Many a False Step Is Made by Standing Still
by Barbara Crooker
(slip found in a fortune cookie)
It's hard to read this tiny banner as words of the wise,
when the world wobbles
once more between war and peace,
and the unspeakable threat
of nuclear destruction is bandied about
by little boys scrapping in the schoolyard.
Here, the trees are standing still
in the forest, never moving from
the earth; their taproots find bedrock,
and grip tight. They don't rise up
against their neighbors. The wind
moves through their limbs
and leaves, birds nest for a season,
fly off. Oak gets along with Birch.
Hemlock coexists with Beech.
They don't fight about borders
and territories, who owns the best
part of the woodlot, the richest soil.
Right now, my head is throbbing,
and my heart, I'm afraid, is about
to be broken. Have we learned
nothing from history's bloody maps?
These small letters, stamped in red,
mock me with their inscrutable smugness.
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.
~ Margaret Mead
Bifocal View from a Broad
No tree has branches so foolish as to fight amongst themselves.
Ojibwa Indian saying
Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron.
Dwight D. Eisenhower
War is the unfolding of miscalculations.
AFTER SEPTEMBER 11
by Barbara Crooker
If I say God is good,
you nod, because you also believe.
But if I say MY God is the one true God,
that's when the troubles start. So many wars,
waged in the name of peace. My missiles
are bigger than your missiles. In the end,
when we are dust, will it matter who won?
One blue sky, fragile as a robin's egg,
covers us all. When we sleep, grass
is our last blanket. Maybe the stars
spell different stories to you, to me,
but in the darkness of the night,
they are light enough to see by.
Politicians give me all kinds of warnings
And, they give me all kinds of advice
Well I'm no longer riding on the merry go round, baby
And, I've had enough
Even after all these years
They give me nothing, and that's not enough.
I say we had better look our nation searchingly in the face,
like a physician diagnosing some deep disease.
Walt Whitman, Democratic Vistas
We suffocate among people who think they are absolutely right,
whether in their machines or their ideas. And for all those who can live only in an atmosphere of human dialogue, the silence is the end of the world.
Is not every man sometimes a radical in politics?
Men are conservatives when they are least vigorous,
or when they are most luxurious.
They are conservatives after dinner,
or before taking their rest;
when they are sick, or aged.
In the morning,
or when their intellect or their conscience has been aroused;
when they hear music,
or when they read poetry,
they are radicals.
Ralph Waldo Emerson (180382), New England Reformers, lecture read before the Church of the Disciples, Amory Hall, Boston, Massachusetts, March 3, 1844.
Consistency requires you to be as ignorant
today as you were a year ago.
Government, today, is growing too strong to be safe.
There are no longer any citizens in the world; there are only subjects.
They work day in and day out for their masters;
they are bound to die for their masters at call.
Out of this working and dying they tend to get less and less.
Appearances of angels generally last only so long as the delivery of their message requires, but frequently their mission is prolonged, and they are represented as the constituted guardians of nations at war.
Another original sin?
Beware the leader who
bangs the drum of war
in order to whip the citizenry into a patriotic fervor.
For patriotism is indeed
a double-edged sword.
It both emboldens the blood, just as it narrows the mind.
These poems were originally published at