An Open Letter from Sam Hamill
New Years Day, 2005
The war drags on. Fallujah has been destroyed in order to save it, shades of
Vietnam. A man who presented the argument in favor of ignoring the Geneva
accords, a man who would authorize torture, is now our Attorney General. More
than 100,000 Iraqi civilians dead, many times more wounded, homeless… And
American soldiers who have served their tours of duty are being post facto
drafted to remain in combat.
We can look forward to Bush’s new secretary of state continuing to… who knows
what? And there will be supreme and other high court appointments, and of course
a Patriot Act II, with attendant incursions into our constitutional rights. Tax
cuts for the rich? Permanent. The environment? The worst policies in our
history. What a ghastly litany.
Four more years, indeed.
A number of organizations are encouraging January 20 demonstrations and
teach-ins and contra-Bush celebrations around the world. I hope you will all
join me in joining them.
Check out www.turnyourbackonbush.com and please post any events scheduled for
that day. The more we can reach out and work with other organizations, the
broader the audience for poetry and the broader our message of peace.
We’d like to post a list of host organizations working in cooperation with Poets
Against the War to make that day memorable.
As of January 1st, I will leave Copper Canyon Press. Over the coming months, I
will devote a lot more time to working with PAW board members to build a sound
infrastructure and strengthen our organization.
Like kindred organizations in countries around the world, we have reminded
millions of people of the noble traditions of poetry, of its role in every
culture. I have seen time and again tears of gratitude in the eyes of the
Italians, French, Lithuanians, etc, and have received innumerable messages of
hope, support and kinship from all over the world. These people are grateful to
be reminded that (at least) half of the U.S. objects to the direction this
country’s taken, and that we are eager to listen to and work cooperatively with
them so that all of our voices (and various positions) may be heard while we
In the ecology of the soul, thrift is ruinous. We look forward to a productive
new year filled with mindful actions, generosity of spirit, heartfelt
compassion, and of course a lot of good poetry.
This winter solstice I will close with a handful of poems by Soufie, who is 12
years old and lives in Tehran and likes haiku and wants to learn Japanese and
live in Japan. The translations are by the Iranian editor Ali Samavati (with a
little help from me).
Soufie’s poems (no titles):
How poor are the children!
All the time,
they have to learn
they have to be careful not to be blamed
and they have to fear God’s punishment
Even on Fridays when nobody works
children have to work
they have so much to do
that they don’t realize
when they are dreaming
or when they are awake
Lucky are the trees
who have nothing to do
but to turn yellow and green
At night, they are not afraid of the dark
They don’t die like grandfathers
and they have many good friends
like the wind, rain and sunshine
And a friend like the dew
who always puts its head
on the shoulder of their leaves.
Sometimes I get a chocolate
and sometimes I get a beating
and I never know
when I’m asleep or awake
But now I’m very depressed
And I wish I were like angels
or I didn’t exist at all
then I wouldn’t always need to say "Hello."
I wish we would never lose each other
but could be lost in one another.
In children’s eyes
a park is nothing but a green lawn.
In old men’s eyes
a park is nothing but a few yellow benches.
Children should run in the parks
so the trees would not see the canes
would not fall from their eyes.
God, with all his light,
walks in the darkness!
On the trail of his shoes,
And on the trail of his thoughts,
On the streets
You see eyes with clouds inside
of wrinkled faces
And the faces of the mournful
are full of heavenly tears.
And those black, heartless clothes
that have nothing to do with poems.