I heard the sounds last night of war
outside my window and front door,
wild shells and streaks of fire and light;
and I was troubled at the sight.
No thought of where the sparks might land
entered the minds that worked the hands
that with their matches struck these bombs;
a country of brave automatons.
The flash of light, the burst of sound
and emptied beer cans all around
while through the smoke which slowly cleared
the throng of wise non-voters cheered.
They cheered the colors and the show
and cursed the duds that would not blow
their senses wowed by shock and awe,
and the ends of their fingers raw.
The cost of fireworks? Twenty bucks,
from out the back of nameless trucks;
The cost of freedom? Tears and bone
worth more than any flag now flown.
For what good pomp and grand parades
to celebrate a poor charade?
It lessens knowledge of the cost
if lives in some great lie are lost.
This freedom that we celebrate,
is it a license by which hate
and fear become the only sense
by which we gain experience?
Our independence, so hard gained,
is its dirge to be our refrain?
I seek, although perhaps in vain,
to define freedom, once again:
Freedom from the right of kings,
in matters large, and petty things,
and from the presumed word of God
that with chains bids man’s feet be shod,
and from the whim of landed wealth
who seek first their own fare and health
and from the bane of presumed right
that sees darkness, save its own light
and from the harsh slavemaster’s whip,
and fear of persecution’s grip,
and from the unseen, hurtful ties
that persecute the meek and wise
and from the threat of hangman’s laws
that seek to punish without cause
and from the hand that seeks to still
the tongue, the mind, the heart and will
and from the bloodied, soulless crowd
that sees itself as just and proud
and from the ignorance that seeks
to serve itself, and harm the weak
and from the politician’s greed
that dines in pomp, while poor men bleed
and from the engines geared for war
that gnash their teeth, and cry for more
and from the state, that seeks to bind
the tongues of reason, and be blind
and from the cloaked and hidden cause
that bids us follow, just because
and from the forked and evil ways
that seek by bloodshed gold and praise
and from all those who would be kings
and paint themselves with angels’ wings
and from our baser natures, too
that seek reward where none is due
and from the impulse not to act
when those who guide us go off track
and from the right to hold one’s peace
when liberty and freedom cease
and lastly, freedom to believe
and when that freedom’s risked, to grieve.
06 JUL 2004