Monday, January 30, 2017

Shadows

Yesterday several people were shot down in an attack on a mosque in Eastern Canada. This seemed a good time to present this poem that discusses how human beings come to do such things  - the shadows of our own human nature.
 The long quote from Beowulf, one of the first Anglo-Saxon poems from a thousand years ago shows how old these fears are. The mere is not far from here, where we are right now, in the present.

                               Shadows

 That mere is not far,
as miles are measured.
About it there broods
a forest of fir trees frosted with mist.
Hedges of wood-roots hem in the water
where each evening fireglow flickers
forth on the flood, a sinister sight.
That pool is unplumbed by wits of the wise;
but the heath-striding hart hunted by hounds,
the strong-antlered stag seeking a thicket,
running for cover, would rather be killed
than bed on its bank. It is no pleasant place
where water-struck waves are whipped into clouds,
surging and storming, swept by the winds,
until Heaven is hidden and the skies weep.
                                             Beowulf

Not far from here a forgotten pond is becoming tangled by encroaching vegetation.
Now at dusk, it is covered by alder and willow leaves that first drift to the still surface, pause and then whisper down to darkness.
The shadowed water is shrouding its face, but for an instant we are dazzled by a last glare of reflecting sunlight.

A deep mere, black and stagnant. We uneasily slide our eyes aside toward sunset's golden benediction.
We sense weirdness here, a place where we will surely be dragged under if we should wander astray.
There have always been places like this that fill us with dread.
We follow our fears, hood our eyes and pass by on the other side.

Strangers too: strange voices, strange clothing and face coverings. We shun them, close our minds,
harden our hearts and pass them by on the other side.

These are old, old, human instincts,
Fear of the dark, of the unfamiliar and of what we do not understand.
They still whisper danger to our inner ear.
The shadows of our own human nature.


Wednesday, January 18, 2017

We are Bananas

              

You are bananas!”, we have heard this said before,
often casually, sometimes offensively... “Yeah, whatever”,
we reply and never give a thought to actual bananas.


There are many wild bananas still living natural lives.
They wake up in the morning just like you and me,
but they never have a job, just blend in with the rainforest.

Some were selected though, forced into conformity:
programmed, groomed for production.
They must produce every day. We know these ones.

They have been planted in organized rows all over hillsides and valleys
in tropical places. Bananas are an export crop.
In plastic bags, in bunches, driven to our supermarkets.

In the wind, banana leaves still wave wildly, their green arms
thrashing all over a sprayed landscape, once the home
of monkeys and jaguars, toucans, forests, people ....

Green bananas cling frightened together.
They will not be peeled or eaten until they ripen.
Being not useful yet preserves their lives for a little while.

Every morning I slice banana on my cereal
without a thought of relationship.
Oh, so sorry, bananas.