What I Might Say if I Could
You’re a Hutu with a machete, a Serb with orders,
you’re one more body in a grave they made you dig.
Or, almost worse, you’re alive to tell the story,
the most silent man on earth.
Here, rhododendrons are blooming, and cicadas
are waking from their long sleep.
I need not tell you how fast a good country
can become a hateful, hated thing.
Born in the wrong place at the wrong time
to parents wronged by their parents
and ruled by some crazed utopian with a plan –
no ice-cream cone for you, no summer at the shore.
I know you can’t believe suffering leads to anything
but more suffering, or that wisdom waits
in some survivor’s room at the end of a hall.
What good to tell you that sometimes it does?
Sometimes has the future in it, and wisdom,
you must fear, is what victors think is theirs.
You can’t even be sure of a full bowl
of rice, and you’ve forgotten how to sing.
Clouds with periods of sun, says our weatherman.
Unlike some of us, he never intends to lie.
Many here who look no further than their yards
believe God has a design.
Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.
Sometimes things don’t go, after all,
from bad to worse. Some years, muscadel
faces down frost; green thrives; the crops don’t fail,
sometimes a man aims high, and all goes well.
A people sometimes step back from war;
elect an honest man; decide they care
enough, that they can’t leave some stranger poor.
Some men become what they were born for.
Sometimes our best efforts do not go
amiss; sometimes we do as we meant to.
The sun will sometimes melt a field of sorrow
that seemed hard frozen: may it happen to you