Archive for ‘Historical’

Saturday, 4 December 2021

For the White Poets Who Would Be Indian by Wendy Rose (Bronwen Elizabeth Edwards)

just once
just long enough
to snap up the words
fish-hooked from
our tongues.
You think of us now
when you kneel
on the earth,
turn holy
in a temporary tourism
of our souls.

With words
you paint your faces,
chew your doeskin,
touch breast to tree
as if sharing a mother
were all it takes,
could bring instant and primal
You think of us only
when your voices
want for roots,
when you have sat back
on your heels and

You finish your poem
and go back.


Date: 1980

By: Wendy Rose (Bronwen Elizabeth Edwards) (1948- )

Friday, 3 December 2021

The Other Fellow’s Burden by William Allison Sweeney

An Emancipation Day Appeal for Justice

The “white man’s burden” has been told the world,
But what of the other fellow’s—
The “lion’s whelp”?
Lest you forget,
May he not lisp his?
Not in arrogance,
Not in resentment,
But that truth
May stand foursquare?
This then,
Is the Other Fellow’s Burden.
*       *       *       *       *
Brought into existence
Through the enforced connivance
Of a helpless motherhood
Misused through generations—
America’s darkest sin!—
There courses through his veins
In calm insistence—incriminating irony
Of the secrecy of blighting lust!
The best and the vilest blood
Of the South’s variegated strain;
Her statesmen and her loafers,
Her chivalry and her ruffians.
Thus bred,
His impulses twisted
At the starting point
By brutality and sensuous savagery,
Should he be crucified?
Is it a cause for wonder
If beneath his skin of many hues—
Black, brown, yellow, white—
Flows the sullen flood
Of resentment for prenatal wrong
And forced humility?
Should it be a wonder
That the muddy life current
Eddying through his arteries,
Crossed with the good and the bad,
Poisoned with conflicting emotions,
Proclaims at times,
Through no fault of his,
That for a surety the sins of fathers
Become the heritage of sons
Even to the fourth generation?
Or that murdered chastity,
That ravished motherhood—
So pitiful, so helpless,
Before the white hot,
Lust-fever of the “master”—
Has borne its sure fruit?
You mutter, “There should be no wonder.”
Well, somehow, Sir Caucasian,
Perhaps southern gentleman,
I, marked a “whelp,” am moved
To prize that muttered admission.
*       *       *       *       *
But listen, please:
The wonder is—the greater one—
That from Lexington to San Juan hill
Disloyalty never smirched
His garments, nor civic wrangle
Nor revolutionary ebullition
Marked him its follower.
A “striker”? Yes!
But he struck the insurgent
And raised the flag.
An ingrate?
A violator?
When—oh, spectacle that moved the world!
For five bloody years
Of fratricidal strife—
Red days when brothers warred—
He fed the babe,
Shielded the mother.
Guarded the doorsill
Of a million southern homes?
Penniless when freedom came? Most true;
But his accumulations of fifty years
Could finance a group of principalities.
Homeless? Yes; but the cabin and the hut
Of Lincoln’s day—uncover at that name!—
Are memories; the mansion of today,
Dowered with culture and refinement,
Sweetened by clean lives,
Is a fact.
Unlettered? Yes;
But the alumni of his schools,
Triumphant over the handicap
Of “previous condition,”
Are to be found the world over
In every assemblage inspired
By the democracy of letters.
In the casting up what appears?
The progeny of lust and helplessness,
He inherited a mottled soul—
“Damned spots” that biased the looker on.
Clothed a freeman,
Turned loose in the land
Creditless, without experience,
He often stumbled, the way being strange,
Sometimes fell.
Mocked, sneered at from every angle,
spurned, hindered in every section,
North, south, east, west,
Refused the most primitive rights,
His slightest mistakes
Made mountains of,
Hunted, burned, hanged,
The death rattle in his throat
Drowned by shouts and laughter
And—think of it!—
The glee of little children.
Still he pressed on, wrought,
Sowed, reaped, builded.
His smile ever ready,
His perplexed soul lighted
With the radiance
Of an unquenchable optimism,
God’s presence visualized,
He has risen, step by step.
To the majesty of the home builder,
Useful citizen,
Student, teacher,
Unwavering patriot.
This of the Other Fellow.
What of you, his judges and his patrons?
If it has been your wont
In your treatment of him
Not to reflect,
Or to stand by in idle unconcern
While, panting on his belly,
Ambushed by booted ruffianism,
He lapped in sublime resignation
The bitter waters
Of unreasoning intolerance,
Has not the hour of his deliverance,
Of your escape from your “other selves”
If you have erred,
Will you refuse to know it?
Has not the time arrived
To discriminate between
Those who lower
Those who raise him?
You are shamed by your abortions,
Your moral half growths
Who flee God’s eye
And stain his green earth,
But you are not judged by yours;
Should he be judged by his?
In his special case—if so, why?
Is manhood a myth,
Womanhood a toy,
Integrity unbelievable,
Honor a chimera?
Should not his boys and girls,
Mastering the curriculum of the schools,
Pricked on to attainment by the lure
Of honorable achievement,
Be given bread and not a stone
When seeking employment
In the labor mart,
At the factory gate
Or the office door?
Broadened by the spirit of the golden rule,
Will you not grant these children of Hagar
An even break?
Is the day not here, O judges,
When the Other Fellow
May be measured in fairness,
Just fairness?
*       *       *       *       *
It is written men may rise
“On their dead selves to higher things;”
But can it be that this clear note of cheer
To sodden men and smitten races
Was meant for all save him?
Chants an immortal:
“He prayeth best who loveth best
All things both great and small;
For the dear God who loveth us,
He made and loveth all.”

From: Sweeney, W. Allison, History of the American Negro in The Great World War: His Splendid Record in the Battle Zones Of Europe, 2005, Gutenberg Project: San Francisco, Chapter XXXI.

Date: 1913

By: William Allison Sweeney (1851-1921)

Wednesday, 1 December 2021

At the Closed Gate of Justice by James David Corrothers

To be a Negro in a day like this
Demands forgiveness. Bruised with blow on blow,
Betrayed, like him whose woe dimmed eyes gave bliss,
Still must one succor those who brought one low,
To be a Negro in a day like this.

To be a Negro in a day like this
Demands rare patience—patience that can wait
In utter darkness. ‘Tis the path to miss,
And knock, unheeded, at an iron gate,
To be a Negro in a day like this.

To be a Negro in a day like this
Demands strange loyalty. We serve a flag
Which is to us white freedom’s emphasis.
Ah! One must love when Truth and Justice lag,
To be a Negro in a day like this.

To be a Negro in a day like this—
Alas! Lord God, what evil have we done?
Still shines the gate, all gold and amethyst,
But I pass by, the glorious goal unwon,
“Merely a Negro”—in a day like this!

From: Guzman, Richard R. (ed), Black Writing from Chicago: In the World, Not of It?, 2006, Southern Illinois University Press: Carbondale, pp. 14-15.

Date: 1913

By: James David Corrothers (1869-1917)

Friday, 12 November 2021

After a Bad Dream by Gerrit Engelke

I am a soldier and stand in the field
And know of no-one in the world.
Thus I cannot celebrate this rainy day,
So tenderly concerned, damp and leaden
Since at night your image broke my sleep
And brought me near to you.

I am a soldier and stand in the field,
Gun on the arm and far from the world.
Were I at home, I would close door and window
And remain alone for a long time,
Sink into the sofa’s corner,
With closed eyes, think of you.

I am a soldier and stand in the field.
Here the old human world ends.
The rain sings, the wet skeins flow.
I can do nothing – only shoot lead.
Don’t know why, I still do it, as if I must
Into the grey weather a shot cracks!


Date: 1918 (original in German); 2015 (translation in English)

By: Gerrit Engelke (1890-1918)

Translated by: Penelope Monkhouse (19??- )

Thursday, 11 November 2021

After Court Martial by Francis Edward Ledwidge

My mind is not my mind, therefore
I take no heed of what men say,
I lived ten thousand years before
God cursed the town of Nineveh.

The Present is a dream I see
Of horror and loud sufferings,
At dawn a bird will waken me
Unto my place among the kings.

And though men called me a vile name,
And all my dream companions gone,
‘Tis I the soldier bears the shame,
Not I the king of Babylon.

From: Ledwidge, Francis, The Complete Poems of Francis Ledwidge, 1919, Herbert Jenkins Limited: London, p. 252.

Date: 1916

By: Francis Edward Ledwidge (1887-1917)

Tuesday, 9 November 2021

To Belgium in Exile by Owen Seaman

[Lines dedicated to one of her priests, by whose words they were prompted.]
[Reprinted by permission of the Proprietors of Punch.]

Land of the desolate, Mother of tears,
⁠Weeping your beauty marred and torn,
Your children tossed upon the spears,
⁠Your altars rent, your hearths forlorn,
Where Spring has no renewing spell,
And Love no language save a long Farewell!

Ah, precious tears, and each a pearl
⁠Whose price—for so in God we trust
Who saw them fall in that blind swirl
⁠Of ravening flame and reeking dust—
The spoiler with his life shall pay,
When Justice at the last demands her Day.

O tried and proved, whose record stands
⁠Lettered in blood too deep to fade,
Take courage! Never in our hands
⁠Shall the avenging sword be stayed
Till you are healed of all your pain,
And come with Honour to your own again.

May 19, 1915.

From: Clarke, George Herbert (ed.), A Treasury of War Poetry: British and American Poems of the World War, 1914-1919, 1917, Hodder and Stoughton: London, New York and Toronto, pp. 76-78.

Date: 1915

By: Owen Seaman (1861-1936)

Monday, 25 October 2021

Ghost Prisoner by Heid Ellen Erdrich

This prisoner and other “ghost detainees” were hidden largely to prevent the International Committee of the Red Cross from monitoring their treatment and conditions, officials said.
—“Rumsfeld Ordered Iraqi Suspect Held as ‘Ghost’ Prisoner,”
San Francisco Chronicle, June 17, 2004

The ghost prisoner, a murderer,
wishes he was invisible, sheer air,
already dead. His narrow bed
washes him away to dream escape
through holy gaps that open
in the grin of his small son.
Lost teeth offer him a freedom
so absurd he wakes and laughs.

No one hears the ghost prisoner.
Whether he groans or bears stoically
what instruments we’ve paid to play
this march toward a freedom so absurd
we wake and silently shake our heads.
We do not speak ill of the dead.

The ghost prisoner, still murderer,
wishes he was visible, fiery air,
rallying the dead. His narrow cell
just the place for prayer. Holy, holy,
a ghost’s revenge pushed through gaps
in his own gashed mouth, a curse
so absurd, he wakes to its howl.

No one says his name, his crimes,
how many jolts it took to resurrect
him as a betrayer of insurrection,
paying for freedom’s ring.

We do not want to know what it took.
We’d rather not speak the dead ill.
We do not want to know what it took
to make him wish he were dead still.


Date: 2008

By: Heid Ellen Erdrich (1963- )

Sunday, 17 October 2021

Tender Ship by Catherine Gander

“We have seen them trying to get water out of the boat … it’s pretty overloaded there – it is pretty dangerous, just the number of people on board that boat.” –BBC’s Simon Jones, reporting from alongside a sinking refugee dinghy in the Dover Strait, August 10, 2020.

I know the difference between a stiff and tender ship
It has to do with balance and a certain stability
The kind that lets you roll into waves and take on water
then sluice it clean off
Or keep it on deck, until it seeks, as water always will,
its own path into the body. A tender ship is harder to correct.
I know the difference between a tender ship and a ship’s tender
How the latter is a little boat that shuttles between craft and shore
turning water into care.
The same and not the same, these tender vessels, like the ship
of Theseus—or Pip, who, treading water, saw God’s foot upon the
treadle of the loom, and was changed. Water is intelligent.
It knows the fluid difference between tenderness and harm
will swallow whole the body it caresses, slip liquescence
like loving fingers between lips and limbs.
No camera, please the man
in perfect English says, scooping water from the crowded dinghy
with wrecked hands. You can see it’s dangerous, the reporter says to the lens
then steadies his body to yell across an oceanic distance
Where are you from?


Date: 2021

By: Catherine Gander (19??- )

Monday, 11 October 2021

The Diver by Christine Hartzler

I saw Greg Louganis dive in St. Louis
in 1984. Oh, the way he folded and
unfolded in the air. We all gasped
when he split the surface and disappeared.
But he rose up in a shimmering swath
of bubbles, unbounded joy.

Seventeen years later, a man steps out
through the lattice of a skyscraper and
folds himself into a breathtaking pike.
An anonymous diver, abandoning his
day job. Maybe you’ve seen the
photograph? A single body falling, white
oxford full and fluttering, like a peony,
blowsy, on that singular day.


Date: 2003

By: Christine Hartzler (19??- )

Friday, 17 September 2021

The March of Xerxes by Luigi Alamanni/Alemanni

When in the wantonness of kingly pride,
Vain Xerxes spurr’d his war-horse through the tide,
And bore his fleet o’er mountain tops—e’en there
The Eternal bade his evil heart despair:
O’er Hellespont and Athos’ marble head,
More than a god he came, less than a man he fled.

From: de Vere, Aubrey, Mary Tudor: An Historical Drama and Other Poems, 1847, William Pickering: London, p. 407.

Date: 1556 (original in Italian); 1818 (translation in English)

By: Luigi Alamanni/Alemanni (1495-1556)

Translated by: Aubrey de Vere (1788-1846)