Tuesday, September 30, 2008


I generally begin the morning, settled in at Tosi's, by opening a wordpad document and naming it with the date. Every so often, after a few dozen of these files has accumulated, I do some housecleaning: open each of the files in turn, give it an intelligible name, and move it to a subfolder named "posted." But some of them haven't been posted, or parts of them haven't been posted. It's always interesting to see what I've censored, and why. I'll be posting a few of the censored posts (suitably cleaned up) over the next few days. Here's the first.

I wrote this a couple months ago, when I turned from reading about Cook and other explorers to reading Orhan Pamuk. I have struggled a long time with a prejudice against the Islamic world, which long predates 9/11 and the current idiocies. Somehow Pamuk finally undid that for me, simply with a description of a man coming home to Istanbul in the falling snow.

I put this aside then because of the racism it rises from: and I still have some qualms about posting it. I haven't found the snow that will reveal the Hawaiians' humanity to me, though I know damn well it's there. There's always some people on the periphery who will do to body forth your personal bogey-men (in my case, people who live in eternal blazing sunlight and want nothing but justice). Whether you should allow yourself to post poetry based on it, though, I don't know.


Listen. I know, I know, I know
What they did. Cook brought misery,
Some intended, most not. You could say
He deserved it. You could say
We all deserve it. No doubt we do.

It was the snow
That turned the corner for me. Snow
Falling in Istanbul. Arriving there,
Fresh from the Hawaiian Islands, from

The brutal clubbing of Captain Cook
(Struggling and drowning in two feet of water,
Struck again and again), I realized
That in my mind people who never saw snow
Were not quite human.

If you never pulled off snow crusted boots
With numb hands, well --
What kind of monster would that make you?

But the Turks and the Persians
Of course they had snow. I knew that,
As one knows things that one has not yet met in story,
Idly. But now that I have seen the flakes sifting down
And vanishing in the gloomy Horn, I know
That the Turks were human. They would have
Reasons of the heart, even if they were bad ones,
For drowning Captain Cook.

Just this past week, a friend wrote in praise of a poet
That he sought justice for his people
And my blood ran cold.
Justice, God I hate justice, and I hate peoples
Who require it. To want justice
Is to want to live in the endless sunlight,
On the white sand, endlessly, endlessly
Clubbing a wriggling man in the water.

So I wander the streets of Istanbul
In the falling snow. Give me cruelties
With a beginning and an end. What man
Who knows himself can possibly want justice?
Not me. I want mercy. Have pity
On a worn out sailor far from home. We have done
What we could. Let me raise myself
Onto my knees, just once,
The blood streaming from my face,
And taste the sweet air
Just once.

No comments: