The Burning Times

It did not start with a single matchstrike,
or bonfires blazing brightly in the night;
it began with thinking they did not like
the fact that they might not be in the right

about everything; and so found kindling
that could easily burn (at least catch fire);
once the ready supply began dwindling
they had to begin to plot, to transpire

against perceptions, to find illusions
that could ignite the passion of the crowd
to step beyond thought and discount reason.
In this chaos, amidst such confusion,

can any call themselves brave or be proud
if they are not currently in season?
When we say, “never again,” do we mean
“not to us”, or never to anyone?

Because we have been burned, are our hands clean
when the call for blood has again begun?
Or is it this: that we truly believe
one man in prison means no one is free;

that one widow or one orphan that grieves
is too many? Are we too blind to see,
despite our claim of universal kin,
that the warm safety of our little den

is fueled by our dissident neighbor’s pyre?
How long will we continue to buy in –
until the flames come just for us again?
Who will be left to put out that great fire?

23 FEB 2003

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