Not In My Name

Cherry blossoms in Vancouver [CC BY-SA 3.0] by Eviatar Bach
Cherry blossoms in Vancouver” by Eviatar Bach. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.

I wrote this poem in 2003 in response to the Iraq war. It still applies now, only even more so. Every time we attack the Middle East, it produces more violence. The first Gulf War produced Al Qaeda. Meddling in Afghanistan produced the Taliban. The second Gulf War has produced DAESH.

Only by cutting off their finances, and ceasing to supply them with weapons, can this be stopped.

Mirror

 Looking at the cherry blossom
Just opening on the black branches:
Fragile stars in the February wind.

It seems so easy, when the flame
Blossoms from the end of a gun
To destroy the enemy.

Under the pale blue winter sky,

Drifts of snowdrops bring unheeded
Their message of peace.

Distant faces we will never see
Twisted in pain, because we cried
For vengeance.

Life calls to life in the turning
Of the year, as naturally
As breathing.

Charred corpses in the dust
Cannot rise up and speak.
Their mouths are stopped.

Birds sing of reconciliation

But their truth is silenced
By the call to arms.

Bombs are impersonal, smart:
You can’t hear the dying
From so far above.

The frogs are mating in the pond

So many spawn, life to excess:
Some will die.

I have not forgotten the dead
All the dead sing in my blood
The innumerable dead.

But Nature wastes nothing,

Life feeds on life. Only the savagery
Of war is unnatural.

Easier to call for revenge, Than to look in a mirror and see The enemy staring back at you.

Yvonne Aburrow, 6.27 p.m., Saturday, 01 March 2003

This poem was partly inspired by Ketaki Kushari Dyson’s The June Magnificat, and partly by seeing beautiful spring flowers, and wondering how it is possible to reconcile these images of beauty with the horror and tragedy of war. It is not possible: they can only sit side-by-side, reminding us of the fragile beauty of life, and that it is that fragile beauty which is crushed, ignored, and destroyed in war. Making war for the sake of vengeance is like vendetta on a massive scale: we can see the insanity of vendetta – why is it not obvious that war is a similar insanity and, if we ever awake from it, we will find innocent blood on our hands? We have not forgotten the people killed in terrorist attacks. But nor have we forgotten the dead of all the wars, famines, and epidemics, and we will go on saying, “No. Not in my name.”
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