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three poems by john bart gerald


a song of innocence
(first published in akwesasne notes, mohawk nation)

they sing in chile
in an empty stadium
seventy thousand more
sing in el salvador
they sing in peru
brazil guatemala a song for you
the poor sing
babies mothers fathers
priests sisters brothers
the song of missing the song of disappeared
the martyrs' tongueless notes of suffering
eyes pressed to flesh
the blind notes of where were you

from vietnam cambodia laos they sing
they sing from names chiselled in a black stone wall
from the silent death camps of europe
they still sing

they sing along death row
with each moment's breath
condemned to death for innocence
or circumstance or guilt
of lives broken to death's use
and sing along back roads when the food runs out
when winter takes the last sense
tuneless in the corner of an old age home
in each city song of a final no

they sing along the road to basra
the retreating army going home
farmers shopkeepers in ill-fitting uniforms
defeated without firing a shot
riding hot metal in the sun
they sing a song of fire
the unresisting angel of each soul
rising like flames from each desert brother
thousand on thousand angels joining their god
sing over whips of sand over
the new world ordered mass graves
of human family

winds between the continents sun across the sky
thrust of spring in stalk and bud
summer's leaf and flower fruit and berry
sing with their innocence
a spirit passing here in words






recent we arrived new
to another pocket of land
amid many river waters
island of thought refuge real
free for a moment in history
gentle so gentle this honey for hunger
as though nature looks for its prey with prayer





the skrelling's welcome

busy fool unruly son
brother though you be
come to make a hunger of the need for truth
cutting your wedges into a living tree
the cries songs words of the land
are the springs of our history
for those with no other
to hold as mother palm flat
child pressed constant as the sun

now that you're here
denied at "home"
or out of money
our best work is artless
standing you in truth

and after you take and laugh
rejoice and drink among us
what will you give in return ?
beads of sweat made into a rosary ?
pieces of red cloth sewed into warring flags ?
or like the native skrellings of the sagas
leaving the other at the oarlocks
one leg to stand on before the eternal ?



from 37 poems
copyright © by john bart gerald



editions / atelier
gerald and maas