Monday, April 18, 2011


--Arend Van Dam

It's a weight, a wonder that is wise

I am here, you are there

Love is our cross to bear

--Love is Our Cross to Bear
John Gorka

Dark waters rise and thunders pound

the wheels of war are going round

and all the walls are crumbling

Shelter me lord underneath your wings

--Shelter Me
, Buddy Miller

I've been a dreadful barmaid; please forgive (never mind me, just cleaning the baseboards, thanks.) In honor of National Poetry Month, a poem by Polish poet Julia Hartwig (b. 1921):

Yet We Desire It above All

Freedom does not mean happiness right away
the free world hides more traps than tyranny
mastiffs let loose from chains passions exceeding the horizon
steps entangled in the ropes of old bonds
that try to pull tight again

Freedom both for scoundrels and those
who sacrificed themselves for it
freedom for those who feel as pure as a diamond
and want to cut deeply surrendering passionately
to a new slavery—of hatred
from which the earth cracks like under dynamite
changing the course of rivers


  1. Nice find Lisa. Was the poem dated?

    It was certainly not written between the war years when she was a young schoolgirl dreaming of Kosciuzko. Perhaps later as a grown woman she was bemoaning the freedom from the German Occupation then replaced by the return of the Ruskies. Or she would have been a more sagacious and perceptive poet during the repression of the 70s and 80s, you think?

  2. Thanks, mike. I would imagine this to be a later work, 70's - 80's would be a good guess. But I do not have a date one it, only that it was included in a recently-published anthology.

  3. I suspect you are right Lisa. I used to like to read a poem now and then when I was young. Then for many decades I didn't - work, family yy. Recently I have been to a gathering of Fisher Poets and then to another of Cowboy Poets. Pretty good to hear a poet recite his own work. Most put their heart into it. Even bad poetry can be enjoyable when spoken, but written poetry has to be outstanding to jump off the page at you.

    Some might say that there is no underlying moral or principle in poetry about cattlemen and commercial fishermen, so no literary value. Maybe so, but enjoyable to simple minds like mine. Better for me than watching 'Deadliest Catch'.

  4. Poetry is our music, music is our poetry.

    Whenever I hear freedom, I think of Janis Joplin's line

    Freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose
    Nothin', don't mean nothin' hon' if it ain't free, no no

    Good to hear from you again, Lisa. :)


  5. Lisa, this tickled something hidden deep in the recesses of my mind. Back in the latter hippie era, it wasn't uncommon to see a poster entitled "Desiderata" in someone's crib.

    'Course a mere spring chicken such as yourself would have no memories of the latter hippie era. Some of us recall it all too well.

  6. Mike,

    Any vocation or topic can be the stuff of great poetry. How fun that you got to hear a Cowboy poetry reading (did you know they started on a small seed grant from the NEA, which was just yanked by the Republicans? Thank goodness they have enough followers that they can probably carry on sans the NEA support.)

    One of my favorite poets is Robert Service! Of course, thrilling when read, but the sentiments are meaningful, too ("A promise made is a debt unpaid.")


    You can be the gent :) No, I didn't know that about the poem, nor did I know you consorted with hippies! By crib, do you mean the literal or figurative sense of the word?

  7. A Pole born in 1921 must have had some...interesting...experiences with "freedom". It says something for the ideal that after all that she can state that we "desire it above all".

    But your poet also manages to sum up in less than 100 words what we have seen emerge from "freedom"; freedom to speak, to vote, to rule, without recourse to anything but the ol' monkey bone. I keep thinking we've become a monstrous infant of a nation, using our freedom to clutch greedily at what we crave without reflection.

    I can't imagine that We the People were once that much more sapient; I wonder if it's just the way our 24/7 videoinfotainment business keeps shoving our noses in our own foolishness?

    And I thought of that old 60's chestnut, too, Lisa ("Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
    and remember what peace there may be in silence." Remember?) I had a girlfriend in Fort Bragg who knew it by heart. Of course, she wore hemp sandals, too...

  8. Lisa;

    I note that a California girl, Kay Ryan just won the Pulitzer for poetry. I have not read her, but will soon. Is the Pulitzer just for Americans I wonder?

    General Non-Fiction award went to Mukherjee for 'The Emperor of All Maladies - a Biography of Cancer'. I did get and read that one as my 20-year-old granddaughter was recently diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma. It is well worth reading IMHO. And BTW, Emmy will beat the Lymphoma I think. Mukerjee states a very high rate of recovery (80 to 90%) for Hodgkins with modern chemo cocktails. What amazed me about the book was the early history of chemo therapy. The author states that one of the very first child leukemia chemos was a derivative of Mustard Gas used in WW1. Its effects were researched after doctors noticed some side effects on white blood cells in Mustard gas victims.

    The prize for History went to 'The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery' by Eric Foner. Apropos for Civil War aficionados perhaps. I will pass.

  9. Not to drag the subject back to ignorant armies clashing by night, but if you're interested in what happens when poetry and soldiers collide, you might sample Brian Turner's "Here, Bullet". Written by a former GI, mostly about his experiences in Iraq, I've posted some of them over at GFT, here:

    and here:

    and here:

    He has a new volume out, as well. Worth a look.

  10. mike,

    Yes, the Pulitzer is just for American poets. I'm not familiar with Ms. Ryan but will look her up. I heard Mukherjee on NPR, and he struck me as quite impassioned. All the best to Emmy!

    Isn't that amazing about the mustard gas derivative! So much of what we know has come about through sheer happenstance; we are yet as infants in the medical realm.


    Brian Turner's work is quite good, I think. Per your observation, I doubt that The People have been more or less sapient at any other time; few cultivate the art of reflection, and fewer yet understand their reflection, IMHO.