by: Robert Burns (1759-1796)

    • I
      OHN ANDERSON my jo, John,
      When we were first acquent,
      Your locks were like the raven,
      Your bonie brow was brent;
      But now your brow is beld, John,
      Your locks are like the snaw,
      but blessings on your frosty pow,
      John Anderson, my jo!
      John Anderson my jo, John,
      We clamb the hill thegither,
      And mony a canty day, John,
      We’ve had wi’ ane anither;
      Now we maun totter down, John,
      But hand in hand we’ll go,
      And sleep thegither at the foot,
      John Anderson, my jo!
      Hugh MacDairmuid      ‘The Bonnie Broukit Bairn’

    Mars is braw in crammasy

    Venus in a green silk goun,

    The auld mune shak’s her gowden feathers,
    Their starry talk’s a wheen o’ blethers,
    Nane for thee a thochtie sparin’,
    Earth, thou bonnie broukit bairn !

    – But greet, an’ in your tears ye’ll droun
    The haill clanjamfrie !


    In English-

    Mars is handsome in crimson

    Venus in a green silk gown

    The old moon shakes her golden feathers

    Their starry talk’s a pack of nonsense

    None of them give a thought to you

    Earth, you beautiful neglected child

    But weep, and in your tears you’ll drown

    The whole shooting-match

    byEmanuel Ortiz
    11 September 2002

    Before I start this poem, I’d like to ask you to join me

    In a moment of silence

    In honour of those who died in the World Trade Center and the Pentagon last September 11th. I would also like to ask you To offer up a moment of silence For all of those who have been harassed, imprisoned, disappeared, tortured, raped, or killed in retaliation for those strikes, For the victims in both Afghanistan and the US.

    And if I could just add one more thing…

    A full day of silence

    For the tens of thousands of Palestinians who have died at the hands of US-backed Israeli forces over decades of occupation. Six months of silence for the million and-a-half Iraqi people, mostly children, who have died of malnourishment or starvation as a result of an 11-year US embargo against the country.

    Before I begin this poem,

    Two months of silence for the Blacks under Apartheid in South Africa, Where homeland security made them aliens in their own country. Nine months of silence for the dead in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Where death rained down and peeled back every layer of concrete, steel, earth and skin And the survivors went on as if alive. A year of silence for the millions of dead in Vietnam – a people, not a war – for those who know a thing or two about the scent of burning fuel, their relatives’ bones buried in it, their babies born of it. A year of silence for the dead in Cambodia and Laos, victims of a secret war …. ssssshhhhh…. Say nothing … we don’t want them to learn that they are dead. Two months of silence for the decades of dead in Colombia, Whose names, like the corpses they once represented, have piled up and slipped off our tongues.

    Before I begin this poem.

    An hour of silence for El Salvador …

    An afternoon of silence for Nicaragua …

    Two days of silence for the Guatemaltecos …

    None of whom ever knew a moment of peace in their living years. 45 seconds of silence for the 45 dead at Acteal, Chiapas 25 years of silence for the hundred million Africans who found their graves far deeper in the ocean than any building could poke into the sky. There will be no DNA testing or dental records to identify their remains. And for those who were strung and swung from the heights of sycamore trees in the south, the north, the east, and the west…

    100 years of silence…
    For the hundreds of millions of indigenous peoples from this half of right here,

    Whose land and lives were stolen,

    In postcard-perfect plots like Pine Ridge, Wounded Knee, Sand Creek, Fallen Timbers, or the Trail of Tears. Names now reduced to innocuous magnetic poetry on the refrigerator of our consciousness … So you want a moment of silence?

    And we are all left speechless

    Our tongues snatched from our mouths

    Our eyes stapled shut

    A moment of silence

    And the poets have all been laid to rest

    The drums disintegrating into dust.

    Before I begin this poem,

    You want a moment of silence

    You mourn now as if the world will never be the same

    And the rest of us hope to hell it won’t be.

    Not like it always has been.

    Because this is not a 9/11 poem.

    This is a 9/10 poem,

    It is a 9/9 poem,

    A 9/8 poem,

    A 9/7 poem

    This is a 1492 poem.

    This is a poem about what causes poems like this to be written. And if this is a 9/11 poem, then: This is a September 11th poem for Chile, 1971. This is a September 12th poem for Steven Biko in South Africa, 1977. This is a September 13th poem for the brothers at Attica Prison, New York, 1971.

    This is a September 14th poem for Somalia, 1992.

    This is a poem for every date that falls to the ground in ashes This is a poem for the 110 stories that were never told The 110 stories that history chose not to write in textbooks The 110 stories that CNN, BBC, The New York Times, and Newsweek ignored. This is a poem for interrupting this program.

    And still you want a moment of silence for your dead?

    We could give you lifetimes of empty:

    The unmarked graves

    The lost languages

    The uprooted trees and histories

    The dead stares on the faces of nameless children

    Before I start this poem we could be silent forever

    Or just long enough to hunger,

    For the dust to bury us

    And you would still ask us

    For more of our silence.

    If you want a moment of silence

    Then stop the oil pumps

    Turn off the engines and the televisions

    Sink the cruise ships

    Crash the stock markets

    Unplug the marquee lights,

    Delete the instant messages,

    Derail the trains, the light rail transit.

    If you want a moment of silence, put a brick through the window of Taco Bell, And pay the workers for wages lost. Tear down the liquor stores, The townhouses, the White Houses, the jailhouses, the Penthouses and the Playboys.

    If you want a moment of silence,Then take it

    On Super Bowl Sunday,

    The Fourth of July

    During Dayton’s 13 hour sale

    Or the next time your white guilt fills the room where my beautifulpeople have gathered.

    You want a moment of silence

    Then take it NOW,

    Before this poem begins.

    Here, in the echo of my voice,

    In the pause between goosesteps of the second hand,

    In the space between bodies in embrace,

    Here is your silence.

    Take it.

    But take it all… Don’t cut in line.

    Let your silence begin at the beginning of crime. But we, Tonight we will keep right on singing… For our dead.


    insensitivity   Wilfred Owen



    Happy are men who yet before they are killed
    Can let their veins run cold.
    Whom no compassion fleers
    Or makes their feet
    Sore on the alleys cobbled with their brothers.
    The front line withers,
    But they are troops who fade, not flowers,
    For poets’ tearful fooling:
    Men, gaps for filling:
    Losses, who might have fought
    Longer; but no one bothers.



    And some cease feeling
    Even themselves or for themselves.
    Dullness best solves
    The tease and doubt of shelling,
    And Chance’s strange arithmetic
    Comes simpler than the reckoning of their shilling.
    They keep no check on armies’ decimation.



    Happy are these who lose imagination:
    They have enough to carry with ammunition.
    Their spirit drags no pack.
    Their old wounds, save with cold, can not more ache.
    Having seen all things red,
    Their eyes are rid
    Of the hurt of the colour of blood for ever.
    And terror’s first constriction over,
    Their hearts remain small-drawn.
    Their senses in some scorching cautery of battle
    Now long since ironed,
    Can laugh among the dying, unconcerned.



    Happy the soldier home, with not a notion
    How somewhere, every dawn, some men attack,
    And many sighs are drained.
    Happy the lad whose mind was never trained:
    His days are worth forgetting more than not.
    He sings along the march
    Which we march taciturn, because of dusk,
    The long, forlorn, relentless trend
    From larger day to huger night.



    We wise, who with a thought besmirch
    Blood over all our soul,
    How should we see our task
    But through his blunt and lashless eyes?
    Alive, he is not vital overmuch;
    Drying, not mortal overmuch;
    Nor sad, nor proud,
    Nor curious at all.
    He cannot tell
    Old men’s placidity from his.



    But cursed are dullards whom no cannon stuns,
    That they should be as stones.
    Wretched are they, and mean
    With paucity that never was simplicity.
    By choice they made themselves immune
    To pity and whatever moans in man
    Before the last sea and the hapless stars;
    Whatever mourns when many leave these shores;
    Whatever shares
    The eternal reciprocity of tears.


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