Friday, November 25, 2011

Poetry 171: It Was Winter by Czeslaw Milosz

It Was Winter

Winter came as it does in this valley.
After eight dry months rain fell
And the mountains, straw-colored, turned green for a while.
In the canyons where gray laurels
Graft their stony roots to granite,
Streams must have filled the dried-up creek beds.
Ocean winds churned the eucalyptus trees,
And under clouds torn by a crystal of towers
Prickly lights were glowing on the docks.

This is not a place where you sit under a cafe awning
On a marble piazza, watching the crowd,
Or play the flute at a window over a narrow street
While children’s sandals clatter in the vaulted entryway.

They heard of a land, empty and vast,
Bordered by mountains. So they went, leaving behind crosses
Of thorny wood and traces of campfires.
As it happened, they spent winter in the snow of a mountain pass,
And drew lots and boiled the bones of their companions;
And so afterward a hot valley where indigo could be grown
Seemed beautiful to them. And beyond, where fog
Heaved into shoreline coves, the ocean labored.

Sleep: rocks and capes will lie down inside you,
War councils of motionless animals in a barren place,
Basilicas of reptiles, a frothy whiteness.
Sleep on your coat, while your horse nibbles grass
And an eagle gauges a precipice.

When you wake up, you will have the parts of the world.
West, an empty conch of water and air.
East, always behind you, the voided memory of snow-covered fir.
And extending from your outspread arms
Nothing but bronze grasses, north and south.

We are poor people, much afflicted.
We camped under various stars,
Where you dip water with a cup from a muddy river
And slice your bread with a pocketknife.
This is the place; accepted, not chosen.
We remembered that there were streets and houses where we came from,
So there had to be houses here, a saddler’s signboard,
A small veranda with a chair. But empty, a country where
The thunder beneath the rippled skin of the earth,
The breaking waves, a patrol of pelicans, nullified us.
As if our vases, brought here from another shore,
Were the dug-up spearheads of some lost tribe
Who fed on lizards and acorn flour.

And here I am walking the eternal earth.
Tiny, leaning on a stick.
I pass a volcanic park, lie down at a spring,
Not knowing how to express what is always and everywhere:
The earth I cling to is so solid
Under my breast and belly that I feel grateful
For every pebble, and I don’t know whether
It is my pulse or the earth’s that I hear,
When the hems of invisible silk vestments pass over me,
Hands, wherever they have been, touch my arm,
Or small laughter, once, long ago over wine,
With lanterns in the magnolias, for my house is huge.

Berkeley, 1964

Monday, November 21, 2011

News 170: Occupy Wall Street

Momentum for Occupy Wall Street has been building upon itself for years now as the public becomes informed of how this society is run, how this system really works: realizations that the elite 1% of the United States now own 42% of the country's wealth, that 25,000 people around the world die every day from very preventable poverty-related causes (that's like 6 9/11s every day), that this current system we live in isn't a real democracy at all but an oligarchy consisting of elite bankers and CEOs buying the power of the government.

I started following this leaderless movement on Facebook almost when they just began congregating in New York back in September of this year and it has been both inspiring and heart wrenching to watch and read about. Unfortunately, so much negative attention has been given to them through the mainstream news media, yet another tool of the wealthy. This is why the internet is such a good thing, because it is free reign to find out other sides of the story and come up with your own conclusions.

Occupy Wall Street is a peaceful, nonviolent movement meant to protest social and economic inequality, high unemployment, greed, debt, corruption, and the influence of corporations over government. Yes, that sounds like an awful lot of things to be complaining about in one protest, but they're all connected because of the problem of money. The protest in New York has expanded to activism all over the world including Spain, Belgium, and Germany, and to many major cities in the United States: Occupy Portland, Los Angeles, Boston, Minneapolis, Chicago, San Francisco, Denver, Nashville, Orlando, Milwaukee, Atlanta, Oakland, and many many more including college campuses across the country.

If you haven't heard much about Occupy Wall Street, then there's a lot of back story to know about before understanding just how important this movement really is. I recommend becoming informed with documentaries as they are probably the quickest and most thorough way to learn about this society and how literally every problem branches from a single source: money.


Zeitgeist film series (free online viewing):
A step by step breakdown of what is really going on and how to fix these problems over the course of three films. These do go into some conspiracy theories in the earliest film regarding money and war (a very angering and inspiring part of the film), but the rest is very informative about how the economy works and why it isn't working, what could replace this system, and how it's possible to.

Inside Job (rentable on Netflix):
A film about the stock market crash in 2007. It's very slow going, but it shows how this government is more of an oligarchy than a real democracy.

Sicko (rentable on Netflix):
An incredibly revealing film about the current health care system and a very good representation of the inequality of this society and the greed of those in power.

If anyone else has more suggestions that are relevant to the cause, please leave a comment! If you support the movement, spread the word on your own blogs and find out about local activism communities surrounding Occupy Together. We are the 99%!