Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Tuesday Poem: "For a Coming Extinction" by W. S. Merwin

Gray whale
Now that we are sending you to The End
That great god
Tell him
That we who follow you invented forgiveness
And forgive nothing

I write as though you could understand
And I could say it
One must always pretend something
Among the dying
When you have left the seas nodding on their stalks
Empty of you
Tell him that we were made
On another day

The bewilderment will diminish like an echo
Winding along your inner mountains
Unheard by us
And find its way out
Leaving behind it the future
And ours

When you will not see again
The whale calves trying the light
Consider what you will find in the black garden
And its court
The sea cows the Great Auks the gorillas
The irreplaceable hosts ranged countless
And fore-ordaining as stars
Our sacrifices

Join your word to theirs
Tell him
That it is we who are important

by W. S. Merwin

For more information about the poet, W.S. Merlin, see:

I thought it was appropriate to share this poem because the International Whaling Commission is presently discussing the fate of the near-to-extinction Maui's Dolphin. 

A scientific study into the existing population of the Maui's Dolphin is being presented at an annual meeting of the scientific committee of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in San Diego, USA.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Tuesday Poem: "Money" by Philip Larkin

Quarterly, is it, money reproaches me:
    ‘Why do you let me lie here wastefully?

I am all you never had of goods and sex.

    You could get them still by writing a few cheques.’

So I look at others, what they do with theirs:  

    They certainly don’t keep it upstairs.

By now they’ve a second house and car and wife:

    Clearly money has something to do with life

—In fact, they’ve a lot in common, if you enquire:

    You can’t put off being young until you retire,

And however you bank your screw, the money you save

    Won’t in the end buy you more than a shave.

I listen to money singing. It’s like looking down

    From long french windows at a provincial town,  

The slums, the canal, the churches ornate and mad

    In the evening sun. It is intensely sad.

by Philip Larkin

With the New Zealand Budget announcement looming, this seemed a very appropriate poem to post.

For more information about the poet, Philip Larkin, see:

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Tuesday Poem: "Savage Spring"

comin’ down like a machine gun on the brothers.
Ain’t no “Swing Low Sweet Chariot”, baby!
Martin Luther King, Rodney King,
keep beatin’ on the black man for any old thing.
Lotta anger down here in South Central LA.
Keep worryin’, Hollywood, we’re comin’ your way.
Spike Lee comin’ atcha, Ice T comin’ atcha.
George Bush keeps talkin’ ‘bout Laura Norder.
Who she? She a waitress?
Gimme fries with that order.

news ‘copter, news ‘copter,
hangin’ there in judgement like the finger of God.
Yeah, Joshua fought the battle of Jericho.
You built the walls, baby, now we’re gonna blow.
Picture-takin’ while we fry white bacon,
hoverin’ out of reach like a kid at the zoo
showin’ white America the black bugaboo.
Film at eleven, CNN, Alabama,
but Rodney King’s assailants ain’t sittin’ in the slammer.
WelI, Miss Daisy, I don’t know what happen.
Uncle Tom Bradley, get back to your cabin!

Chutta- chutta-chutta-chutta,
eye in the sky got no tears for the sisters.
Laura Norder sleeps in the white man’s bed.
Black children die while she’s givin’ him head.
It ain’t no John Wayne, rootin’ and tootin’,
Hispanic child killed in a drive-by shootin’.
Crack money rules ‘cause there ain’t no jobs.
It’s enough to make even Laura Norder break down.
American Dream is a nightmare in this town.
Lotta anger down here, just needs a spark to ignite it.
Martin Luther King, Rodney King,
whitey look in horror at the savage spring.

The recent story in the international media of the murder by "rough riding" of the young black man, Freddie Grey:

reminded me that race issues and the perception of African-Americans has not changed much since the days of the civil rights movement. It also reminded me of the Rodney King case in 1992 which sparked the LA riots.

There is a litany of names of young black men in America  who have been, essentially, seriously assaulted or even murdered by racist cops or vigilantes: Rodney King, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Cameron Tillman, Vonderrit Myers Jr., Laquan McDonald, Qusean Whitten...the list goes on, saddeningly.

I wrote the poem above in 1992 after watching news footage of the LA riots. I don't condone rioting, but you could see how the African-Americans in South Central Los Angeles were angered to the point of uncontainable rage. You just sensed that they faced incidents of racist attitude almost daily and the small trickles of everyday indignation built up into a torrent of anger that sought an outpouring. The media's coverage itself was laced with subtle and not-so-subtle racist viewpoints.

These riots will continue as longer as these racist murders continue by those who are supposedly in authority, on the side of law.

As a coda, I was a 35-year-old middle-class white guy living in the suburbs of Perth, Western Australia when I wrote this poem. What did I know about the reality of being black and living in South Central LA? Nothing! Naturally, I was concerned that writing this poem in a rap style might not be perceived as the empathetic viewpoint it was intended to be. But I received a blessing in a most unusual way. One night while I was performing this poem to a white Australian audience in an inner-city Perth pub, unbeknown to me, two African-American sailors from a visiting US naval ship walked into the bar. Later, when I went to the bar they congratulated me on my poem and for "tellin' it like it is". I was elated. I felt validated that I had done the right thing, that my instinct was a good one.