My imagination makes me human
and makes me a fool;
it gives me all the world
and exiles me from it.--Ursula K. Le Guin
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SALON Poetry for the Rest of Us
Last-Minute Message For a Time Capsule
I have to tell you this, whoever you are:
that on one summer morning here, the ocean
pounded in on tumbledown breakers,
a south wind, bustling along the shore,
whipped the froth into little rainbows,
and a reckless gull swept down the beach
as if to fly were everything it needed.
I thought of your hovering saucers,
looking for clues, and I wanted to write this down,
so it wouldn't be lost forever -
that once upon a time we had
meadows here, and astonishing things,
swans and frogs and luna moths
and blue skies that could stagger your heart.
We could have had them still,
and welcomed you to earth, but
we also had the righteous ones
who worshipped the True Faith, and Holy War.
When you go home to your shining galaxy,
say that what you learned
from this dead and barren place is
to beware the righteous ones.
from New and Selected Poems, 1956-1996
University of Arkansas Press
For Sharbat Gula
Names have power, so let us speak of hers. Her name is Sharbat Gula, and she is Pashtun, that most warlike of Afghan tribes. Her eyes—-then and now—-burn with ferocity.
--Cathy Newman, National Geographic, 2002
Your staring, sea-green eyes stopped our breath
Made us realize how little we know of suffering
How often it is borne by the nameless, the young
Whose past is a bombed out city, a burnt field.
We stare back but cannot see the sea nor light
nor summer's sweetwater flower you are named for.
There no reprieve, no end of winter or endless sky
of falling bombs turned once again to stars,
Migrating cranes or kestrels silently winging, no green
Of yew and oak and olive, no honeysuckle, no rose
In those dark, cold depths, not even a child,
No laughter, no tears, no singing.