A poem for now

With all the news these days – I don’t need to write it down in order for you to know what I am talking about – this poem seemed a good one to share.

dragon

This poem reminds me that in each decade, each century, each circle of life we have our darkness and also our lights. Each one of us represents the foundation and possibility of goodness in the world. Whatever peace we want to see has to start from us. This is Brecht.

“Indeed I live in the dark ages!
A guileless word is an absurdity. A smooth forehead betokens
A hard heart. He who laughs
Has not yet heard
The terrible tidings.

Ah, what an age it is
When to speak of trees is almost a crime

Even the hatred of squalor
Makes the brow grow stern.
Even anger against injustice
Makes the voice grow harsh.
Alas, we
Who wished to lay the foundations of kindness
Could not ourselves be kind.

Brecht, To Posterity

Waves: Travelling to Ometepe, Nicaragua

 

At SeaFrancisco doesn’t drink. He listens. Later when we are alone he speaks out into the darkness.

 

 

“In this country, few are rich, most of us are poor and the rich don’t give the chances to those who need chances. It is like a tree with a hand over it, not giving it light.”

 

 

We look at Nicaragua on the globe in the lobby of the hotel, shining a small flashlight on the continents. We point to countries with the beam.

 

 

“There is Scotland,” I say as I point the tiny country out to him. “Al lado del Inglaterra.”  Then we spin the globe.

 

 

“Y Nicaragua esta aquí.” He lays his finger over the country. We spin the globe some more. “Allí esta Estados Unidos, América, Francia, Australia.” For each country, we spin, point, examine, explore.

 

 

As the globe turns I think of home in Europe, a continent on the brink of recession, grasping onto its prosperity. I think of the USA bailing out banks and the UK handing out rescue packages to financial institutions. I think of how Europe must look to Francisco on this globe, a distant outline, a place of opportunity. I think of our advantages, of our running hot water and our grand universities and I think of all that we have broken: our crumbling communities and the poverty we hide in our own nations. I think of Nicaraguans waiting to discover who will control their municipals for the next four years. I think of stock markets where the FTSE drops, when the Dow Jones falls with no hand to catch them. I think of the way Francisco’s hand steadily holds the globe as he turns it around and around.

 

 

“Our governments want power, not better things for their people. We used to be the strongest country in Central America! Now we are the first in poverty, in illiteracy and corruption.” He pauses and stops spinning the globe. “I would like to learn English. Like most Nicaraguans, Francisco speaks only Spanish.  English could mean a better job, other opportunities. He considers it a while. “Sí, quiero aprender inglés,” he confirms.

 

 

From the balcony beside our room, I watch Francisco beside the hotel listening to the sound of the world moving in the dark. I think of all the ideas he shares with us and of the municipal elections which invite Nicaraguans to vote, without seeming to listen to what they express.

 

The full essay is published in Kweli Journal.