FINDING THE LIGHT

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Though Remembrance Day has come and gone, it didn’t pass unnoticed.

It has been a difficult year: a time of violent upheaval between compatriots; a year of wars and displacement; a year that claimed far too many casualties.

We know so much, thanks mostly to the communication webs that connect us but also entrap us and yet still, so many of us continue to walk in darkness.

Here are four poems selected to help us find “the pure center of light within the dark circle of [our] demons.”

 

I. IT IS RAINING ON THE HOUSE OF ANNE FRANK—by Linda Pastan

It is raining on the house

of Anne Frank

and on the tourists

herded together under the shadow

of their umbrellas,

on the perfectly silent

tourists who would rather be

somewhere else

but who wait here on stairs

so steep they must rise

to some occasion

high in the empty loft,

in the quaint toilet,

The House of Anne Frank, Amsterdam
The House of Anne Frank, Amsterdam

in the skeleton

of a kitchen

or on a map—

each of its arrows

a barb of wire—

with all the dates, the expulsions,

the forbidding shapes

of continents.

And across Amsterdam it is raining

on the Van Gogh Museum

where we will hurry next

to see how someone else

could find the pure

center of light

within the dark circle of is demons.

(From: Good Poems for Hard Times, Garrisson Keillor)

*********

II. THE WAR IN THE AIR—by Howard Nemerov

For a saving grace, we didn’t see our dead,

Who barely bothered coming home to die

But simply stayed away out there

In the clean war, the war in the air.

 

Seldom the ghosts came back wearing their tales

From the Canadian Aviation Museum, Ottawa (photo by Michelle P-Daoust)
From the Canadian Aviation Museum, Ottawa
(photo by Michelle P-Daoust)

Of hitting the earth, the incompressible sea,

 

But stayed up there in the relative wind,

Shades fading in the mind,

 

Who had no graves but only epitaphs

Where never so many spoke for never so few:

Per ardua, said the partisans of Mars,

Per aspera, to the stars.

 

That was the good war, the war we won,

As if there were no death, for goodness’ sake,

With the help of the losers we left out there

In the air, in the empty air.

From the Canadian Aviation Museum, Ottawa Photo by Michelle P-Daoust
From the Canadian Aviation Museum, Ottawa
Photo by Michelle P-Daoust

(From : Good Poems for Hard Times, Garrisson Keillor)

 

III. RECONCILIATION—by Walt Whitman

Word over all, beautiful as the sky,

Beautiful that war and all its deeds of carnage must in time be

utterly lost,

That the hands of the sisters of Death and Night incessantly

The American Civil War
The American Civil War

softly wash again, and ever again, this soil’d world;

For my enemy is dead, a man divine as myself is dead,

I look where he lies white-faced and still in the coffin—I draw

near,

bend down and touch lightly with my lips the white face in

the coffin.

(From: Good Poems for Hard Times, Garrisson Keillor)

 

Arlington Cemetery
Arlington Cemetery

 

IV. SOMETIMES —by Sheenagh Pugh

Sometimes things don’t go, after all,
from bad to worse. Some years, muscadel
faces down frost; green thrives; the crops don’t fail,
sometimes a man aims high, and all goes well.

The work of Médecins sans Frontières
The work of Médecins sans Frontières

A people sometimes will step back from war;
elect an honest man; decide they care
enough, that they can’t leave some stranger poor.
Some men become what they were born for.

Sometimes our best efforts do not go
amiss; sometimes we do as we meant to.
The sun will sometimes melt a field of sorrow
that seemed hard frozen: may it happen for you.

 

(From: Good Poems, Selected and Introduced by Garrisson Keillor)

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Sunset, November 9th (M. P-Daoust)

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