideas,
careless of the carnage and destruction;
disposing of the cost in human deaths
with simple rhetoric and a lack of feeling.
from Peppercanister 26, published June 2007, “Man of War”.
(See www.dedaluspress.com where the booklet is available)
Angel of Dying
‘A young boy dying on a ward in Kabul
wouldn’t stop singing – made music from screams,
wouldn’t sleep, wouldn’t drink, but chanted dreams
in ferocious head notes. He frightened us all
but held his dying like a torch of flame
for us to follow. Arches leapt darkly overhead,
threw shadows over us. He led
on past comfort, past reason or blame
with the terrible energy of the dead
whose death is more life than flesh can bear,
a birth, not an ending. This truth tore
the living to pieces. Then silence sang of him instead…
I’ve never forgotten him. No, don’t ask
about dying. How to live is the task.’
Angel of Healing
Every disease is a work of art
if you play it rightly. Of course, it hurts
like hell, but can be used
as a reminder that your mind
is not on its business, which is ‘now’,
however painful. Novalis knew
that all illness requires a musical cure.
By this he meant: whatever the form
imposed by arthritis, or by the gout,
your job’s to compose yourself round about
its formal restrictions, and make that sing,
even to death. And all that pain?
Messengers from your beloved to say
‘Wait for me, darling, I’m on my way!’
Gwyneth Lewis was the first National Poet of Wales;
she writes in Welsh and English and her poems are
published by Bloodaxe: “Chaotic Angels”